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Across China: Foreign-related legal services booming

(Xinhua)    14:43, April 29, 2017

CHENGDU, April 29 -- Wu Yuhong knows he was right when he gave up his dentistry major and became a lawyer more than a decade ago.

Despite holding a master's degree in dental sciences, Wu went to the United Statesfor a law degree and worked as a lawyer there for more than a year.

In 2008, he returned home to Chengdu, capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, driven by his belief that legal services would soon see a golden age in China.

"With foreign investment flowing in and domestic businesses expanding out, more international lawyers will be needed," he recalled.

As China opens its door wider to the world, legal services dealing with foreign-related matters are witnessing a growing market nationwide, especially in the previously less-developed western China.

Over the past three years, the Deheng law firm in Chengdu, where Wu works, saw foreign-related cases jump from 30 to 80 percent of their total.

The range of cases has also broadened from labor, tax and intellectual property issues to cross-border acquisition, foreign listings and overseas projects by Chinese companies, said Wu.

He said clients have done business in Pakistan, Brazil, Tanzania and Kenya, with the largest case worth about 1.75 billion U.S. dollars.

China has more than 300,000 licensed lawyers, and in Chengdu, a city of 14 million, the number of lawyers exceeds 10,000.

Compared to coastal areas, foreign-related legal services inland had lagged behind until recent years.

"Before our firm was established, one of my clients had to turn to law firms in Shanghai, Hong Kong and, subsequently, Britain to find a proper lawyer for a case in 2007," Wu said, adding legal services for the case cost the client about 900,000 U.S. dollars.

In January, the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce, Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council jointly issued a circular calling for better legal services for overseas projects and those "going global."

The circular proposed that by 2020, there should be a team of legal personnel in China with knowledge of international rules and a number of quality legal institutions.

Against the backdrop of major national development strategies such as the Belt and Road Initiative, overseas legal service providers should help guard against investment risks in transportation, energy, communication and other infrastructure projects, it said.

Yuan Zongyong, head of the Chengdu justice bureau, said legal services related to foreign affairs not only help protect the interests of Chinese companies in international business, but are also advantageous for optimizing the foreign investment environment.

Yuan said the Belt and Road Initiative will bring a new round of foreign investment to the city and opportunities for foreign-related legal services along with it.

"Interdisciplinary talent with a good command of economics, technology, foreign languages and law is badly needed, especially people who are good at Arabic and law in Muslim countries," he said.

Chengdu is promoting creation of an alliance and a secretariat among 600 law firms along the Belt and Road to provide better legal services in the region, according to Yuan.

"We hope all those who run foreign companies can find lawyers who speak their native languages in Chengdu, and those here at home can have a proper legal service provider to guide their direction in going overseas," he said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Du Mingming, Bianji)

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