Articles
More Administrative Regulation For Foreign Legal Practicing Organizations

18 - 03 - 2013
By Bui Minh Hoang, Legal Assistant(*)

On 20 November 2012 the National Assembly passed Law No. 20/2012/QH13 amending and supplementing a number of articles of the Law on Lawyers No. 65/2006/QH11(the "Law"). The Law takes effect on 1 July 2013. By enacting the Law, the Government has increased the administrative burden for foreign law firms and other legal practicing organizations.

In addition to the conditions set forth in the Law on Lawyers, any foreign legal practicing organization in Vietnam must:

  • commit to have at least two foreign lawyers, including the branch manager and the directors of the foreign law firm present and practicing in Vietnam at least 183 days in any given consecutive 12 months; and
  • ensure that the branch manager and director of the foreign law firm have at least two consecutive years of experience in practicing law.

The Law also supplements the regulations for partnership law companies established by a foreign legal practicing organization and a Vietnamese law firm. The procedure to renew the legal practicing license of foreign lawyers, which was absent from the pre-amended Law on Lawyers, is also supplemented in this Law under Article 82.

Another substantial change in the Law is that foreign legal practicing organizations are prohibited from appointing their employed Vietnamese lawyers to participate in legal proceedings at court. In particular, under Article 70 of the Law, foreign law firms and branches practicing in Vietnam must not appoint their Vietnamese lawyers to participate in proceedings as representatives, advocates or protectors of the lawful rights and interests of litigants at Vietnamese courts. This amendment creates difficulties for foreign law firms representing foreign clients in litigation in Vietnam. This means that the brand name law firms operating in Vietnam will no longer be able to represent their clients at court. Consequently, it can be said that the provision takes from foreigners the reasonable right in choosing their advocates when participating in proceedings in Vietnam.

Furthermore, when a Vietnamese law firm enters into a joint venture or partnership with a foreign legal practicing organization, it will be considered a foreign law firm and as a result, the right to appoint Vietnamese lawyers to participate in legal proceedings of such Vietnamese law firm shall be abrogated. This will create a chilling effect for Vietnamese law firms to enter into joint venture or partnership relationships with foreign firms. This seems to be in opposition to the developing tendency of the Vietnamese legal services market.

Thinking that in the situation where the legal service market of Vietnam is in its developing, law makers should reconsider to establish the provisions in a more appropriate way in balancing the benefit of litigants who are Vietnamese as well as foreigners. Thus our recommend is that:

  • The Law should allow foreign lawyers to enter into court proceedings in which appear foreign features, especially foreign litigants. As such, to protect the correctness of Vietnamese law system as well as policy of the Socialist Party of Vietnam and the State of Vietnam, any foreign lawyers who want to participate in court proceedings must be qualified accordingly. In this view point, instead of prohibiting, law makers should administrate activities of foreign lawyers by establishing the conditions which they must satisfy.
  • The Law should allow Vietnamese lawyers to engage into court proceedings despite they are working for foreign legal practicing organizations.

Since the State of Vietnam encourages Vietnamese law firms to associate and cooperate with foreign legal practicing organizations, it shall be more suitable if the Law consider for involved Vietnamese law firms to reserve all of their functions including the function of engaging in court proceedings, which is the most competent function.

*) Please contact the authors at hoang.bui@indochinecounsel.com if you wish to have more information or specific advice for the topic of this article.

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