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Attorneys Told to Narrow Their Fields
A senior Chinese justice official said it was time the nation's solicitors stopped being "Jacks of all trades and masters of none."

With competition from their overseas counterparts keener than ever, it is essential for them to specialize.

"Each law firm must decide on its own specific field of expertise to win its targeted market," Deputy Justice Minister Duan Zhengkun said at the Second China Lawyers Forum which closed Sunday in Shanghai, the largest port city in East China.

"Once all the law firms are clear about their own specialized markets, competition will be in better order," Duan said.

The forum, attended by about 300 solicitors from law firms in 24 provinces and municipalities, discussed the best way to decide on which area of law they needed to specialize in.

At present many lawyers are not aware of reasons why they need to specialize, the deputy minister said. "They are still preoccupied with the practice to be Jacks of all trades and masters of none."

"It's unimaginable that a law firm, which looks like a workshop, or a husband and wife shop, can deal with today's complicated legal business following China's entry into the World Trade Organization," Duan said.

"Lawyers must become specialists and scaled-up as soon as possible if they want to challenge the international competition," he said.

His forthright appeal was echoed by Lu Hongbing, vice president of Shanghai Bar Association, who said that failure to specialize will render China's lawyers unable to compete with their overseas counterparts.

To date, 150 overseas law firms have set up offices in China, one-third of which are in Shanghai. They have not only helped hasten modernization and reforms within the country's legal system, but also posed challenges to Chinese practitioners.

"In the next several years, more foreign law firms will come to the Chinese mainland. It's hard to say what the situation will be," said Vincent Lo Wing Sang from Hong Kong-based Gallant Y.T. Hon Co.

Participants at the forum, however, held that Chinese lawyers should first improve the quality of their practices by ensuring their level of credibility and then look for areas in which to specialize. President of Beijing Bar Association Zhang Qing said, "China must first establish a lawyer credibility system" as part of a nationwide one.

(China Daily October 21, 2002)

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