EUROPE: Access to legal traineeships conditional

Law graduates from a European Union country who want to complete a legal traineeship in another EU member state may need to prove broad and in-depth knowledge of the national law of the host country, according to the European Court of Justice.

The judgment is based on the case of Polish national Krzystof Peśla, whose application to serve as a legal trainee in Germany had been rejected by the Ministry of Justice of the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania region, based on insufficient knowledge of German law. It did so on the basis of examining his qualifications and without requiring him to take a special aptitude test.

But Peśla claimed he had demonstrated sufficient general expertise within the legal profession through a master's degree from the faculty of law of Poland's University of Poznán, backed by previous bachelor's studies in German and Polish law at the University of Frankfurt-an-der-Oder in Germany.

He appealed against the ministry's decision before a German administrative court. The court requested clarification on whose stance better reflected EU law (which takes precedence over national laws in member states) from the ECJ.

In their ruling, its judges stressed the qualifications and experience of a law graduate from another member state need to be fully taken into account when assessing whether a professional should be able to work in a foreign EU country.

But so does the specific knowledge of a country's laws: "Contrary to Mr Peśla's claims, that [a] member state could not be required to restrict the assessment of the equivalence of the qualifications to a comparison of the intellectual level of the training and the time and effort invested to that end."