Lawyers Law of the People's Republic of China (Chinese and English Text)
Passed: May 15, 1996
Effective: January 1, 1997
CHAPTER I GENERAL PROVISIONS
CHAPTER II CONDITIONS OF PRACTICE BY LAWYERS
CHAPTER III LAW FIRMS
CHAPTER IV BUSINESS, RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF PRACTISING LAWYERS CHAPTER V LAWYERS ASSOCIATIONS
CHAPTER VI LEGAL AID
CHAPTER VII LEGAL LIABILITY
CHAPTER VIII SUPPLEMENTARY PROVISIONS
Article 1 This Law is enacted in order to improve the system governing lawyers, to ensure that lawyers practise according to law, to standardize acts of lawyers, to safeguard the lawful rights and interests of parties, to ensure the correct implementation of law, and to enable lawyers to play a positive role in the development of the socialist legal system.
Article 2 The term "lawyer" as used in this Law means a practitioner who has acquired a lawyer's practice certificate pursuant to law and provides legal services to the public.
Article 3 In his practice, a lawyer must abide by the Constitution and law, and strictly observe lawyers' professional ethics and practice discipline.
In his practice, a lawyer must base himself on facts and take law as the criterion.
Practice by lawyers shall be subject to supervision of the State, society and the parties concerned.
Lawful practice by lawyers shall be protected by law.
Article 4 The judicial administration department under the State Council shall supervise and guide lawyers, law firms and lawyers associations in accordance with this Law.
CHAPTER II CONDITIONS OF PRACTICE BY LAWYERS
Article 5 To practise law, a person shall acquire qualification as a lawyer and a practice certificate.
Article 6 The State institutes a system of uniform national examination for the qualification as a lawyer. The qualification as a lawyer shall be granted by the judicial administration department under the State Council to a person who has acquired three years legal education in an institution of higher learning, or more education or attained an equivalent professional level, or has acquired an undergraduate education in another major in an institution of higher learning, or more education, and has passed the examination for the qualification as a lawyer.
Measures for the uniform national examination for the qualification as a lawyer shall be formulated by the judicial administration department under the State Council.
Article 7 A person applying to practise law who has acquired an undergraduate legal education in an institution of higher learning, or more education, who is engaged in professional work such as legal research and teaching, and who has a senior professional title or is of an equivalent professional level, shall be granted the qualification as a lawyer, upon approval by the judicial administration department under the State Council after evaluation and verification in accordance with the prescribed conditions.
Article 8 A person who upholds the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and meets the following conditions may apply to obtain a lawyer's practice certificate:
(1) possessing the qualification as a lawyer;
(2) having had practice training at a law firm for a full year; and
(3) being a person of good character and conduct.
Article 9 A person in any one of the following situations shall not be issued a lawyer's practice certificate:
(1) having no capacity for civil acts or having limited capacity for civil acts;
(2) having been subjected to criminal punishment, except for a crime of negligence; or
(3) having been discharged from public employment or having had his lawyer's practice certificate revoked.
Article 10 A person applying to obtain a lawyer's practice certificate shall submit the following documents:
(1) an application;
(2) a lawyer qualification certificate;
(3) evaluation materials on practice training prepared by the applicant's law firm; and
(4) a copy of the applicant's certificate of identity.
Article 11 A person applying to obtain a lawyer's practice certificate who, upon examination and verification by the judicial administration department of the people's government at or above the level of the province, autonomous region or municipality directly under the Central Government, is considered to meet the conditions provided for in this Law shall be issued by the department a lawyer's practice certificate within 30 days of receiving the application. If the applicant fails to meet the conditions provided for in this Law, he shall not be issued a lawyer's practice certificate and shall be notified of the matter in writing within 30 days of receiving his application.
Article 12 A lawyer shall practise in one law firm and shall not practise in two or more law firms simultaneously.
A lawyer's practice is not subject to regional restriction.
Article 13 Any of the active working personnel of a State organ shall not concurrently practise as a lawyer.
A lawyer shall not practise law while serving as a member of a standing committee of a people's congress at any level.
Article 14 A person who has not obtained a lawyer's practice certificate shall not practise law under the title of "lawyer" or act as agent ad litem or defend a client for the purpose of seeking economic benefit.
