Selling into China as a lawyer: what you need to know

Posted by | 2014-12-03 | Working in China

According to my view and a whole lot of people, China has for a long time been the heartbeat of the worlds’ economy. This is where every business person desires to embark. Everyone wants a little piece of China. As a lawyer, there are quite a number of things one needs to keep in check as they pursue that market…

First and foremost, the culture; this is the make it or break it factor. Chinese people are extremely fond of their culture and exalt it above everything. You need to study their culture, understand it and where possible be able to incorporate it into parts of your life. For instance, you need to know that entertainment is very important to them and how they view entertainment may be different from how you view it.

Foreign GSK manager's trial in China - photo Reuters via Telegraph

A foreign private investigator on trial in China – photo Reuters via Telegraph

Secondly you need to be conversant with their laws and that includes the fact that you cannot practice Chinese law if you are not a Chinese citizen who has gone through the required process and have the valid practice certificates. Where you are a citizen you need to have completed a one year internship program after your exams before you can be declared as an attorney/lawyer.
Thirdly you need to be well acquainted with the language. Knowing Mandarin and can read Chinese language will be at a greater advantage. The knowledge of these languages also makes you more marketable as a lawyer and it increases your value.

Skill set is very important for you as a lawyer as well. My advice would be to gain enough field experience before you go on board into the Chinese market. The more you know about your country and other countries the more relevant you will be. This will enable you to be more versatile and sharpen the already gained knowledge on law due to the different scenarios.
With the Chinese clientele you need to be very persistent in terms of payment.

Some clients may pay you the full amount in time but in most cases they will not pay it on time/ at all. You need to be very careful with the clients you choose to work with (research is your friend). Being cautious helps you avoid cases of being swindled.

You need to be patient and know that it will take a while before you build a good number of clients; nothing comes easy especially in china. A lot of research is needed, you need to understand the type of people you want to represent/ advise and the issues they face (not forgetting your limitations if you are a foreign lawyer). Do you want to work in the trade business? Do you know the laws in and around trade? Are you well connected to people who can help? What are the limitations that you will face as a lawyer in that area?

Finally be willing to learn new things, be flexible because with China’s diverse culture and growing economy you need to be able to act with sufficient speed and be very flexible. If you do not have the passion, don’t bother pursuing law in China because you will be frustrated and unfulfilled.

Useful Reading

  • Harris, D. (2006, October 10). China Law Blog. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from
  • Harris, D. (2007, February 14). China Law Blog. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from
  • Hodkins, T. (2006, September 4). Transnational law blog . Retrieved September 18, 2014, from
  • Kwintessential. (n.d.). Kwintessential. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from
  • Lewis, R. (2013, January 18). The Lawyer. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from
  • unknown. (n.d.). CQ recruit. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from
    wales, I. l. (2007, September 28).
  • International law society of England and wales . Retrieved September 18, 2014, from


By Claire Maumo for

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