Lawyers suffer in toxic Beijing smog

Toxic Beijing smog sparks doubts among lawyers about working in the city

The thick layer of hazardous smog covering Beijing in the past few weeks added another challenge for international firms operating in China’s capital city.

The dense toxic clouds have caused flights to be cancelled, disrupted traffic and made many residents ill. It may have also discouraged some legal talent to move to, or stay in, the city.

One chief operating officer (COO) based in Hong Kong recently told The Lawyer his firm had been approached by three Beijing-based partners from rival firms looking to get out of the city. Their intention to relocate to Hong Kong is more for the well-being of their families than money. Several recruiters in Beijing have also found difficulty in attracting international talent to move to Beijing from Hong Kong, or even Shanghai.

A Shanghai-based partner admitted he has been trying to avoid business trips to Beijing for months due to its air pollution and traffic congestion. He is also finding it tough to persuade associates to work on client matters in Beijing.

Some are toughing it out, however. One Beijing lawyer says using air purifiers indoors and wearing face masks out are just the norm of daily life.

Many in China have compared Beijing’s pollution problems with London’s great smog of 1952. Since the UK government tackled its problems with strict laws back then, environment lawyers in China can doubtless expect plenty of opportunities to help solve the present Beijing crisis.