Recognition of specialized continuing education for the bar: German Attorneys' Academy successful before the Federal Supreme Court of Justice (lawyers division) with GvW Graf von Westphalen

The lawyers division of the Federal Supreme Civil Court (Bundesgerichtshof, "BGH") first addressed the requirements for specialist attorney continuing education events for the first time in a judgment published today  (AnwZ (Brfg) 46/13). The case involved a specialist in traffic law who had visited a seminar with the title "Theory and Tactics of Interrogation". The relevant bar association and the Bavarian Supreme Court for Professional Matters (Anwaltsgerichtshof) had considered the seminar not to be suitable for continuing education for the purpose of obtaining the designation as a specialized attorney (Fachanwalt). That was not correct, as the Federal Supreme Court of Justice has now decided in the final instance in the favor of the plaintiff. GvW Graf von Westphalen partner Prof. Dr. Christian Winterhoff represented the plaintiff in the proceedings also in the interest of the organizer of the seminar, the German Attorneys Academy, and Prof. Winterhoff succeeded for the plaintiff in having both the appeal admitted by the Federal Supreme Civil Court as well as in winning the appellate judgment published today.

In order to continue to be able to have the designation as a specialized attorney, an attorney must attend annual continuing education courses. However, there had not yet been any clarification in the highest courts about the process and which substantive standards decide are determinative for recognizing attended continuing education events. The Federal Supreme Court of Justice has now held that an event must serve the purpose of developing, intensifying and updating knowledge that is already present in the respective field of specialization in order to qualify as a mandatory continuing education event. Proof of basic knowledge, which would be the case with any attorney, however, was held not to be sufficient. Based on these standards, the Federal Supreme Court of Justice held that the attended seminar "Theory and Tactics of Interrogation" qualified as continuing education for the specialized attorney in traffic law. The court held, namely, that the cases in this field all take place in public and are perceived often above average by persons who are initially not involved. The seminar was held to also provide more than the basic knowledge acquired in the course of studies and the clerkship program.

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Dr Tim Nesemann
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