Because of this blog, our China lawyers get a fairly steady stream of China law questions from readers, mostly via emails but occasionally via blog comments as well. If we were to conduct research on all the questions we get asked and then comprehensively answer them, we would become overwhelmed. So what we usually do is provide a super fast general answer and, when it is easy to do so, a link or two to a blog post that may provide some additional guidance. We figure we might as well post some of these on here as well. On Fridays, like today.
One of the most frequent, weirdest, and probably most insulting questions our China lawyers get is the one where we are provided a link and then asked if this is a real or a good Chinese law firm. How are we even supposed to respond to that anyway. My tactic (after having received so incredibly many of these is with something snarky like the following:
Let me get this straight. You are writing my law firm asking me to conduct free research for you and then provide you with free advice so that you can go ahead and use another law firm? Is it just me, or should I not feel entitled to tell you that we will not provide you with this service unless we are paid USD$3500 upfront.”
Needless to say, nobody has ever taken me up on this offer. But perhaps they should.
Over the years we have often written about fake Chinese law firms and the havoc they cause to real American and European and Australian companies, and probably to companies from a whole host of other countries as well. The below are two of our oldest most classic posts on the topic and two of our more recent ones:
- Fake China Law Firms Are The Real Deal (2015)
- The Fake China Law Firm Scam (2015)
- NEWS FLASH — Mongolian Law Firm Clones Famous China Lawyer (2007)
- China: Where Even The “Law Firms” Are Fake (2006)
We have many times represented companies that thought they had paid money to a Chinese law firm for something like registering a trademark in China or drafting a manufacturing agreement or forming a WFOE, only to learn that they had instead paid money somebody who had set up a temporary website with the sole intention of bilking the unwary. I have never heard of a real Chinese lawyer doing this. The trick is knowing who is a real lawyer and who is not.
Anyway, I thought about these fake law firms this week because I both heard from someone who had paid someone (I presume a fake lawyer) to register a couple trademarks for them in China a few years ago and then just discovered that nothing had ever been filed and the “law firm” no longer exists and because our law firm has for the third time been “faked.” Go here [site no longer exists] to see the fake Harris Bricken law firm and go here to see our real website for our real law firm. I have already received two emails from people alerting us to the fake law firm and telling us of how the fake law firm had cheated them. I have no idea whether this fake law firm is based in China or not, but it should be lesson to all who seek out law firms on the internet to at least conduct the following basic due diligence:
1. Determine how long the law firm has been in existence. Really in existence, not just some date on its website. If it hasn’t been around for many years, you should be wary. Of course there are plenty of legitimate law firms formed just this year, but longevity is at least some proof of legitimacy.
2. Read about the law firm and its lawyers on other sites. Real law firms exist outside their websites. Does this law firm show up on court records as having represented someone? Have any of its lawyers published articles with recognized media? Are any of its lawyers listed on lawyer ranking websites? Dig deep to be sure.
3. Go ahead and call the relevant bar associations or lawyer licensing bureaus to confirm.
4. Most importantly, do not be afraid to go with your gut. Just about every time I have talked to someone who used a fake law firm they have admitted that something (oftentimes the too low pricing) made them wary even before they paid.
5. Be careful out there.
UPDATE: Cannot resist adding this piece regarding a fake Qing-Era Mansion.