Shanghai is drafting guidelines that will allow local law firms to employ foreign attorneys, as the eastern metropolis aims to boost legal services for overseas investors, and it was announced on March 28.
The city’s Justice Bureau, which is drawing up the rules, said it is ironing out procedures for recruiting legal professionals from overseas and their qualification requirements.
“As an incentive, we may also provide policy support to assist expat lawyers in obtaining residence permits in Shanghai as well as receiving social welfare and social security,” said Lu Weidong, director of the bureau.
Another approach to providing legal services of higher quality to foreign businesses and individuals is to promote joint ventures between local and foreign law firms, he said.
“Such operations have been allowed in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone since 2013 and have achieved desirable results in enabling mutual learning between the two sides,” Lu said.
Five joint ventures are already in operation and more are expected, he said, without elaborating on how many firms had made applications or are awaiting approval.
More high-end law firms will be introduced from abroad to specialize in dealing with cases in the areas that tend to involve foreign businesses and individuals, such as finance, shipping and international trade, Lu said.
The bureau has also pledged to make efforts to promote joint ventures and partnerships between local law firms and those from Hong Kong and Macao, and to encourage attorneys from Taiwan to set up offices in Shanghai or serve as legal advisers to local firms.
Sun Fuqing, deputy director of the legal work committee of the Shanghai People’s Congress Standing Committee, said the series of measures is innovative and consistent with the municipality’s quest to become an outstanding global city.
“Looking around the world, from New York to London to Hong Kong, mature legal services with a global perspective are indispensable to a healthy business environment,” he said.
Bureau data show that Shanghai is home to 156 foreign-owned law firms employing 316 Chinese and foreign lawyers, more than any other city in China.
Local firms also have many attorneys with the skills and experience to provide legal services to foreign businesses and individuals, Lu said.
“Among them more than 1,000 have studied abroad, more than 600 have legal work experience overseas and the number of those holding credentials to practice law in at least two countries is rising year-on-year,” he said.