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State Council Issues Regulation on Foreign Law Firms

The State Council Thursday released a regulation on the opening up of the Chinese legal service market. The regulation will be effective on January 1, 2002.

According to the 35-article regulation, foreign law firms must first get approval from the State Council's judicial and administrative departments before they establish representative agencies in China and send their representatives to the country to work.

No foreign law firms, individuals or other overseas organizations are allowed to undertake legal services within the boundaries of China in the name of consulting firms or on any other pretenses, says the regulation.

Representative agencies approved by the State Council should not handle any business related to Chinese legal affairs, says the regulation.

However, the regulation says that there are five kinds of legal services they may engage in, such as providing consultation in China on international treaties and practices, entrusting Chinese law firms on behalf of overseas clients to solve Chinese legal affairs and establishing long-term mutual trust relationships with Chinese law firms by clinching contracts.

The regulation also points out that representative offices of foreign law firms in China should not employ certified Chinese lawyers. And support staff they employ in China should not provide legal service for clients.

Representative offices of foreign law firms in China who handle their legal services in line with the regulation shall be protected according to law, the regulation says.

(China Daily December 28, 2001)

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