In most legal proceedings in Spain it is mandatory that a party be defended by an abogado (or) letrado (“lawyer;” “attorney”) and represented by a procurador who serves as a liaison between the lawyer, client and court, filing pleadings and other documents, receiving court orders and generally checking up on the status of the cases assigned to him. There is no equivalent in Anglo-American courts, and procurador has been mistranslated variously as “lawyer,” “attorney,” “barrister,” “solicitor,” “legal representative,” and even “paralegal” (!), among others.
But let’s look at some of these suggested translations. Procurador can’t be accurately rendered as either “lawyer,” “attorney” or “barrister” because, although procuradores hold law degrees, they do not defend clients in court as do lawyers/attorneys (in the US) and barristers (in England and Wales). As mentioned above, that’s the job of abogados/letrados. “Solicitor” is also a mistranslation when used as a rendering for procurador. If you need a contract drafted, want to make a will or require legal counsel, in England and Wales, you turn to a solicitor. Procuradores provide no such services. In fact, procuradores are usually hired by the lawyers themselves and rarely have direct contact with clients. “Legal representative” is also a poor choice when translating procurador, since the expression may denote any person who has been empowered to act on behalf of another, and is not necessarily a lawyer. Persons holding power of attorney (poder de representación) or appointed as executors (albacea) of a will are legal representatives. And as fully qualified lawyers procuradores certainly cannot be characterized as paralegals (con todos mis respetos por los paralegals).
Thus the difficulty is to find an appropriate translation for procurador, and I admit that over the years I have changed my mind a couple of times as to how to best render the term. I initially decided on “court representative,” but this translation may be misleading. Indeed, in the context of providing legal defense for a client in court, representación and “representation” are not cognates. In English (among many other meanings) “representation” refers to one’s being represented by a lawyer in court (“representation by counsel”). In Spain, however, representación generally refers to one’s being represented in court by a procurador, while representation by counsel (asistencia letrada) is known variously as defensa, defensa técnica, dirección técnica or sometimes asistencia técnica. A party is said to be representada en juicio por el Procurador de los Tribunales XXX y defendida (or) asistida por el Letrado YYY. Thus Spanish clients are “represented” in court by procuradores and “defended” by their abogados/letrados, and the expression representación y defensa is most often simply a synonym for procurador y abogado/letrado. In short, referring to procuradores as “court representatives” might prompt a miscue, since in Anglo-American courts lawyers both represent and defend their clients.
I later thought that perhaps “court agent” would be an appropriate rendering for procurador. But “court agent” might be interpreted to mean “agent of the court,” suggesting that procuradores are actually personnel employed by the courts, which is certainly not the case. For now I have settled on “party agent,” (procuradores being agents who represent parties at court), but I am certainly aware that this expression doesn’t fully convey the meaning of the term (and I would welcome other suggestions!). Several colleagues have recommended adding a “Translator’s Note” indicating that procuradores are a feature of the Spanish judicial system and serve as intermediaries between lawyers and the court.
N.B. The Spanish procurador de los tribunales should not be confused with the term procurador as used in Mexico. In Mexico procurador is “prosecutor” (fiscal in Spain), and, thus, for US audiences and in this context the term is often rendered as “prosecutor,” but also “district attorney” or “D.A.”.
(Photo credit: from the website of Procuradora Rosa María Mateo Crossa, Málaga)
16 thoughts on “What is a procurador ?”
Combing the web for words of caution I could share with work colleagues, I came upon this site of yours. Comforting to see that you have reached similar conclusions on a number of problematic terms.
As for “procurador”, I suggest “procurator”, defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as: “An agent representing others in a court of law in countries retaining Roman civil law”. One of those rare occassions where going literal may just be the way to go.
All the best,
Many thanks for your input! “Procurator” is certainly an option for translating “procurador,” one which I considered in the past but decided that many readers might not understand. The audiences for our translations may not be familiar with the terminology of civil law countries or the OED definition of “procurator”. In the end, I tend to ask myself whether my renderings will be understood by the average lawyer in Kansas or Kent, and I still think “procurador” is one of those untranslatables for which there really isn’t a kindred concept in modern English legal terminology. But there is certainly no single “correct” translation here, so thanks for adding “procurator” to the mix.
It’s probably also worth noting that in addition to the different meanings that it has in Spain and Mexico, “procurador” apparently has yet another different meaning in Ecuador: https://www.expat.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=425624:
En la República del Ecuador no existe como tal la profesión de procurador de los tribunales, del mismo modo que existe en España. Sin embargo, sí está previsto en el Código de Procedimiento Civil (arts. 38 al 56), la figura del procurador judicial.
Thanks for that input. From the texts provided I can’t actually tell if “procuradores” in Ecuador play the same role as in Spain. They do indicate that “procuradores” are optional, while in the vast majority of proceedings in Spain they are mandatory. And, of course, it’s still not clear how the term could be translated.
It appears to me that procurador in Ecuador is just a synonym of mandatario. It sounds like they’re appointed by the parties (not by abogados as in Spain).
And then there is Colombia! I found this:
En Colombia el Procurador Jucidial cumple otra función que en Ecuador: “El procurador es un auxiliar de abogacía con capacitación para realizar escritos y trámites judiciales con patrocinio letrado”. En este caso el procurador es un auxiliar de abogacía, mientras que en nuestro país [Ecuador] los procuradores son mandatarios que tienen el poder de comparecer en juicio a nombre de otro.
