A White Paper on the State of American Business in China, issued on 26 April 2010 by the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham-China), indicates that China remains the leading destination globally for foreign direct investment. However this investment confidence does not come without concern, with AmCham-China indicating that investors had growing doubts regarding China’s regulatory landscape. Unpredictable interpretation and application of laws and regulation ranked as the top concern amongst investors.
What implications might this hold for the legal industry, both locally in Asia and globally? Significant continued foreign investment in an emerging economy governed by a capricious legal system must certainly be a precursor to an increase in cross-border litigation. Simply put this fast growing economy has significantly boosted the number of international business transactions and as a result the number of international civil disputes will inevitably increase. A significant upswing in international arbitration has already been demonstrated, with Asia already consistently surpassing the International Court of Arbitration with the number of new cases filed each year.
Already top tier legal firms have begun to enter or strengthen their presence in Asia, with many Australian, US and EU firms moving laterally into Hong Kong, Singapore, Chinaand Japan. Firms such as Norton Rose, Blake Dawson, Clayton Utz and Allen & Overy have each demonstrated recentmovements to capitalize on the predicted continued growth of the Asia Pacific economy, either opening new Asia based offices or boosting their partner numbers. Consequently, legal technology support providers have also taken residence in Asia, including EPIQand e.law Asia Pacific. Recently e.law Asia Pacific opened a new office in Shanghai in addition to their existing Hong Kong presence.
Allison Stanfield, owner and CEO of e.law Asia Pacific, confirmed that e.law has seen a significant increase in international civil litigation in China, however Stanfield noted that much of their work has been in assisting clients with administrative investigations.
“China certainly isn’t as litigious as its western counterparts and whilst the instance of international litigation in China is on the rise these cases proceed on a relatively short time frame with few documents and limited discovery. The dramatic increase in our business has been internal company investigations, for example global corporations whohave made heavy investments within China and have subsequently conducted fraudor corruption investigations”.
Gregory Bufithis, Esq., owner and CEO of Project Counsel, echoes Stanfield’s comments: “We supply attorneys on a temporary basis for administrative investigations, international litigations and internal investigations. We have seen a significant increase in Asian requests from our legal technology support provider clients especially when clients such as e.law Asia Pacific are developing the capabilities of document review. And it explains the spike in Asiane-discovery vendors at such events as LegalTech New York as Asian-based e-discovery soars.”
e.law Asia Pacific provides e.forensics, e.discovery, e.courts, evidence management software and hard copy document processing solutions to global law firms and corporations throughout Asia Pacific. For more information visit: www.elaw.com.au
Written by: BreeGalvin, General Manager of e.law Asia Pacific
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