History of the Madrid Bar Association
The Bar Association
Founded in 1596, the Madrid Bar Association is made up of 77,000 lawyers, and its main mission is to defend their corporate interests and those of the citizens they serve. Likewise, the Bar guarantees its independence and the validity of the basic values of the profession, and provides its members with the services they need for the best performance of their work.
The lawyers of Madrid are a main reference in legal controversies and for the elaboration of laws. Our Association carries out an important public service activity in the form of in-court representation, legal assistance to detainees and legal advice services; maintaining its duty of solidarity with the most needy colleagues by covering our risks; and supporting the exercise of defence as the key to our collective and individual contribution to the construction of the Rule of Law.
The Madrid Bar Association is today a modern corporation, well managed, with high quality standards, transparent in its actions and democratic in its behaviour. It has a budget of more than 25 million euros and human resources of nearly 200 employees.
The Illustrious Bar Association of Madrid was founded in 1596, the year in which His Majesty Philip II granted a Royal Decree (of 15 June), in which he approved the Ordinances of the Congregation of Counsels of the Court.
However, there were already numerous references to the legal profession in Madrid and to the lawyers of the City Council since the late Middle Ages. Of particular importance to the profession was the Order of Lawyers and Attorneys, granted in Madrid by the Catholic Monarchs in 1495.
But it was the establishment of Madrid as the Capital and Court of the Habsburg Empire by Philip II which made necessary the constitution of the referred Congregation of Counsels of the Court. Its promoter was Ascensio López, of Portuguese origin and close to Princess Juana of Austria, the founder of the Descalzas Reales.
The Madrid Bar Association was established within the Imperial College, in whose Boards the examination and oaths of lawyers would be regulated. Under the new Bourbon dynasty, the new Statutes of 1732 were granted, which created the Wellfare Fund (Montepío) in the time of Charles III. This, among other benefits, provided widow’s pension, attention to illness, death and relief. Relevant figures would be Campomanes, Moñino, and a wide list of Prosecutors, Auditors, Council Ministers, Mayors, etc.
During the contemporary era, and as a consequence of the constitutional system and the corresponding legal modernisation, the Statutes of 1838 were drawn up and the Bar was modernised under the outstanding figure of its Dean Manuel Cortina y Arenzana, who held that post between 1847 and 1878. Its members included very important figures in politics and the courts throughout the successive periods of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Maura approved the Statutes of 1895 for all the Bar Associations in the Kingdom based on the project drafted by the Governing Board of the Bar. Among successive Deans, Canalejas, García Prieto, Juan de la Cierva, Ossorio y Gallardo, and Melquíades Álvarez can be highlighted. Institutional normality was broken as a result of the Civil War, although it was recovered under Manuel Escobedo Duato (1952-1959), who was succeeded by Gella and del Valle Iturriaga as doyen.
Starting in 1972, Antonio Pedrol Rius did an important job in the transition to democratic Spain and the modernisation of the Bar. He was succeeded, from 1992 to 2007, by Luis Martí Mingarro, who continued the work of institutional modernisation of the Bar, carrying out an important patrimonial work, articulating the corresponding services of attention to the Lawyers entrusted by the State and those corresponding to the own functions of the profession.
Antonio Hernández-Gil Álvarez-Cienfuegos was Dean of the Institution from December 2007 to December 2012.
Sonia Gumpert Melgosa was elected in the elections held on 18 December 2012, and was the first woman to hold the position of Dean in the history of the Madrid Bar Association.
Following her election as Dean in the electoral process held on 13 December 2017, José María Alonso Puig represents Madrid’s legal profession and ensures that it fulfils the mission and social function entrusted to it.