Vietnam: protectionist call
The Asian Lawyer reports that the market is one of the most open in Asia, with major international firms such as Baker & McKenzie, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Mayer Brown already establishing practices.
Foreign firms are able to hire Vietnamese lawyers who are ‘permitted to advise on local law short of appearing in court or signing official documents’, according to the report.
Tung Ngo, chairman of 50-lawyer Vietnamese firm Vilaf -- alluding to the fact that foreign graduates of US law schools are only allowed to take bar exams in a few states -- said: ‘In my view, the legal market for foreign lawyers in Vietnam is more open and liberalised than that of the US. I think it is understandable and legitimate if local lawyers raise these concerns to the lawmakers to protect our interest.’
Vilaf joined 18 other Vietnamese firms, including YKVN Lawyers, LDV Lawyers and Norton Rose affiliate Vision & Associates, in submitting a letter to the Ministry of Justice last month asking for amendments to the country’s lawyers law.
Open door policy
The group said the ‘open door’ policy had hindered the ‘formation of a healthy and equal legal environment for the development of a force of Vietnamese lawyers who would be dynamic and professional, and who would possess qualifications tantamount to those of the lawyers in the region and in the world’.
However, a group of 11 foreign firms responded with its own letter, calling the distinction between foreign and domestic firms ‘archaic’, adding: ‘Many of us have localised and become more and more Vietnamese, by virtue of the increasing number of Vietnamese-citizen lawyers in leadership positions in our firms, or by establishment of family relationships in Vietnamese society.’