There is some debate around the market as to the essential nature of the PRC bar qualification and in this article our consultant outlines why employers continue to look for this.
In order to practise law in China, it is very important to be qualified in the PRC, especially for lawyers in law firms. Of course, there are some lawyers who have international qualifications from other jurisdictions, such as the NY State Bar, but do not hold the PRC bar qualification. This is acceptable in the current Chinese legal market. Arguably, most in-house counsel in multinational corporations (MNCs) are not required to go to court or sign off any real legal process as part of their daily work, so many ask why employers are so committed to hiring lawyers with the PRC bar qualification.
We work with many MNCs and we find that the PRC bar is still very important during any legal recruitment process, especially for senior level positions. The current market is very competitive and even more so at the senior end. Therefore candidates need to have all of the basics in order to compete, and this includes the bar qualification.
However many in-house counsels, who are not qualified, challenge this requirement when they are looking for new opportunities. They argue that the qualification does not give a candidate more experienced or more business acumen compared to those without it. In other words, the legal/business capability of the candidates is not directly connected to the bar qualification, which has become the pre-requisite of any legal recruitment. Some senior counsels argue that they failed the bar exam as a junior lawyer due to a very busy workload and given that their employer did not require them to pass the exam afterwards, they do not always see the importance of the qualification.
Within the current market, we find that for mid-level roles businesses are willing to consider candidates without the bar qualification. The reasons for this are very straight forward. First of all, junior to mid-level counsels are paid less, and the expectations around these positions by companies are not as high. Secondly, from the employers’ point of view, counsel at this level are more open to opportunities and the chance of them taking the exam are higher.
Why does the attitude of employers change when they are hiring senior counsels?