Bar Council continues China investment with new training scheme

The Bar Council has launched a new China training scheme that will see 10 Chinese lawyers taking on a practical placement in barristers’ chambers in London.

The launch of the Bar Council Training Scheme for Chinese lawyers (BCTS) follows the conclusion of the Lord Chancellor’s Training Scheme for young Chinese lawyers (LCTS), which was funded by the UK Ministry of Justice and was jointly managed by the Law Society and the Bar Council in London.

The BCTS will offer about 10 Chinese lawyers a six-week legal training program in London focusing on international commercial law and dispute resolution. The programme comprises of two core components, a week-long bespoke legal training course with BPP University and a five-week practical placement in barristers’ chambers. These will be augmented by a series of lectures and seminars on substantive law, legal skills and chambers management and lively social and networking events. The first year of the programme is set to run from 11 June to 20 July 2012.

Chinese lawyers who wish to apply must meet certain criteria, including being qualified to practice PRC law, having two to 10 years of practice experience involving international commercial law and dispute resolution, and have exceptional spoken and written English.

The Bar Council is still in the process of selecting the sets of chambers to host the Chinese lawyers and provide placements. The ideal candidates will be commercial sets in London with an international element to the practice and will most likely already have some links with China. 

Through the new scheme, the Bar Council hopes to promote the advantages of choosing English law for dispute resolution. This ties in with the recent opening of the new commercial courts in the Rolls Building, which aims to facilitate London’s role as a global dispute resolution centre.

Adrian Hughes QC, a silk at 39 Essex Street Chambers, has managed the LCTS for the Bar Council since its inception in 1989 and is a driving force behind the Bar Council’s new initiatives. He sees the new programme as an important investment for the future.

“As English barristers are becoming increasingly involved in international practice and China’s participation in the global economy continues apace, the new scheme is more relevant now than at any time over the period of the LCTS,” said Hughes.

“Chinese lawyers, whose practices are rapidly internationalising, are even more keen to learn and experience international legal practice in the UK. For English barristers, it’s a good opportunity to gain a better understanding of the increasingly complicated Chinese legal system. We have as much to learn from them as they can learn from us. It’s pretty much a two-way process,” Hughes explained.

In addition to knowledge exchange, forging stronger links and friendships between the two legal professions and creating opportunities of working together in the future is an equally important goal.

“We’ve found that the relationships established from the previous scheme have led to the development of work for English barristers as China becomes more fully involved in the global economy. It is a vital and exciting time for the Bar Council to launch this new initiative to build on the work of the last two decades,” said Hughes.

The new scheme is also welcomed by English lawyers practising in China.

“Circumstances have clearly changed since the old scheme was originally established. The past years have seen the recalibration of the global economy towards Asia, with PRC firms opening foreign offices and entering into groundbreaking collaboration initiatives with their Western counterparts,” said Matthew Townsend, the director of the China Britain Law Institute (CBLI) and a English lawyer practising in China.

“While there’s still a place for bringing Chinese lawyers into line with international standards, schemes such as this one are increasingly in the UK’s interest. Legal services are a key British export, and the profession is extremely relationship-dependent. Britain’s legal industry can only benefit from continuing to cement professional links with China’s best and brightest lawyers,” Townsend added.