Adopted on a trial basis at the 4th session of the 6th meeting of the Standing Committee of the All-China Lawyers Association on March 20, 2006
During these important times, and beyond, the correct handling of cases of a mass nature [mass cases] is essential to the successful construction of a socialist harmonious society. Mass cases more commonly occur in land confiscation, forced eviction, relocation from reservoir areas, enterprise restructuring, environmental pollution, and other aspects of the protection of the rights and benefits of rural residents. Mass cases usually involve complex social, economic, and political factors, and have varied impacts on state and society that cannot be ignored. Thus, there is a need to regulate and guide lawyers in their handling of mass cases. Therefore, the following work opinions are proposed:
- A mass case is defined as one in which many (10 or more) plaintiffs act on the basis of the same or similar questions of fact or law to (a) bring an action through one representative, or collectively; (b) bring a series of actions; or (c) settle the matter outside the legal system. In a mass case, the law authorizes firms to provide professional and legal services in settling the matter outside the legal system, bringing court actions, and completing other related tasks.
Lawyers who undertake mass cases must go through legal channels to perform their duties. Lawyers who lawfully intervene in mass cases are helpful to the government, enterprises, and other opposing parties in their handling of the matters. Lawyers who get involved on an individual case basis, engage in analysis and inquiry, and propose legal opinions and suggestions help promote judicial and legislative activities and lawful administration.
In mass cases, lawyers can be retained by a mass client and provide legal advice, participate in mediation, and act as its agent in litigation. Lawyers can also provide consultative services as legal counsel to the government and enterprises, in order to assist the government and judicial agencies in handling and resolving issues, and can also be retained by the government, enterprises, and other opposing parties, to act as an agent in litigation and participate in mediation. Lawyers who handle mass cases shall serve their client within the bounds of their professional duties, in accordance with law, and strictly abide by professional ethics and disciplinary rules.
- Lawyers should have a great sense of social responsibility and attach the utmost significance to mass cases. They should be faithful to the Constitution, the law, and their duties; maintain their principles; dutifully safeguard their clients lawful rights; uphold the law, social equity, and justice; actively participate in and facilitate the appropriate resolution of mass cases; safeguard the nations stability; ensure economic development; and promote social harmony.
Lawyers who handle mass cases shall attempt to resolve contradiction and conflict, and assist all parties to a dispute in the selection of lawful, suitable, peaceful, and reliable paths and methods for resolution of the dispute. They should advocate mediation to resolve disputes.
- Lawyers who handle mass cases must adhere to these Guiding Opinions, as well as strictly abide by professional ethics, disciplinary rules, and other rules that relate to the legal profession.
Lawyers who handle mass cases should accept supervision and guidance by judicial administration departments.
Lawyers associations have the responsibility to supervise, regulate, and safeguard the lawful handling of mass cases.
Lawyers who take on mass cases should carefully handle their relationships with the client, judicial agencies, the government, the media, and the public, among others.
Relations with the client
- Lawyers should assist, supervise, and urge the client to provide honest testimony, and cannot support or assist the client in intentionally concealing or omitting important evidence or providing false testimony.
- Lawyers should do their best to avoid situations in which the popular mood becomes unstable due to the false testimony or the distortion of case details by some of their clients or their representatives.
- Lawyers should reject blatantly irrational demands raised by the client, the clients representative, or the clients agent.
- Lawyers must neither instigate nor participate in the petitioning activities of the client, the clients representative, or the clients agent. Lawyers must neither participate in nor suggest the clients use of methods such as violating public security or interfering with the normal operations of state agencies to compel a resolution to the case.
- Where the following circumstances exist, a law firm can rescind the retainer agreement and terminate the lawyer-client relationship:
(1) The client persists in demands that violate the law;
(2) The client conceals or distorts important facts;
(3) The client uses the lawyers services to engage in activities that violate the law;
(4) Other objective reasons that make it difficult for the lawyer to perform their professional duties in a normal way.
Relations with judicial agencies
After a lawyer has accepted a mass case, they must promptly and fully communicate with the relevant justice bureau, and seek truth from the facts to report the situation, so that the appropriate level of significance may be attached. They must actively assist the judicial agency in ascertaining the facts. If there is a need, they can go through the lawyers association to report any problems to the judicial agency.
Relations with the government
After a lawyer has accepted a mass case, they must go through legitimate channels to promptly report the situation to the relevant government bureaus. If they discover anything indicating a potential intensification of the dispute or escalation of the situation, they should immediately report to judicial administration authorities.