Article 15 A law firm is the organization in which lawyers practise.
A law firm shall meet the following conditions:
(1) to have its own name, domicile and articles of association;
(2) to have assets of RMB 100,000 yuan or more; and
(3) to have lawyers who conform to the provisions of this Law.
Article 16 A law firm established with the capital contribution from the State shall be independent in its practice pursuant to law and shall undertake liability for its debts with its entire assets.
Article 17 Lawyers may establish cooperative law firms, which shall undertake liability for their debts with their entire assets.
Article 18 Lawyers may establish partnership law firms. The partners shall undertake unlimited and joint and several liability for the debts of the law firm.
Article 19 Persons applying to establish a law firm who, after examination and verification by the judicial administration department of the people's government at or above the level of the province, autonomous region or municipality directly under the Central Government, are considered to meet the conditions provided for in this Law shall be issued by the department a law firm practice certificate within 30 days of receiving the application. Those who fail to meet the conditions provided for in this Law shall not be issued a law firm practice certificate and shall be notified of the matter in writing within 30 days of receiving the application.
Article 20 A law firm may establish branch offices. The establishment of a branch office shall be subject to examination and verification conducted in accordance with the prescribed conditions by the judicial administration department of the people's government of the province, autonomous region or municipality directly under the Central Government where the proposed branch office is to be located.
A law firm shall undertake liability for the debts of a branch office it has established.
Article 21 A law firm shall report to the original examination and verification department changes it wishes to make in important matters such as its name, domicile, articles of association, and partners, or dissolution of the firm.
Article 22 A law firm shall, in accordance with the articles of association, arrange for lawyers to carry out business, study laws and State policies, and summarize and exchange work experience.
Article 23 When lawyers undertake business, their law firm shall centrally accept authorization, sign written authorization contracts with the clients and, in accordance with State regulations, collect fees from the parties and truthfully enter them in its accounts.
Law firms and lawyers shall pay tax in accordance with law.
Article 24 Law firms and lawyers shall not solicit business by unfair means such as slandering other lawyers or paying middleman's fees.
CHAPTER IV BUSINESS, RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF PRACTISING LAWYERS
Article 25 A lawyer may engage in the following business:
(1) to accept engagement by citizens, legal persons or other organizations to act as legal counsel;
(2) to accept authorization by a party in a civil or administrative case to act as agent ad litem and participate in the proceedings;
(3) to accept engagement by a criminal suspect in a criminal case to provide him with legal advice and represent him in filing a petition or charge or obtaining a guarantor pending trial; to accept authorization by a criminal suspect or defendant or accept appointment by a People's Court to act for the defense; and to accept authorization by a private prosecutor in a case of private prosecution or by the victim or his close relatives in a case of public prosecution to act as agent ad litem and participate in the proceedings;
(4) to represent clients in filing petition in all types of litigation;
(5) to accept authorization by a party to participate in mediation and arbitration activities;
(6) to accept authorization by a party involved in non-litigation legal matters to provide legal services; and
(7) to answer inquiries regarding law and to represent clients in writing litigation documents and other documents regarding legal matters.
Article 26 A lawyer acting as legal counsel shall provide opinions regarding legal issues to the person who has engaged him, draft and review legal documents, act as agent to participate in litigation, mediation or arbitration activities, handle other legal matters authorized by the person who has engaged him, and protect the lawful rights and interests of the person who has engaged him.
Article 27 A lawyer acting as agent in litigation or non-litigation legal matters shall, within the limits of authorization, protect the lawful rights and interests of the client.
Article 28 A lawyer representing a defendant in a criminal case shall present, on the basis of facts and law, materials and arguments to prove that a criminal suspect is innocent or is less guilty than charged, or that his criminal responsibility should be reduced or relieved, in order to protect the lawful rights and interests of the criminal suspect or defendant.
Article 29 A client may refuse to be further defended or represented by a lawyer, and may authorize another lawyer to act in his defense or to represent him.
After accepting authorization, a lawyer shall not, without good reason, refuse to defend or to represent a client. However, if the matter authorized violates law, the client uses the service provided by the lawyer to engage in illegal activities or the client conceals facts, the lawyer shall have the right to refuse to defend or to represent the client.
