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When should a foreign business owner hire a Chinese lawyer?

Today I had a discussion with a small business owner who has some serious legal issues facing her.  She wanted to back away from them, saying, "I can do this myself.  I don't need an attorney."  I won't go into the issues, but I can tell you what I told her: You can hire an attorney NOW to help you deal with these issues, or you can hire an attorney later to help you deal with the mess you created because you didn't get an attorney.

When Should I Call an Attorney When I Am Doing Business In China?

In my experience, there are times in the life of a business person when you should call an attorney.  You call an attorney not to sue someone but to protect yourself and your business before you get into trouble.  You want to be sure you don't say or do anything that can make things worse.


1. When there is an "INCIDENT." Something happens with an employee or a customer that could result in a liability.  For example, if a customer slips and falls on your sidewalk in the snow, you should call both your attorney and your insurance company.  If an employee is caught stealing, call your attorney as well as the police.

2. When you are being audited. An auditor from a federal or state agency knocks on your door or calls or sends you a letter.  Direct your staff and employees to notify you immediately if you aren't in the office.

3. When you need to make a decision or take action on an employee. You get into a confrontation with an employee or you want to fire someone or cut their pay.  Call your employment attorney to discuss how to handle the situation; your attorney can tell you what to say and do and, more important, what NOT to say and do.

4. When you need to review a contract. Don't try this one alone unless you are very good at reading contracts.  You might miss something important.  The "Gotchas" are not in what's there, but in what's not there.

5.  Before making changes in your company's legal structure or taking significant action that might affect your business type. You want to add another Member to your LLC, or you want to change your business name.  You may need to change corporate by-laws or LLC operating agreements to make these changes.

There are certainly more instances in which you will need to call an attorney.  If you think it's too expensive to call an attorney:

1. Have a generic conversation with your attorney to find out what to say and do in these circumstances.

2. Remember, it's "pay me now or pay me more later."

Doing business in a foreigner country is not easy, since you are not familiar with the rules and customs of the new environment. However, with the help the a local English speaking lawyer in China, you will find everything goes smoother and the attorney fees you paid worth it.

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I am a licensed China lawyer. Most clients are foreign nationals and companies. China Lawyer Blog have associates in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Fuzhou, Hainan, Hefei, Wuhan, Xian, Changsha, Xiamen and Hangzhou. Learn More

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This China Lawyer Blog is aiming at providing better knowledge and understanding of Chinese law for foreigners. Should you have any legal issue in China, do not hesitate to contact China Lawyer Blog for consultation. Preliminary consultation is free. Further legal service, however, will be charged in due rate and in due course.

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China Lawyer BLog AuthorPeter Zhu, an experienced China attorney licensed to practice law for more than ten years, the author of this China Lawyer blog, welcomes any enquiry or consultation related to Chinese law.