Database keeps tabs on lawyers
Shanghai opened the country's first judicial credit website on Wednesday, providing basic information about local lawyers, law firms, notaries and community legal workers for clients.
"The purpose is to make sure that those who are in need of legal aid can get credible services," said Gui Xiaomin, deputy director of the Shanghai Justice Bureau.
At present, the city has more than 6,000 attorneys in 592 law firms, more than 250 notaries in 22 offices and over 700 legal workers in 140 grass-roots legal offices.
"But some don't behave according to laws, offering unreliable services for their clients," said Gui.
He said the website at www.chengxin.justice.gov.cn and a credit mailbox are considered part of the ongoing nationwide campaign launched by the Ministry of Justice to educate lawyers to toe the line.
"It tells people about the records of every lawyer, notary and legal worker when they seek legal services," Gui said.
Clients can complain to the local judicial authorities about the illegal behaviour of lawyers in handling legal affairs.
The bureau, the watchdog for the city's judicial affairs, says any firm that employs a lawyer or notary who is the subject of any complaint should answer the complaint within two weeks.
"If it doesn't do so, the bureau will write it down as a discreditable record," said Shao Jianping, a spokesman with the bureau.
But the website will also record lawyers' merits in their work to improve their credibility.
Local insiders say serious problems still exist in lawyers' work, although most behave well, contributing much to the city's development.
Some sought profits at the cost of the interests of the party concerned, some lacked credibility by giving up on cases after being paid, and some over charge.
Some have abnormal relations with judges in the lawsuit procedures.
"But in these cases, judges should be considered as playing a leading role," said an official with the Shanghai Bar Association who declined to reveal his name.
He suggested that a nationwide education campaign should be conducted among judges, as for lawyers, to standardize their behaviour.
"Unlawful practices, no matter who carry them out, lawyers or judges, will lead to poor justice and affect social stability," said Miao Xiaobao, director of the bureau.
In the past seven months, one notary has had his business certificate revoked and two lawyers have been forced to close business.
"Punishment will soon be handed out to four law firms and six more lawyers," Gui said.
The bureau will help six to seven law firms reorganize themselves,as a result of disorderly management and their irresponsible attitude towards clients.
He said lawyers' practices were of great importance to the city's social stability and economic development.
"We run the website to help lawyers improve the concept of handling cases according to laws and with credibility," he said.
Lawyers and law firms will be punished if they violate laws and disciplines. Illegal practices would be announced in the website as soon as they were discovered, he said.