Restrictions on foreign law firms to be eased

SHANGHAI will gradually open the legal sector to foreigners while improving its capability in handling the legal affairs of overseas companies, Lu Weidong, director of the Shanghai Justice Bureau, said yesterday.

The move is part of the city’s efforts in improving the business environment as a global metropolis.

To begin with, it will introduce a pilot program that will allow local law firms to employ foreign lawyers as consultants, and intensify training on legal services involving overseas firms.

The city will try to attract more high-end legal service talent and organizations in foreign affairs, finance, shipping, international trade and intellectual property fields.

Lu said they will encourage local legal service personnel, such as lawyers, notaries and arbitrators, to participate in international exchanges and recommend outstanding ones to join international organizations to improve their influence in international legal affairs.

The city will expand a program citywide that is being piloted in the free trade zone, allowing local and overseas law firms to provide joint services.

Since the program was initiated in 2013, four joint units have been set up in the free trade zone while more are applying for approval.

The city also aims to become the arbitration center in the Asia-Pacific region. It will support cooperation between local and overseas arbitral institutions and encourage people to choose Shanghai as a seat of arbitration.

A database will also be built with legal service cases for enterprises to check related information. Shanghai has more than 230 law firms that provide legal services involving overseas interests.

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