As China has become the center of business, there is increasing demand for corporate legal services. It is the primary reason that leads many firms to establish offices in China and offering foreign lawyers the opportunity to work over here. China business lawyers of the law firms are permitted to advise clients on the law of the firm’s jurisdiction and on international conventions and practices.
China’s foreign law firm regulations, set out by its State Council, outline the services that foreign law firms can legitimately provide in China. The existing legislation of the country has structural similarity to countries like Germany and France. In the last couple of years China has started to adopt some principles and institutions along the lines of a common law system.
As a career option, becoming a China attorney is really promising. But there are few criteria you need to possess in order to practice law in China such-
- The person should work in a foreign jurisdiction for more than two years
- A foreign national has to pass Chinese bar exam
- Must complete 1 year apprenticeship with a Chinese law firm
- Need to have a useable knowledge of Mandarin
It would be ideal if you practiced law in a reputed UK or America-based legal firm and then shift to China. The experience of working over there will definitely help you to seek a job in a major Chinese law house.
Foreign law firms must engage Chinese firms to advise on PRC law and cannot employ PRC lawyers, unless they give up their PRC practicing certificate. Foreign law firms are prohibited from practicing Chinese law, which means they cannot engage in legal practice that might involve the interpretation of Chinese law.
Foreign firms may, however, perform legal services that do not involve Chinese law. Foreign firms cannot form joint ventures with local PRC law firms. Those foreign lawyers working in China must register annually; and approval of licenses can be a lengthy and bureaucratic process.
With U.S.-China diplomatic and business relations getting stronger and stronger every passing day, it becomes really essential to have a complete understanding of the Chinese legal system. The ever-growing presence of the Western and US companies in China makes it imperative for the foreign lawyers to assist them to properly deal with local authorities.
For non-Chinese attorneys, it appears a challenging task to have a thorough knowledge of Chinese law and how it works. Unlike other European, US and Asian countries, there is a substantial difference in Chinese judiciary system. As the laws are written in Chinese language, it only adds to the complications to the non-Chinese lawyers. It is in those areas that the West can certainly begin a dialogue with China that includes political reform and human rights, and builds a common language.
Despite all the reforms and opportunities, foreign lawyers take little interest in researching Chinese legal issues for the following reasons:
- Most foreign attorneys simply cannot read Mandarin
- Foreign attorneys received their legal training abroad and can’t relate Chinese law with their study
- The entire Chinese legal system is changing at a rapid speed that makes it impossible to keep a tab on them
Even a few years ago only PRC and large international firms advised non-Chinese (foreign) clients in Mainland China. But as China has become a manufacturing hub of the world and trying to make its presence felt in the global arena, Chinese government has allowed foreign attorneys to work with the local counsel on all sorts of judicial matters in the mainland China. On January 9, 2017 the Chinese Judicial Bureau, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economics and the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council of China jointly issued the “Opinion on the Development of International Legal Services”, which “encourages and supports the internationalization of the legal industry, legal talents and professionals, so that they can complement the “Going Global” efforts of Chinese investors and enterprises”.
Since 1979, despite political changes and sometimes harsh repression, China has witnessed the construction of a comprehensive legal system. The Chinese have enacted a large body of legislation covering most subjects and very quickly created a legal environment robust enough to attract foreign direct investment, trade, and technology imports.
The internationalization of Chinese legal system is influenced by various factors such as their trade interest, business expansion, requirements of the Chinese as well as the international community, strong competition from its neighboring country India and for its One Belt One Road plan. But still Chinese legal system is in its infancy in comparison with the international law.