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Law Firms Urged to Be More Competitive
Legal experts and lawyers stressed yesterday that Chinese law firms must improve their management and increase their competitiveness in the legal-services market now that China is a World Trade Organization (WTO) member.

Wang Li, managing partner of the Beijing-based Deheng Law Office, said: "What we shall learn (from our foreign counterparts) is the foreign lawyers' system, including the protection of lawyers' rights, attention to ethics for lawyers, the nurturing of professionalism among lawyers, training, scientific management, and respect for regulations on lawyers."

Though great progress has been made in the past two decades to bring China's legal profession into full bloom, problems such as small scale and lack of specialized lawyers have been obstacles to Chinese law firms being able to compete on the international market.

Chen Hongwu, who practised law in France, said: "Compared with the internationalized foreign legal profession, China's legal profession is still in the start-up phase. It lags far behind the profession abroad in terms of personnel, financial, business and cultural resources as well as the operational and management levels."

China now has some 110,000 lawyers, who work in nearly 9,500 law firms.

As promised upon its entry to the WTO, China will lift the geographical and quantitative ban on foreign law firms opening branches in China within one year. Currently, foreign law firms can only establish one branch in each of 15 Chinese cities on a Ministry of Justice list.

Since China's WTO entry, foreign lawyers are allowed to advise clients on foreign laws, handle foreign legal affairs and entrust Chinese law firms to deal with Chinese legal affairs.

Though foreign law firms are still banned from hiring Chinese citizens as their lawyers, exchanges between foreign and Chinese law firms are expected to increase as business connections expand more.

(China Daily January 20, 2002)

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