Articles
Vietnam’s proposed amendment to narrow down foreign lawyers’ practicing land

30 - 04 - 2012
By Anh Hong Ngan*

On February 2012, the Ministry of Justice of Vietnam released the latest draft of the amended Law on Lawyers ("Draft") for public comment. This movement is to amend the existing Law on Lawyers which was enacted on 22 June 2006 ("Law 2006").

The Draft is planned to improve quality of lawyers: The lawyer training course is increased from 6 months under the Law 2006 to 12 months, and the conditions applied for trainee lawyers are tightened. In addition, the Draft also proposes clear and simple paperwork requirements for litigators in criminal and civil cases.

But the issues that would most draw foreign lawyers' attention are the changes which should narrow down the practicing activities of foreign law firms and foreign lawyers in Vietnam.

In particular, the scope of activities permitted to foreign lawyers under the Law 2006 is quite broad, and even broader than the scope provided in Resolution 71/2006/QH11, dated 29 November 2006, issued by the National Assembly on ratification of the protocol on accession to the World Trade Organization. That is, the Law 2006 only prohibits foreign lawyers from participating in legal proceedings in the capacity of a representative or person protecting the lawful rights and interests of their clients.

Now, the Draft appears to take advantage of the more restrictive scope of foreign lawyers' activities, recorded in the country's commitments to the WTO, to take back part of what has been given to foreign lawyers under the Law 2006. Specifically under the Draft, foreign law firms' branches and foreign law firms in Vietnam will not be allowed to

  • appoint a foreign lawyer to provide consultancy on the law of Vietnam;
  • appoint a foreign lawyer and a Vietnamese lawyer from their company/branch to participate in legal proceedings in the capacity of a representative or person protecting the lawful rights and interests of their clients;
  • provide legal paperwork and notary services which are related to the law of Vietnam.

These changes narrow down considerably the activities permitted to foreign lawyers/law firms.

The Draft is submitted to the Government, other Ministries and governmental bodies, and published in the media for public comments. When the Draft becomes law, a trainee lawyer will have to spend twice as much time to finish the lawyer's training course; and foreign law firms' branches and foreign law firms in Vietnam are more likely to retreat from many areas they have previously dominated.

(*) Please contact the authors at ngan.anh@indochinecounsel.com or our partners if you wish to have more information or specific advice for the topic of this article.

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