Linklaters only UK firm on Chinese licence list

Linklaters is understood to be the only UK firm out of 20 foreign law firms which have just been granted licences to open new offices in China.

The Lawyer revealed last week that Linklaters had been granted a licence for its unofficial Shanghai office. It has now become clear that it is the only UK firm to be given a licence.

At the time of going to press, a full list of the other firms that were granted licences was unavailable. However, The Lawyer has learned that four US firms Morrison & Foerster, Kaye Scholer Fierman Hays & Handler, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and Baker & Daniels were successful in their bid.

Firms from six other countries are also believed to be among the chosen few, including Australian law firm Blake Dawson Waldron.

The new list shows that China has relaxed its unofficial ceiling of 80 on the number of foreign law firms it will allow into the country. The latest batch brings to about 90 the number of firms with licences.

The move is consistent China's offer to the World Trade Organisation last December that the ceiling would be lifted.

A diplomatic source in Beijing said: “It is encouraging that the numbers keep on climbing.”

However, he cautioned that the key issue affecting foreign law firms their ability to develop Chinese law practices remained unresolved. China still prevents the hiring of Chinese lawyers by foreign law firms.

A ceremony took place in Beijing last Friday where Minister of Justice Ziao Yang presented the licences to the 20 successful applicants.