Official Reply of Ministry of Justice on Approving the Pilot Program of Exploring the Close Cooperation Mode and Mechanism of Chinese and Foreign Law Firms in China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone
(MJR  No.3)
To: Shanghai Municipal Justice Bureau:
We acknowledge receipt of your Request for Instruction on the Pilot Program of Exploring the Close Cooperation Mode and Mechanism of Chinese and Foreign Law Firms in China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone (SJB  No436). After study, we approve the Pilot Program you submitted, and you are requested to start the pilot opening-up measures, lose no time in working out supporting implementation measures, exercise every item of opening-up policies in a strict and standard manner, earnestly and effectively guide, supervise and serve the pilot work, coordinate relevant departments in providing policy support and convenience for the pilot program, make timely survey and settlement of new situation and new problems in the pilot program, evaluate developments thereof on a regular basis, constantly improve the pertinence and effect of the guidance and management of the pilot program to ensure the progress in a healthy, steady and orderly manner, thus accumulating and creating experience in the close cooperation mode and mechanism of Chinese and foreign law firms.
In respect of situations and problems in the pilot program you are pushing forward, please make timely report thereon.
The Pilot Program of Shanghai Justice Bureau for Exploring the Close Cooperation Mode and Mechanism of Chinese and Foreign Law Firms in China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone
Ministry of Justice January 27, 2014
Pilot Program of Exploring the Close Cooperation Mode and Mechanism of Chinese and Foreign Law Firms in China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, made by Shanghai Justice Bureau
In accordance with the Framework Plan for China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone and the annex of the Measures for Enlarging the Opening up of Service Industry in China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone approved by the State Council, after study, in respect of carrying out the Exploration of the Close Cooperation Mode and Mechanism of Chinese and Foreign (Regions of Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan) in China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone (hereinafter referred to as SFTZ), we hereby put forward the following pilot program:
I. Guiding thought and principle
In accordance with the framework plan for Shanghai free trade zone and the arrangement for enlarging the opening-up of service industry, and by reference of the methods of mainland China opening up to and making cooperation with legal service industry of Hong Kong and Macao, make first try to explore the close cooperation mode and mechanism of Chinese and foreign law firms in SFTZ to raise the level of mutual opening-up and cooperation between the Chinese and foreign law profession, improve service and competitive power of Chinese law profession, and build a legal service system meeting the development demands of Shanghai free trade zone. The pilot program shall follow the principles of being appropriate, progressive and under control; the pilot measures shall be in line with the national conditions and the development level of lawyer trade of China, try to form a working mechanism of scientific, effective opening-up guidance, supervision and service to accumulate experience in gradually expanding and deepening the opening-up and cooperation of Chinese and foreign law profession.
II. Measures for pilot program
1. Allow foreign law firms with representative offices in SFTZ and Chinese law firms to make mutual assignment of lawyers as legal consultants in a mode of cooperation. That is to say, Chinese law firms assign Chinese practicing lawyers as Chinese legal consultants to representative offices of foreign law firms, and foreign law firms assign foreign lawyers as foreign legal consultants to Chinese law firms to conduct professional cooperation within their respect practicing field and authority in a mode of division and cooperation.
2. Allow foreign law firms and Chinese law firms to practice joint operation in SFTZ. That is to say, foreign law firms that have established representative offices in China and Chinese law firms, according to the rights and obligations stipulated in agreements, practice joint operation in SFTZ, respectively providing legal service for Chinese and foreign clients with legal service related to foreign and Chinese applicable laws. In the term of joint operation, both parties maintain their independent legal status, name and financial affairs, each assuming independent civil liability.
3. Matters about applicability to law firms in Hong Kong and Macao regions. Allow Hong Kong and Macao law firms that have established representative offices in mainland to participate in the abovementioned pilot program.
III. Supporting measures for Pilot Program
1. Formulate relevant supportive policy measures to guide and encourage foreign (Hong Kong and Macao) law firms to establish branches in SFTZ by changing their domiciles (representative offices) or setting up more representative offices, and encourage powerful domestic law firms to set up branches in SFTZ.
2. Reduce time of administrative examination and approval, after commencement of the pilot program, make open commitment to reduce the time of preliminary examination of matters about foreign (Hong Kong and Macao) law firms applying for establishment of representative offices and assigning (altering) representatives in SFTZ from statutory three months to 30 working days, and the time of examination of domestic law firms applying for establishing branches or assigning(altering) lawyers in SFTZ from statutory 30 working days to 10 working days.
3. In accordance with the Procedures for the Administration of China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, the free trade zone administrative committee as the assigned agency of Shanghai Municipal People’s Government shall, as entrusted by relevant departments, assume corresponding administrative functions. In consideration of the specificity of legal service and the opening –up administration in particular, we intend to strive to set up an assigned agency in SFTZ with the consent of the Municipal People’s Government, assuming administrative supervision function relating to the pilot opening-up, and coordinating the free trade zone administrative committee in providing foreign (Hong Kong and Macao) law firms that participate in the Pilot Program and their assigned lawyers with convenience in aspect of places of practice, residence and office (habitation).
IV. Organization and implementation of Pilot Program
1. In accordance with the essence of joint conference between the departments of the State Council and SFTZ, and implementation plans determined by the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, the scheme for the measures about the pilot opening up of legal service shall be reported for approval and the supportive implementation measures formulated before the end of this year and promulgated for implementation on January 1, 2014. We request the Ministry of Justice to accelerate within the year the examination of the pilot program submitted by us.
2. In accordance with the program approved by the Ministry of Justice, we will lose no time in drawing up and hammering out the operational rules and corresponding supportive measures for guiding the pilot program, and make promulgation for implementation.
3. After starting the pilot program, we will, in accordance with the program approved by the Ministry of Justice, follow the principle of being appropriate, progressive and under control, adopt a mode of advancement by stages and in groups, gradual expansion and deepening, conscientiously organize and implement the pilot measures for cooperation of Chinese and foreign law firms to ensure the progress of pilot work in a healthy, steady and orderly manner.