Article 30 A lawyer participating in litigation activities may, according to the provisions of procedure laws, collect and consult the materials pertaining to the case he is undertaking, meet and correspond with a person whose personal freedom is restricted, appear in court, participate in litigation, and enjoy other rights provided for in the procedure laws.
When a lawyer acts as agent ad litem or defend clients, his right to argue or present a defense shall be protected in accordance with law.
Article 31 When undertaking legal matters, a lawyer may, with the consent of the relevant units or individuals, address inquiries to such units or individuals.
Article 32 In practice activities, a lawyer's right of the person shall not be violated.
Article 33 A lawyer shall keep confidential secrets of the State and commercial secrets of the parties concerned that he comes to know during his practice activities and shall not divulge the private affairs of the parties concerned.
Article 34 A lawyer shall not represent both parties involved in the same case.
Article 35 A lawyer shall not commit any of the following acts in his practice activities:
(1) to accept authorization privately, charge fees to the client privately, or accept money or things of value from the client;
(2) to seek the disputed rights and interests of a party or accept money or things of value from the opposing party by taking advantage of providing legal services;
(3) to meet with a judge, prosecutor, or arbitrator in violation of regulations;
(4) to entertain and give gifts to a judge, prosecutor, arbitrator or other relevant working personnel or bribe them, or instigate or induce a party to bribe them;
(5) to provide false evidence, conceal facts or intimidate or induce another with promise of gain to provide false evidence, conceal facts, or obstruct the opposing party's lawful obtaining of evidence; or
(6) to disrupt the order of a court or an arbitration tribunal, or interfere with the normal conduct of litigation or arbitration activities.
Article 36 A lawyer who once served as a judge or prosecutor shall not act as agent ad litem or defend clients within two years after leaving his post in the People's Court or the People's Procuratorate.
Article 37 A lawyers association is a public organization with the status of a legal person and shall be the lawyers' self-disciplinary organization.
The All-China Lawyers Association is established at the national level, while local lawyers associations are established by provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government. Local lawyers associations may be established according to need by cities divided into districts.
Article 38 The articles of association of lawyers associations are formulated centrally by the national congress of the members and submitted to the judicial administration department under the State Council for the record.
Article 39 A lawyer must join his local lawyers association. A lawyer who has joined his local lawyers association is at the same time a member of the All-China Lawyers Association.
In accordance with the articles of association of lawyers association, members of lawyers associations shall enjoy the rights granted by, and perform the obligations specified in, the articles of association.
Article 40 Lawyers associations shall perform the following duties:
(1) assuring that lawyers practise according to law and protecting lawyers' lawful rights and interests;
(2) summarizing and exchanging lawyers' work experience;
(3) organizing professional training for lawyers;
(4) conducting education in, inspection of, and supervision over, the professional ethics and practice discipline of lawyers;
(5) making arrangements for exchanges between Chinese and foreign lawyers;
(6) mediating disputes arising in lawyers' practice activities; and
(7) other duties prescribed by law.
Lawyers associations shall give awards to or take disciplinary measures against lawyers in accordance with the articles of association.
Article 41 A citizen who needs the assistance of lawyers in respect of matters such as livelihood support, work-related injuries, criminal procedure, claims for State compensation or claims for lawful payment of pensions for the disabled or families of the deceased, but cannot afford lawyers fees, may obtain legal aid in accordance with State regulations.
Article 42 A lawyer must undertake the duty of legal aid in accordance with State regulations, and provide the recipient with legal services in fulfilment of his duty and responsibility.
Article 43 Specific measures for legal aid shall be formulated by the judicial administration department under the State Council and submitted to the State Council for approval.
Article 44 If a lawyer commits any of the following acts, the judicial administration department of the people's government of a province, autonomous region, municipality directly under the Central Government or a city divided into districts shall issue a disciplinary warning; where the case is serious, the said department shall impose a penalty of cessation of practice for no less than three months and no more than one year; and any illegal income shall be confiscated:
(1) simultaneously practising in two or more law firms;
(2) representing both parties involved in the same case;
(3) soliciting business by unfair means such as slandering other lawyers or paying middleman's fees;
(4) refusing to defend or represent a client, without good reason, after accepting authorization;
(5) failing to appear in court on schedule to participate in litigation or arbitration without good reason;
(6) divulging commercial secrets or private affairs of a party concerned;
(7) accepting authorization privately, charging fees to a client privately, accepting money or things of value from a client or using the provision of legal services to seek the disputed rights and interests of a party concerned or accepting money or things of value from the opposing party;
(8) meeting with a judge, prosecutor or arbitrator in violation of regulations or entertaining and giving gifts to a judge, prosecutor, arbitrator or other relevant working personnel;
(9) obstructing the opposing party's lawful obtaining of evidence;
(10) disrupting the order of a court or arbitration tribunal, or interfering with the normal conduct of litigation or arbitration activities; or
(11) other acts in respect of which penalties should be imposed.
