Working as a Foreign Lawyer in China: 3 Problems You May Encounter

Posted by | 2014-10-22 | Working in China

Have you thought of pursuing law in China? It is not such a bad idea considering the status of China as the second largest economy. Maybe you have a passion for the language and you are fascinated by the Chinese people and culture, or it could be that you consider the Chinese market; very exciting because of the ever changing trends. All these are good reasons if you are well prepared for what is to come.

Haikou Intermediate People’s Court Photo: Anna Frodesiak (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Just like any other career there are many things that can hinder your path but if one has prepared and planned for them it makes things much easier. I have picked out the top three problems that one may come across as an international (foreign) lawyer in China.

The citizenship factor.

Just like other countries you cannot practice law in China unless you are a Chinese citizen and have sat for the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) examination, passed it and received a passage certificate.

HOWEVER, one may work for foreign law firms as a consultant on other issues such as business, investments and minor legal issues. You are not at any time allowed to represent clients in the court of law and where you are to be directly involved with the law, the Chinese government must have granted you the permission which is also limited.

Basically if you really desire to act as an attorney then you must be a citizen of China.

Minimum experience.

Another problem you are likely to encounter is if you are fresh from law school. In most cases you cannot practice law in China especially as a foreigner if you just got out of college. You need to have practiced it back home for at least two years. What most people do is work around it by practicing law for 6 months and one day at home that makes up one year or you can do it for another 6 months and one day that makes two years according to your country.

The other problem that comes with this is you need a work permit which your employer (an international law firm in most cases) should get for you.

You also need an invite from the company. The downside of that is if your country does not have a law firm in China, it gets hard for you to get access into the Chinese market.


Drastic competition in a foreign land. Consider the competition that is eminent in your home country now triple that in China. China is on top of the economic chain and it also has a lot of foreign firms. United Kingdom and America topping the list of number of firms with very educated advocates and lawyers, and here you are from a normal law school not as much skilled and experienced. The odds are against you which may be very frustrating especially if you are not very passionate about practicing law in china because you are in it for the money.

My advice would be prepare! Prepare! Prepare! Read, research and connect.

Works Cited

  • Harris, D. (2006, October 7). China Law Blog. Retrieved Septembeer 18, 2014, from
  • Havard law school Students. (2011). THE LEGAL PROFESSION OF THE PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF CHINA. Massachusetts: President and Fellows of Harvard College.
    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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