Chinese legal history has been made this month with the introduction of the Lawyers Law, the country's first national law governing the regulation of the legal profession.
It represents another step towards China's re-establishment of its legal profession. Lawyers were a casualty of the Cultural Revolution and were reintroduced in 1979.
Although enabling regulations which set out the actual details of the law are still in the pipeline, the law itself came into force on 1 January after seven years of deliberations, including consultations with the British legal profession.
The policy statements of the law itself set out rules outlining the requisite qualifications to practise and professional working standards. Notable features of the new law include rules of association, which will standardise the issuing of licences for private partnerships.
The new law recognises the All China Lawyers Association, an independent body which seeks to safeguard lawyers' interests.
The principles of legal aid are also recognised, although the system and funding provisions are yet to be established.
Barrister and joint chairman of the Law Society Working Party on China, Adrian Hughes, said: “The Lawyers Law is an important stepping stone towards the creation of an independent legal profession in China, which, it is hoped, will eventually become self-regulating and truly independent.”