Article 45 If a lawyer commits any of the following acts, the judicial administration department of the people's government of a province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government shall revoke his practice certificate; where the case constitutes a crime, criminal responsibility shall be pursued according to law;
(1) divulging State secrets;
(2) bribing a judge, prosecutor, arbitrator or other relevant working personnel or instigating or inducing a party to do so; or
(3) providing false evidence, concealing important facts or intimidating or inducing another with promise of gain to provide false evidence or conceal important facts.
Where a lawyer is subjected to criminal punishment for an intentional crime, his lawyer's practice certificate shall be revoked.
Article 46 A person who impersonates a lawyer and provides legal services shall be ordered by the public security authorities to cease the illegal practice of law, which shall confiscate his illegal income and may also impose a fine of no more than 5,000 yuan and detention of no more than 15 days.
A person who has not obtained a lawyer's practice certificate but engages in the business of acting as agent ad litem or defending clients for the purpose of seeking economic benefit shall be ordered to cease the illegal practice of law by the judicial administration department of the local people's government at or above the county level, which shall confiscate any illegal income and may also impose a fine of no less than one and no more than five times the amount of the illegal income.
Article 47 A law firm that commits an act in violation of the provisions of this Law shall be ordered to set it right by the judicial administration department of the people's government of a province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government, which shall confiscate any illegal income and may also impose a fine of no less than one and no more than five times the amount of the illegal income; where the case is serious, the law firm shall be ordered to cease practice for consolidation or its practice certificate shall be revoked.
Article 48 If a person on whom a penalty has been imposed does not accept the decision on the administrative penalty rendered by the judicial administration department, he may apply for reconsideration to the judicial administration department at the next higher level within 15 days of receiving the decision. If he does not accept the reconsideration decision, he may bring a lawsuit in a People's Court within 15 days of receiving the reconsideration decision. He may also directly bring a lawsuit in a People's Court.
If a person who has been fined neither applies for reconsideration, institutes administrative proceedings, nor performs the penalty decision, the judicial administration department that rendered the penalty decision may apply to a People's Court for enforcement.
If an application is made for a lawyer's practice certificate according to Article 11 of this Law or application is made for approval to establish a law firm in accordance with Article 19 of this Law, and the applicant does not accept the decision not to issue a lawyer's practice certificate or a practice certificate for the law firm, he may apply for reconsideration or bring a lawsuit pursuant to the procedure provided by the first paragraph of this Article.
Article 49 If a lawyer practises illegally or causes losses to a party due to his fault, the law firm in which he practises shall bear the liability for compensation. After paying compensation, the law firm may claim recovery from the lawyer that acted intentionally or committed gross negligence.
Lawyers and law firms may not be relieved of or limited in the civil liability that they shall bear for the losses caused to a party due to illegal practice of law or fault.
CHAPTER VIII SUPPLEMENTARY PROVISIONS
Article 50 With respect to lawyers who serve in the military and provide legal services to the military, their obtaining of the qualification as a lawyer, their rights, obligations and code of conduct as a lawyer shall be governed by this Law. Specific measures for administration of military lawyers shall be formulated separately by the State Council and the Central Military Commission.
Article 51 Specific measures governing the establishment of offices by foreign law firms to engage in prescribed legal service activities within the territory of the People's Republic of China shall be formulated by the State Council.
Article 52 Specific measures on lawyers fees shall be formulated by the judicial administration department under the State Council and submitted to the State Council for approval.
Article 53 This Law shall be effective as of January 1, 1997. The Interim Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Lawyers adopted at the 15th Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Fifth National People's Congress on August 26, 1980 shall be repealed at the same time.
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