Guidelines for a Code of Ethics for the Mexican Legal Profession

Oscar Cruz Barney
Felipe Ibáñez Mariel
José Antonio Lozano Díez
Cuauhtémoc Reséndiz Núñez

National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM, by its Spanish acronym)
American Bar Association’s Initiative of Right to Associate

Institute of Legal Research
Legal Studies Series, Number 222
Mexico, 2013


Among the legal professions, the lawyer’s profession in Mexico has certain characteristics which differentiates it from the rest of the legal professions. Although the lawyer’s profession has the same foundation as the other legal professions, including obtaining a law degree from a recognized university, followed by obtaining a “professional license” which serves as a kind of patent to exercise the profession, this foundation does not cover the totality of a lawyer’s professional scope since the labor and criminal fields have been traditionally separated and since no law requires the obtaining of a degree or professional license to work in these fields. Although there have been recent changes to modify this situation, in practice, the situation remains unmodified. Furthermore, with respect to the totality of the fields in which a lawyer intervenes, the lawyer’s professional development acquires characteristics which are different from those of other legal professions.

While other legal professions such as judges, notary publics, public brokers, public prosecutors, public defenders, and even scholars are subject to other requirements which allow to control and surveil the corresponding practice of these professions after obtaining a degree and professional license, attorneys are not subject to any of such requirements whatsoever. There are no bodies or entities of any kind which exercise said control or surveillance over the attorney’s profession and consequently the professional practice and corresponding responsibility lie on the attorney’s personal will. Moreover, there is not even a registration of lawyers to indicate how many of them are in practice, which field they work in, and the places where they practice. The closest estimates with regard to the foregoing are based on statistics, but none of these estimates reaches a trustworthy level of precision. (See, for example, the study entitled “Observatorio Laboral” [Employment Observatory] carried out by the Ministry of Labor and Welfare).

Although the recent constitutional reforms to implement the so-called oral trials and the labor legal reform seek to require the attorneys who intervene in said trials to have a degree and a professional license, the process to achieve this objective will take a few years, and if achieved, it will only represent a basic step forward since it will not solve the general problem that exists within the professional practice of attorneys.

This general problem includes several aspects. For instance, it is necessary to incorporate a corresponding registration to precisely identify those who practice the profession. That would allow, in addition, to provide those who require the professional services of a lawyer to have a certain degree of certainty in terms of the service provision conditions, since it would not only identify the attorney providing the service, but rather, it would allow to look into the attorney’s knowledge, experience, and demeanor. As of today, a professional who has obtained a degree and a professional license can step away from practicing the profession for several years and return to practice without being subject to any requirement whatsoever. That is, this professional can provide services without having the experience nor updated knowledge. In addition, this professional can incur in mistakes and even irregular behaviors without this leading to any consequence whatsoever with respect to his or her practice.

Available at, last seen on 03/27/2013.