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Program promotes international ties

News

Cite as: (2009) 83(06) LIJ, p.20

A federal government legal profession development program is helping Victorian and Chinese firms forge links.

Henan Golden Diamond Law Firm lawyer Jenny Hu

A Chinese lawyer undertaking a short placement in a Melbourne CBD firm is learning new skills for use back in China, including the art of self-promotion and how to run firms as businesses.

Jenny Hu began with mid-sized commercial firm Logie-Smith Lanyon (LSL) on 23 March after being accepted for the Australia-China Legal Profession Development Program.

During her three-month placement, Ms Hu will be rotated through the firm’s commercial and corporate, litigation and property law divisions.

She told the LIJ the similarities between the Chinese and Australian legal systems and cultures were outweighed by the differences, including the finely-tuned Australian marketing processes.

“I have found that I will need to do more marketing of myself back in China to let people know that I am a good lawyer with good English,” she said.

“Lawyers in firms here are all business. You have to have that business sense and marketing is very important. It is not just about the law books but about the people you meet and the ideas you exchange.

“I want to observe how [LSL] operates so when I go back I can use the skills and networking opportunities I have learned to benefit my career and my firm.”

Ms Hu said that her firm, Henan Golden Diamond Law Firm, in Henan province, like many in China, could learn from Australian business practice.

As part of her development in Australia, Ms Hu has been introduced to LSL clients, including those with business in China.

LSL associate and Ms Hu’s mentor Hyder Gulam said the program had allowed the firm to “give something back to the profession” and help create strategic links with China.

“It has allowed us to link up with Jenny and her firm in China and we will definitely be participating again as long as we can find a candidate of her quality,” Mr Gulam said.

“We have had her actively involved, and while she came here to obtain exposure and understanding of Australian law, she has also taught us a lot about Chinese law.”

The Chinese legal system is a Western socialist-styled statute system, introduced with the People’s Republic of China in 1949, that is ever-increasing social protection, environmental, anti-unfair competition and commercial laws.

Since China opened its legal services market to foreign firms in 1992, it has become an increasingly important market for Australian firms and individual practitioners, especially those who follow foreign capital and their clients to China.

However, strict Chinese regulations mean foreign firms must engage local practitioners for many reasons, from law interpretation to court appearances.

Ms Hu said the most obvious difference between China and Australia was that she billed in lump sums while her Australian counterparts billed by the hour.

She said technology was used to a greater standard in Australia, particularly the use of intranet systems and the availability of e-court filing programs.

Another difference was that Australian laws and regulations were written in greater depth.

“Also we don’t bow to the judges in Chinese courts and some [legal] words match but others are different. We don’t have tribunals in China and there is no separation between barristers and solicitors.”

The Australia-China Legal Profession Development Program has been implemented by the federal Attorney-General’s Department in association with the Law Council of Australia (LCA) and in cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Justice and the All China Lawyers’ Association.

Aimed at developing links and understanding between the countries, the program is in its third year and there are 10 Chinese participants around Australia in the current intake.

Melbourne barrister Leslie Glick SC has helped mentor Ms Hu and said the program “has been a wonderful opportunity for lawyers from China to experience first hand a ‘western’ common law legal system and especially the concept of an independent Bar”.

Ms Hu, a former interpreter, will recommend the program to young Chinese lawyers, and said it reinforced for her that the English language was the “passport” for working in the global marketplace.

Ms Hu has given a presentation to LSL about Chinese law and law firms and has a blog to keep her colleagues, family and friends up to date with her Australian adventures.

For further information on the development program see the International Legal Services Advisory Council (ILSAC) page on the Attorney-General’s Department website, http://www.ag.gov.au.

Jason Gregory

Memorandum of understanding signed

The LIV’s links with foreign legal communities have been increased with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Hong Kong Law Society (HKLS).

The MoU was signed by LIV president Danny Barlow and HKLS president Lester Huang following the closing of the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Conference held in Hong Kong from 5-9 April.

Mr Barlow said as law was increasingly being practised in a borderless environment, it was becoming more important to build relationships with other law societies.

“Over recent years, many Australian legal practitioners and law firms have chosen Hong Kong as the place to advance their practices,” Mr Barlow said.

“This agreement will grow those opportunities by developing reciprocal member services and improved communication links between our two societies.”

Mr Barlow said it was also highly important during times of global economic downturn to search for opportunities to grow business and create working relationships.

Mr Huang hoped the MoU was the first step in the two organisations collaborating on initiatives for practitioners wishing to pursue international opportunities in either country.

“The legal profession in all countries faces common issues and by sharing expertise and experience we can help one another provide better services to our members,” he said.

In 2008, the LIV hosted the Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung.

The LIV also signed an MoU with the All China Lawyers’ Association in 2004 and a similar agreement with the Beijing Municipal Lawyers Association in 2006.

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