I happen to have students this year from Ecuador, Colombia and Chile who might be able to explain the roles they play in their legal systems, which may or may not (probably aren’t) the same as in Spain.
The website from Ecuador goes on to explain how the term “procurador” is used in Ecuador (and I believe that the situation is similar in Chile):
De acuerdo con lo previsto en el Código de Procedimiento Civil [ecuatoriano], son procuradores judiciales los mandatarios que tienen poder para comparecer en juicio por otro. Sin embargo, se deja en claro en todo momento el carácter facultativo de la designación de procurador judicial, indicándose, al mismo tiempo, que son hábiles para designar procurador las personas que pueden comparecer en juicio por sí mismas.
La regla general es que únicamente pueden ser procuradores judiciales los abogados en el ejercicio de su profesión. Y por tales, se debe entender quienes cumplan con los requisitos establecidos en el Código Orgánico de la Función Judicial (art. 324), que son, básicamente, los siguientes:
A) Tener título de abogado, otorgado por una facultad de Derecho (que en Ecuador también pueden recibir el nombre de Jurisprudencia o Ciencias Jurídicas) de cualquier universidad legalmente establecida en Ecuador o si se ha obtenido en el extranjero, debe estar debidamente reconocido por la vía de la homologación.
B) Hallarse en goce de los derechos de participación política (abogados ecuatorianos) y si se trata de abogados extranjeros, hallarse en goce de derechos civiles.
C) Formar parte del Foro de Abogados, mediante la incorporación al Registro, que a tal efecto, mantiene el Consejo de la Judicatura, a través de las Direcciones Regionales.*
In Chile they have procuradores del número, as described below. Do procuradores in Spain keep the parties informed of the status of the case, and do they represent poor plaintiffs who “proceed in forma pauperis”? I also believe that these procuradores are on staff with the court–when I was at a court in Santiago de Chile, I saw an office with PROCURADORES DEL NÚMERO on the door.
So I gather that these Chilean procuradores are different from procuradores in Spain, ¿no es cierto?
Los procuradores del número son oficiales de la administración de justicia encargados de representar en juicio a las partes, bajo las reglas del mandato del Código Civil. Además de la recta ejecución del mandato, son obligaciones de los procuradores del número:
1. Dar los avisos convenientes sobre el estado de los asuntos que tuvieren a su cargo, o sobre las providencias y resoluciones que en ellos se libraren, a los abogados a quienes estuviere encomendada la defensa de los mismos asuntos, y 2. Servir gratuitamente a los pobres con arreglo a lo dispuesto por el artículo 595 del Código Procedimiento Civil.
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Rebecca, as usual from you, a very interesting and instructive commentary, on such a thorny problem. I once came across “procurator” too but rejected it for the same reason as yourself. FYI, I’ve been working for one of Spain’s biggest law firms for just over 20 years, and their “official” translation is “court agent” – but I always ask for the particular lawyer’s preference, and none of them has ever chosen it! They tend to prefer “attorney to the courts” (their standard language is US English) but I agree with you that that’s a different animal. I think I’ll take the matter up with them, their glossary needs renewing and expanding anyway. (They – or their current head of English – also have an ingrained adversion to “and/or”, which I find so useful and succinct.) Clients, doncha love ’em. Well yes, most of ’em. All the best and many thanks again for your contributions!
Hi, Paul. Thanks for your kind comment; sorry I’m just discovering it now!
We have consistently used “court representative” for “procurador” without complaint from our law firm clients in Spain. I think it really is the best functional equivalent, without using a long-winded phrase that would not necessarily getting one any closer to the actual meaning of the term.
Hi, Steve. “Court representative” is certainly a possible rendering for “procurador,” although I’ve yet to find a single term that actually conveys the role of “procuradores” in Spanish judicial proceedings. As I tell my students (all future Spanish lawyers), they will have to explain to their US and UK clients what “procuradores” do and why they charge what they charge.
I completely agree that any Spanish attorneys advising their US or UK clients should be ready to explain the meaning of “procurador” in terms that the client will understand.
In the pure translation context, I’m now wondering if something along the lines of “court procedural attorney” followed by a parenthetical with the word in Spanish would convey enough of the substance to avoid a drawn-out explanation.
Clients might ask, “what is a procedural attorney,” and “attorney” would be for a US vs. a UK audience (Spanish lawyers never know where their non-native-English speaking clients learned English). Lawyers (and sometimes translators) will often just have to explain what a “procurador” is/does. And there is also the problem that “procurador” means something quite different in other Spanish-speaking jurisdictions such as Mexico and Colombia. No easy answer here.
Agreed that there is no easy answer, and of course my comment only applies to Spain.
In most cases the job of the translator is to look for the best functional equivalent to at least signal to the reader that the role in question is different than one of an attorney/lawyer (in the U.S. sense) or some type of clerk. Creating a neologism like this (with care taken to ensure that one truly understands the underlying concept) is one way to do so.
There is a similar conundrum even when dealing with English-speaking common law jurisdictions, where a speaker of U.S. English won’t necessarily understand what a barrister or solicitor is, other than that they are some type of lawyer. Usually it’s not necessary to know the exact definition (except when it is).