In September 1960, during a boat trip on the Rhine for a congress of the Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA) in Basel, Switzerland, UIA participants discussed the need for a representative body that would act in the interests of lawyers before the European Economic Community (EEC). European lawyers had perceived a significant threat to the independence of their profession since the founding of the EEC in 1957. Given this perception, an “agreement-in-principle” was obtained on board the boat by the presidents of the bars to establish a body of representatives from the then-six EEC Member States. The delegations adopted the lengthy name of: “The Consultative Committee of Bars and National Associations of the Six States of the EEC (gathered by the UIA)”, which was eventually simplified to the “Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe”, but retained the French abbreviation, “CCBE”.
Today, the CCBE has grown to include the bars and law societies of 45 countries that represent the European Union and the European Economic Area, and a wider Europe. It is recognised as the voice of the European legal profession by the national bars and law societies and by the EU institutions. Representatives from the European Commission and the European Parliament, as well as other national and international organisations, regularly consult the CCBE on issues or legislation that affect the interests of lawyers in Europe.
Key dates in the history of the CCBE:
1966: The CCBE becomes autonomous from the UIA and defines its mission as “the study of all the questions affecting the legal profession in the member states of the European Community and the formulation of the solutions designed to coordinate and harmonise the practice of the profession in those states”.
1977: Services Directive (77/249/EEC) permits lawyers from the European Union (EU) to provide temporary services in another EU Member State.
1978: Introduction of the CCBE Identity Card, which identifies the card holder as an admitted lawyer in the country concerned. The card is recognised by the European Court of Justice and Court of First Instance. The card also facilitates access to courts and institutions for lawyers active outside their home jurisdiction.
1979: The European Court of Justice accepts the CCBE as an intervener in a case representing the interests of the legal profession in Europe. The case, AM&S Europe Limited v Commission of the European Communities, focused on the question of legal professional privilege for in-house counsel, and the CCBE produced an impressive survey of the law on the topic among the Member States for use by the court. As a result, the CCBE established a Permanent Delegation to the Court of Justice.
1988: The CCBE Code of Conduct, regulating the cross-border activities of lawyers, was agreed and implemented.
1998: The Establishment Directive (98/5/EC) allows EU lawyers to establish in another Member State, provided that they are registered with, and regulated by, a local bar
2006: The CCBE publishes the Charter of Core Principles of the European Legal Profession, which codifies ten core principles common to the national and international rules regulating the legal profession, and aims to apply to all of Europe - beyond the member, associate and observer states of the CCBE.
2007: First CCBE Human Rights Award granted to the lawyers’ organisation, Avocats Sans Frontières.
2008: As a result of new membership, the number of lawyers represented by the CCBE through its member bars and law societies breaks through the one million mark.
2012: The CCBE publishes the lawyer’s guide, Practical Guidance for Advocates before the Court of Justice.
2013: The CCBE establishes permanent premises in Brussels’ European Quarter.
2014: The CCBE publishes the lawyer’s guide, The European Court of Human Rights – Questions and Answers for Lawyers.
2014: The CCBE coordinates the first Europe-wide European Lawyers Day on 10 December, which focuses on the theme of mass governmental surveillance and its’ impact on lawyer-client confidentiality.
For detailed information, read The History of the CCBE (2005).