Big Law Offices in China

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Big Law Offices in China

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 22, 2017 1:29 am

Hi,

I have searched and noticed that quite a lot of topics discuss Chinese offices for big law firms, but none seem to discuss this: would having a Chinese bar license give a candidate a competitive edge when applying to work for these offices? Would it be required? I can tell that these offices handle mostly American clients' matters in China and so might not deal with Chinese law too much, but I wasn't entirely sure.

I am asking this for my friend, because after this summer, the Chinese bar will change and after this change, my friend will not be eligible to take the Chinese bar. Also - if the Chinese bar license isn't necessary or advantageous, could you give me insight on what qualifications would make someone competitive for these positions? Are these positions acquirable for 3Ls or do candidates need prior work experience and lateral?

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Re: Big Law Offices in China

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 23, 2017 8:27 am

Don't have direct experience working in China but I know plenty of US barred attorneys in China.

Your friend's best chance to land a Chinese gig would be to get their feet into the door of a practice AND law firm that has a Chinese office and a practice that's portable to China (e.g. Capital markets). This means the kind of credentials that can land you biglaw. Going from a 3l straight to China is something I honestly have never heard happened to Americans but have heard plenty of stories for those who at least had a summer associate after their 2l year. For Chinese folks all of the ones I know start off in the US offices in biglaw too. The only folks I know who go straight from US to China are the LLMs who already have China law office experience.

Since your friend is eligible for the Chinese bar, must also mean the person is a native speaker. Language fluency is a plus but not a requirement and it's only a plus when your friend is fully capable of producing impeccable work product in English and communcicate clearly in English. I'm being cynical here, a lot of times the firm really just need a foreigner face or ABC posted in the office to do the US side work.

Being barred in China, in my opinion, does not give you an advantage and it has less value than a US license because they have plenty of locals doing the grunt work that requires a China license. Need to remember that a China license is a level lower, but not easier to attain, than a US license. Even worse the firm might try to hire your friend as a Chinese lawyer rather than an American lawyer, which means lower status and pay on the totem pole.

If your friend wants to create themselves room for maximum career growth, please do not have your friend pigeonhole themselves as the China specialist so early on. It's very important to first become a specialist and then develop that niche.

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Re: Big Law Offices in China

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 23, 2017 9:22 am

I've talked to a couple of family friends who are partners at regional biglaw firms about the Chinese bar. They all tell me that it is generally a "nice to have" but not "required" at least here in the US. Having the Chinese bar will set you apart from other candidates, but they look at other factors first (school, grades, language skills).

Some firms are trying to hiring a Chinese speaking attorney to help them with Chinese clients. However, depending on the amount of Chinese client work, they may just hire an ABC who has the grades and school to go along with it.

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Re: Big Law Offices in China

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 23, 2017 7:57 pm

My understanding is there's not really demand for "dual-barred" lawyers in those offices. Those east Asian Big Law offices recruit US-trained lawyers that are paid on the US Big Law scale to do US legal work. And If you're a highly qualified US-trained lawyer with ties to China, your value will be as a US lawyer (who happens to be comfortable working in China with Chinese).

I don't think the qualifications are substantially different from other major big law jobs. The only difference is sometimes language fluency is a requirement, and there are a very small number of these positions compared to the US market so they are probably more competitive than your average US job. In other words, if your friend isn't having luck finding employment in the US, odds are he's not likely to get one of these positions.

Like others have said, the best way to get one of these jobs is to get hired by one of those "global" firms in the US, specialize in a portable (probably transactional) area of law, and end up being asked to transfer abroad after you have a few years experience. There is not much direct hiring of US law graduates to those offices.

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Re: Big Law Offices in China

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 26, 2017 8:58 pm

Most US law firms in China only do transactional work so they do not necessarily require a Chinese bar. Also, foreign law firms in China are not allowed to represent clients before Chinese courts. I can't think of a reason why they would require a Chinese bar.

If you really want to work in China, your Chinese language skills and your familiarity with Chinese culture are much more important.

Also, the size of biglaw offices in Mainland China is small compared to HK. So consider HK.



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