China's WTO Updates
Lawyers May Face WTOChallenges

China's fledgling legal profession is hopeful that a number of new measures will help it effectively utilize the opportunities brought about by the nation's upcoming entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The steps, spelled out by Vice-Minister of Justice Duan Zhengkun during a two-day symposium on the WTO and Chinese legal profession held in Beijing during the weekend, include enhancing attorney competence, expanding local law firms and improving the supervision of the legal profession.

Sources with the ministry's Attorneys and Notarization Department told China Daily that they will soon work out details concerning the amendment of the present Attorneys Law and other relevant regulations to better adapt the situation under the WTO framework.

China is expected to lift the geographic ban overseas law firms now face in establishing branches after it gains full membership in the WTO. Foreign firms will also be able to establish multiple offices on the Chinese mainland.

For Chinese law firms, two of the major challenges that will follow the WTO accession are fiercer business competition and a more intense battle for high-caliber personnel.

Some 107 overseas law firms have already established branches on the Chinese mainland. They primarily provide legal consultation in fields such as finance, trade and securities.

"China's WTO entry will give rise to some issues in the legal profession," said Duan. "But these are the result of our own structural defects."

Duan's opinion is shared by many legal experts, who hope that the increasing contact with overseas law firms and more opportunities in dealing with international law suits will bring China's legal profession to a new stage of development.

He also urged the symposium's participants to make full use of the opportunity to push ahead the reform of the judicial system.

China's legal profession, though gaining unprecedented development momentum during the last two decades, is still plagued by issues such as corruption, violation of lawyer's rights and deals under the table.

Gao Zongze, president of the All-China Lawyers Association, pledged that the association will do all it can to propel the exchange and cooperation between Chinese lawyers and the international bar circle.

(China Daily January 10, 2000)


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