The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) is a unique region that encapsulates three distinct legal jurisdictions, languages, and customs territories. The complexities of this region have presented both challenges and opportunities for lawyers practicing in this area. This article delves into the latest developments and how these are shaping the legal services landscape in the GBA.
1. The Legal Landscape
1.1 The Three Jurisdictions
The GBA is characterized by a unique pattern of “one country, two systems, three jurisdictions, three customs territories, and three languages.” This diversity is a result of the different legal heritages of the regions.
- Hong Kong SAR: Inherits the British common law system
- Macao SAR: Inherits the European civil law system
- Mainland China (Guangdong): Follows a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics
This distinctive framework, combined with cultural and language differences, can pose challenges for cross-border legal services.
1.2 Legal Cooperation & Exchange
To overcome these challenges, regional governments and law firms are actively encouraging cooperation between mainland, Hong Kong, and Macao law firms. This collaboration aims to develop comprehensive cross-border legal services.
By participating in mainland legal organizations and industry associations, Hong Kong and Macao lawyers can better understand the mainland legal market’s needs and trends. This understanding can further foster cooperation and offer more opportunities.
2. Legal Talent Training & Exchange
The GBA’s legal market’s integrated development has provided a platform for Hong Kong and Macao lawyers to collaborate with mainland lawyers. This collaboration allows them to share professional knowledge and experience, solving complex legal issues together. This, in turn, boosts the efficiency and quality of legal services.
Hong Kong and Macao lawyers’ participation in the region also injects fresh vitality into mainland’s legal talent cultivation.
3. The Importance of Legal Convergence
The GBA’s economic development and market protection are intricately linked with the convergence and interoperability of laws in the mainland, Hong Kong, and Macao. This has been made possible by the “one country, two systems” policy.
With the continued advancement of China’s national “bringing in” and “going out” strategies, the GBA’s strategic significance to China’s future regional economic development pattern continues to increase. This development brings with it a rising demand for cross-border legal services.
4. The Need for Professional Legal Talents
The increased economic, cultural, and personnel flows between the three regions have led to a surge in demand for professional legal talents. In response to this demand, Guangdong Province, Hong Kong, and Macao have jointly introduced the Greater Bay Area Lawyer’s Practice Examination.
5. The Greater Bay Area Lawyer’s Practice Examination
This examination enables qualified (5 years PQE) Hong Kong and Macao legal practitioners to freely practice in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao, after being awarded a lawyer’s practice certificate (Guangdong Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area). This initiative has broken down practice barriers, offering lawyers a broader scope of practice and more opportunities.
6. Pilot Work for Hong Kong and Macao Lawyers
On August 11, 2020, pilot work for Hong Kong and Macao lawyers practicing in the mainland in the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, and Zhaoqing was officially launched, with a pilot period of three years.
7. Market Space for Lawyers
The Greater Bay Area’s total population is projected to exceed 86 million in 2022, demonstrating the vast market space for lawyers.
8. The Lawyer Examination: A Step Further
In 2021 and 2022, the Ministry of Justice held two lawyers’ practice exams in the GBA, with over 1,200 lawyers from Hong Kong and Macao participating. The 2023 GBA Lawyer Examination introduced new changes, such as uniform examination standards and requirements for applicants.
9. Training and Enrichment for Lawyers
Lawyers applying for the examination are required to have certain years of practice experience and participate in relevant legal knowledge training organized by the Ministry of Justice before taking the examination. This helps enrich their legal knowledge reserve and enhance their practice ability.
10. Conclusion: The Future of Legal Services in the GBA
In Shenzhen, over 40 law firms have welcomed a total of 150 lawyers from the Greater Bay Area to practice from August 2022 to June 2, 2023.
In Guangzhou, there are currently 124 lawyers from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, with 64 of them being Hong Kong and Macao lawyers who have passed the Greater Bay Area lawyer’s practice examination.
The aim of the “Greater Bay Area lawyers” concept and policy is to facilitate the exchange and understanding of these legal differences. By respecting the variations in legal jurisdictions and cultural diversity, mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao lawyers can collaborate and learn from each other’s strengths. This will ultimately result in offering more seamless, improved, and comprehensive legal services to enterprises and residents while maintaining regional diversity.