Justice in Europe

What is mediation across the European Union and how can you start benefitting from it? Lawyer fees, proceeding at the court of appeal, court fees... Everything you have to know about Justice in Europe and France.

Lawyer fees in France

The lawyer fee is the money you pay in compensation for the activities of your lawyer (legal advice and research, travel costs, the drawing up of letters and documents, appearing in court).

In France there is no official regulation for fees as there is in Germany for example. According to article 10 of the law 71-1130 from 30 December 1971 “ the fees are fixed upon joint agreement between lawyer and client”.

In order to avoid any disputes it is advisable to reach an agreement on fees (convention d’honoraires) in advance: the more detailed the better.

  • fixed fees for common disputes,
  • preliminarily fixed hourly rates,
  • no win, no fee agreements: The fees must not depend exclusively on the success of the intervention. They should be composed of a fixed part and a percentage rate for the achieved indemnification or a lump sum for the services.
  • In addition to the fees, the lawyer can also insist on the refund of the costs arisen from the lawsuit.
  • First contact your lawyer to challenge the fees:It may be possible to deal with the problem directly with your lawyer. First of all you should ask for an itemised bill of the costs and fees (You can suspend your payment until you receive the account).
  • If I do not have any agreement on fees with my lawyer ? You should inform your lawyer of any part of the itemised bill you do not agree with.
  • If I do have an agreement with my lawyer? Compare the agreement to the itemised bill. Do they correspond? If they do, then there are few chances for a complaint to be successful. If they do not, you should inform your lawyer of the parts of the itemised bill you do not agree with.

If no amicable settlement can be achieved you can still contact the president of the competent bar association (by registered mail with return receipt).

After hearing both parties the president will set up an appropriate fee within a period of 3 months and you will be informed of the decision by registered mail with return receipt within 15 days.

The proceeding at the court of appeal

What if I do not agree with the decision?

Within 1 month after receiving the decision you can appeal to the competent court of appeal (by registered mail with return receipt). The court will then set up the fee after a hearing in court.

If you do not agree with the decision of the court of appeal your last possibility is an appeal to the French supreme court “Cour de Cassation”. You should, however, keep in mind that a proceeding at the “Cour de Cassation” is a time-consuming and expensive procedure.

You will find a list of the presidents of the French bar associations and the courts of appeal on this website.

The legal interest rate

This rate allows calculating the penalties in case of delay of payment and is applicable in several sectors.

Its field of application concerns, among others, reimbursement of a rental deposit, non respect of a deadline for delivery, fiscal administration, banking, overindebtness and justice.

This rate is fixed by law every year. For 2014, it is 0.04% (Décret n° 2014-98 du 4 février).

Court fees in France

In France, the competent court for small claims is the Tribunal d’Instance (“Court of first Instance”, the District Court).  The previous tax of 35 Euros (an exception was made for people receiving legal aid) has been abolished by the décret n° 2013-1280 du 29 décembre 2013 for all instances introduces after the 1st of January 2014.

European small claims procedure

If you are a European citizen and want to claim against a French party, there are two judicial procedures to help you: European Small Claims Procedure and European Payment Order.

  • European Small Claims Procedure

The European Small Claims Procedure constitutes an alternative for litigants to the procedures existing in their Member States. It is a relatively fast and inexpensive way to make a cross-border claim, resulting from civil and commercial disputes, of up to 2000 €. A judgment given in the European Small Claims Procedure is recognized and enforceable in another Member State without the need for a declaration of enforceability and without any possibility of opposing its recognition.

This Council Regulation 861/2007 of 11 July 2007 applies between all Member States of the European Union with the exception of Denmark.

The Small Claims procedure operates on the basis of standard forms available (in all EU languages) on the website. It is a written procedure unless an oral hearing is considered necessary by the court.

To file a claim, the claimant fills in a standard claim form (Form A), giving details of the claim, and lodges it with the competent court. Once the court has received the properly filled- in claim form, it prepares a standard answer form (Form C, Annex III). If the claimant has not provided enough information, the court will send him a Form B (Annex II), asking for the missing information. Otherwise, the court sends the Form C together with Form A and, where applicable, the supporting documents, to the defendant by post with dated acknowledgement of receipt within 14 days. The defendant then has 30 days to prepare and return his response. Within 14 days of receiving the defendant's response, the court forwards a copy of it to the claimant, with any relevant supporting documents.

Within 30 days of receiving the defendant's answer (if any) the court must either give judgment on the small claim, or request further details in writing from either party, or summon the parties to an oral hearing. In case of an oral hearing, the representation by a lawyer is not necessary.

With the form D, the certificate containing the judicial decision (which might need to be translated into the language of the other Member State), and a copy of the judgment, the judgment is enforceable in all the other Member States of the European Union, without any further formalities. The only reason that enforcement in another Member State can be refused is if it is irreconcilable with another judgment in the other Member State between the same parties. Enforcement takes place in accordance with the national rules and procedures of the Member State where the judgment is being enforced.

In France, the enforcement of the decision should be done by the bailiffs (national list available)France has declared to accept certificates (form D) written in French, English, German, Italian and Spanish.

  • European Payment Order

By creating a European order for payment procedure creditors can recover their uncontested civil and commercial claims according to a uniform procedure that operates on the basis of standard forms. The procedure usually does not require presence before the court, but in special cases this can be necessary. The claimant only has to submit his application, after which the procedure will lead its own life. It does not require any further formalities or intervention on the part of the claimant.

The Council Regulation 1896/2006 of 12 December 2006 applies between all Member States of the European Union with the exception of Denmark.

The Regulation provides for seven standard forms. The ATLAS provides you with information concerning the application of the Regulations and a user-friendly tool for filling in the forms.