Relations with the media
Lawyers and law firms must have appropriate relations with the media (including online media), seek truth from the facts, and be cautious in their commentary. They must not stir up the news, and must not pay for news coverage. They should exercise caution in their contacts with overseas organizations and overseas media.
Lawyers who handle mass cases should comply with the following demands:
- The system of reporting and placing cases on file. After a law firm has been retained in a mass case, it shall promptly report to the lawyers association to which it is subordinate. Where multiple law firms have undertaken a case on behalf of different clients, but based on the same appeal, they can consult with one another to determine one law firm that will be responsible for reporting to the lawyers association. Law firms in different regions that accept the same case shall report separately to the respective lawyers associations to which they are subordinate.
- Collective discussion, strengthened supervision. The undertaking of a mass case should be collectively discussed and agreed by at least three partners at a law firm, who will jointly accept the retainer, designate a person to undertake the case, and collectively formulate the case strategy. The director of the law firm is fully responsible for overseeing and supervising the lawyers handling a mass case, and shall promptly curb and adopt remedial measures against any behavior in violation of regulations that is discovered during the course of a lawyers handling of the case.
- Completion of consultation andaccepting cases. Law firms shall arrange for two or more lawyers of good political and professional quality, with abundant experience, to conduct the consultations and accept mass cases, and keep records of their work. Lawyers must be painstaking and thorough in responding to those who come in for consultation, and should not be hasty in providing opinions. Law firms that decide to take a case shall complete a comprehensive record of their acceptance of the case.
- Lawyers who are requested by the relevant government bureau to participate in petitioning cases must safeguard social stability while also safeguarding the lawful rights of the mass client. Lawyers shall, within the bounds of their own professional duties, work hard to support the work of the relevant bureaus, guide the client in the lawful handling of the case, and do their best to persuade their clients not to take their petitions to higher levels or to organize mass petitions.
- Depending on the particular circumstances of a mass case, law firms can enter into a retainer agreement with the client and also enter into a retainer agreement with the clients authorized representative or agent. After a case has entered the litigation stage and a court has made a request for each retainer letter authorized by the client, the law firm shall assist with the formalities.
- After a mass case has concluded, the law firm shall promptly report the situation to the lawyers association to which it is subordinate.
- Law firms shall guarantee that the records of a mass case are complete, detailed, orderly, and tidy.
When lawyers handle mass cases in accordance with law, a lawyers association shall provide support, guidance, and supervision:
- Lawyers associations have the authority to familiarize themselves with the circumstances of a lawyers handling of a case, and to put forward suggestions.
- Pursuant to a law firms request, a lawyers association can organize an individual case study. It can also, on its own, decide to convene a case study symposium and put forward its opinions.
- With respect to mass cases that could have a major impact, lawyers associations shall promptly communicate and coordinate with the relevant bureaus. Lawyers associations can, according to the need, express their opinions to the masses on issues related to the case.
- If the personal integrity and professional rights of a lawyer are harmed, a lawyers association shall promptly report the situation to the relevant bureau and urge the relevant bureau to adopt measures to safeguard the lawyers lawful rights.
- If the professional rights of a lawyer are harmed outside his practicing jurisdiction, and he requests support from the lawyers association to which he is subordinate, the lawyers association receiving his request shall provide support. The All-China Lawyers Association can, according to the need, carry out organized and coordinated activities to defend the lawyers rights.
- Law associations can, based on a request by a law firm or on the basis of their judgment regarding appropriate handling of the issue, propose or remind each partys lawyers to enter into mediation and negotiation to resolve a dispute.
- With respect to important mass cases, lawyers associations shall promptly share information with the judicial administration departments at their same level [of administration].
- If a lawyer or law firm does not handle mass cases in accordance with the Opinions, and thus brings about adverse consequences, a lawyers association can administer a punishment based on the relevant rules of the legal profession, or propose the administration of a punishment by a judicial administration department.
- Lawyers associations should strengthen professional training for lawyers handling mass cases and shall provide general guidance on situational policies, case handling strategies, and work demands.
When taking on important sensitive cases, lawyers shall abide by the Guiding Opinions. Mass cases taken on before the Guiding Opinions came into effect should be reorganized accordingly.
The All-China Lawyers Association Executive Council is responsible for interpreting and revising the Guiding Opinions.
The Guiding Opinions were formulated based on the Lawyers Association Articles of Association. They have been placed on file with judicial administration departments.
The Guiding Opinions will be implemented on a trial basis from the date of issuance.