By George Coucounis
The legal profession in Cyprus is regulated by the law and can only be exercised by registered and licensed lawyers, with the exception of a physical person, being a litigant, who can represent himself before the Court. However, this does not apply for legal persons, such as a company or a corporation, who can only be represented by a lawyer. A practicing lawyer can appear before the Court for any proceedings on behalf of a person or the Republic, can prepare and study pleadings, including documents to be filed before the Court, prepares and signs the documents and declarations necessary for the incorporation, organisation, re-organisation or dissolution of a company, registers trademarks, prepares legal advice and agreements, wills, applications for the administration of estates and the registration of vessels and other relevant activities. Furthermore, a lawyer can represent a client before the Land Registry Office to carry out a search, obtain any information for an immovable property, its owners and of any memos, mortgages, other encumbrances or estate in land affecting it. He can also deposit a sale contract, register a judgment as a memo over an immovable property, apply for the sale of a mortgaged property, register a management committee or apply for the issue of title deeds.
The issue of the representation of a company by its director has been examined by the Supreme Court in a number of cases whereby it was decided that a company can only be represented by a lawyer, except where the company files an application for the issue of a bankruptcy order against a debtor. In the latter case, the company can be represented by an officer duly authorised to this effect, since there is such a provision in the relevant regulations. In all other matters the representation of a company before the Court, including the preparation of a pleading and the filing of an appeal, constitutes legal practice which can only be carried out by a registered and licensed lawyer. The law strictly prohibits the practice of the profession of the lawyer by any other person, including a company, and provides that it is a criminal offence. Moreover, a pleading, including the notice of appeal, is considered null and void and not irregular if signed by a person other than a lawyer. Therefore, such a pleading cannot survive or be corrected, except the Court may extend the time for the filing of a new pleading or appeal signed by a lawyer.
The Supreme Court examined the aforesaid issue recently, whereby an objection was raised with regard to an application made by a company and signed by its director for an order of the Court declaring a debtor as bankrupt. The Supreme Court reaffirmed the decision issued by the District Court that in relation to the bankruptcy regulations, there is a provision giving authority to the company to file such an application through any of its officers. The relevant regulation provides that a bankruptcy petition against or a bankruptcy notice to any debtor to a limited company or other corporation may be presented or sued out by any officer thereof duly authorised in that behalf on his filing of an affidavit stating that he is such an officer and that he is duly authorised to present the petition or sue out the notice. The application was signed by a director of the company, who was duly authorised and the seal of the company was affixed on the application. Moreover, a certificate issued by the Registrar of Companies was submitted to the Court proving that the said officer was a managing director of the company. Under the circumstances, it was held that the application was properly made and the order declaring the debtor as bankrupt was correctly issued. The debtor owed an amount of money to the company over the minimum amount provided in the law (€854,30) and therefore, the appeal was dismissed as unfounded.
George Coucounis is a lawyer specializing on the Immovable Property Law, Leading Partner in George Coucounis LLC based in Larnaca - Cyprus
www.coucounislaw.com - E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org - Tel: +357-24818288.