China / Hot Issues

Lawyers trained to help deal with transnational cases

By Zhang Yan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-22 09:01

More training will be offered to law firms and lawyers specializing in cross-border lawsuits to expand their presence in an area dominated by foreign competitors, a senior official from the Justice Ministry said.

By next year, the All-China Lawyers Association plans to train at least 300 lawyers from 100 law firms to engage in cross-border lawsuits, said Du Chun, director of the ministry's directing lawyers and notarization department.

"The lawyers will handle transnational litigation cases that include overseas investments, multinational mergers and acquisitions, IPR protection, safeguarding of ocean and space interests, as well as antitrust and anti-dumping," he said.

Many national enterprises are expanding overseas and engaging in multinational mergers and acquisitions on the back of global economic integration. The number of cross-border lawsuits resulting from such activities is rising sharply, Du said.

For example, a number of developed countries might engage in trade protectionism, set up trade barriers and investigate allegations of dumping and subsidies by developing countries, he said.

In the past four years, China has been involved in 328 such investigations, the most by any country. The amount of money involved has reached $53.4 billion, according to the ministry.

Because there is a dearth of senior Chinese lawyers who specialize in cases involving foreign entities, US and European lawyers have monopolized about 80 percent of the transnational lawsuits, Du said.

There are more than 250,000 professional lawyers in China in about 20,000 law firms, according to the All-China Lawyers Association.

About 30,000 lawyers engage in transnational litigation.

To help plug the gap, authorities at various levels will invest 4 million yuan ($642,000) every year to support the necessary legal training, said Wang Junfeng, director of the All-China Lawyers Association.

Local lawyers' associations will also maintain databases on members to help evaluate educational backgrounds, English-language proficiency and professional training.

"Each year, we will identify promising lawyers recommended by local lawyers associations to receive special and practical training in institutions and big law firms in the United States or Europe," he said.

In August, the association held the first such training session, during which 102 lawyers underwent 15-day training courses that included case studies and practice court sessions in Beijing. Through examinations after the training, 30 lawyers were chosen to go to law colleges and large law firms in Germany to study and participate in internships, he said.

"I gained a lot of experience during the training," said Li Ying, a lawyer from Beijing Yingke Law Firm, who was selected for a three-month attachment to a law firm in Germany. "The priority is to accumulate more practical experience and learn how to manage the legal risks and improve service quality."

Du said these training opportunities will also promote the development of the Chinese legal sector and help improve cross-border litigation.

Ariel Ye, a lawyer from Beijing King and Wood Mallesons who specializes in transnational lawsuits, said the initiative will help cultivate professional Chinese lawyers and completely change the "monopoly" now held by foreign lawyers.

"But we should realize our shortcomings," she said.

"We should emphasize training of talented personnel and encourage them to be active in international forums to communicate and share experiences with our competitors, and enhance their practical abilities."

Wang said, "The key is to draw attention from the central authorities and ask them to be aware of the important roles lawyers are playing in the legal sector.

"But we should accumulate more experience and enhance our business level and capabilities to narrow the gap with competitors from the US and European countries," he added.

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