Chinese-English Legal Translation and Legal Ethics in China

We’ve blogged about English-Chinese and Chinese-English legal translation and legal interpretation services in the context of mergers and acquisitions. Interestingly,China‘s ethical rules for lawyers have a “bright line” provision that forbids attorneys from representing both sides in the same conflict. This is similar to most state ethics codes. However, unlike most US state ethics codes, the Chinese code fails to go any further. But with a proposed new law, this may get better.

According to it, lawyers would be required to “avoid conflict of interests in joint representations, and to shun conflicts between the lawyer, his close families, and the lawyer’s clients.” In a country where family ties are strong and a close relationship generates a higher possibility for conflict of interests where the lawyer and his or her client’s interests diverge if the lawyer’s family members are involved in the same transaction, this rule will clear up many of the ethical questions that arise.

Another interesting difference is that in China an attorney is not required to remain loyal to a former client. In other words, in China an attorney can turn on his or her own clients while not risking any breach of confidentiality. According to Chinese ethical rules, an attorney is only prohibited from divulging national secrets and clients’ trade secrets which the attorney learnt during representation. This could raise ethical issues in transnational cases where the other jurisdiction requires an ongoing confidentiality, while China does not. The best way to fully understand the limits of ethical rules in China – or any other foreign jurisdiction – is to obtain an English translation of China’s Code.

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by Legal Translator & Court Interpreter

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