The legal profession in Cyprus can only be exercised by registered and licensed lawyers, with the exception of a physical person, being a litigant, who can represent themselves 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, prepare and sign documents and declarations necessary for the incorporation, organisation or dissolution of a company, register trademarks, prepare 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 to carry out a search, obtain information on an immovable property, its owners and of any memos, mortgages, other encumbrances or estate in land affecting it. They 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 for this.
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 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 is considered null and void if signed by a person other than a lawyer. Therefore, such a pleading cannot survive or be corrected, but the court may extend the time for the filing of a new pleading or appeal signed by a lawyer.
The Supreme Court examined the 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 court reaffirmed the decision issued by the District Court that in relation to 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 by any officer thereof duly authorised with an affidavit stating that they are.
The application was signed by a director of the company, who was duly authorised and the seal of the company was affixed to the application. Moreover, a certificate issued by the registrar of companies was submitted to the court proving that the 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 and therefore, the appeal was dismissed as unfounded.
George Coucounis is a lawyer specialising in the Immovable Property Law, based in Larnaca. E-mail: [email protected], tel: 24818288