In Vietnam, besides practicing as an independent individual, lawyers can also choose to work at law-practicing organizations, namely lawyer’s office or law firm. These two law-practicing organizations have differences in organizational structure as below:
Type of enterprise: A lawyer’s office operates under the form of a private enterprise and is set up by one lawyer. A law firm operates under the form of a partnership which is set up by at least two lawyers (without capital-contributing members) or under the form of a limited liability law firm with single member or with two or more members. One member limited liability law firm shall be established and owned by one lawyer, whereas limited liability law firm with two or more members shall be set up by at least two lawyers.
Name: Name of a lawyer’s office shall be determined by its founding lawyer in accordance with regulations of Law on enterprise but must contain the phrase “lawyer’s office”. Name of a partnership law firm and name of a limited liability law firm with two or more members shall be selected and agreed upon by all members, name of a single member limited liability law firm shall be determined by its owner but must contain the phrase “partnership law firm” or “limited liability law firm”.
Lawyer’s responsibility towards obligations of law-practicing organizations: Head of lawyer’s office takes charge of fulfilling all the office’s obligations with all his/her property. General partners of partnership law firm are responsible for fulfilling all the firm’s obligations with their property. However, members of limited liability law firm take limited responsibility corresponding to their capital contribution.
Should you choose legal services of a lawyer’s office or a law firm?
Both lawyer’s offices and law firms are entitled to provide the same legal services and have the same law-practicing rights in accordance with the Law on Lawyer (i.e. providing legal services; receive remunerations from clients; participating in building legal policies of the State, etc.) and other relevant laws of Vietnam. However, due to the organizational structure as analyzed above, lawyer’s offices and law firms have their own advantages and disadvantages.
With regards to lawyer’s office, the advantage is that due to its simple organizational structure which the right to make decision belongs to the chief only, decisions are often issued quickly. Nevertheless, this is also a drawback in relation to legal services provision. Due to the small scale, lawyer’s offices often find it hard to train, coach and specialize their personnel as well as unlikely to attract competent employees. As a result of low potential of human resources, lawyer’s offices have limited knowledge and experience to provide legal services in many specific areas. With regards to single member limited liability law firms, because their operational structure is fairly similar to that of lawyer’s offices, this type of law firm will basically encounter same limitations. Both of these law-practicing organizations, therefore, are restricted when expanding and developing their business. These restrictions can, however, be overcome by two or more members limited liability law firm model and partnership law firm model. With a larger number of lawyers, these two groups of law firm have the opportunity for specialization when each lawyer can take on different jobs according to his own experience and expertise. As a result, the number of clients is higher, accompanied by the possibility to recruit and keep outstanding lawyers staying with the firm. From here, the opportunity to expand the business of these two groups of law firm also increases accordingly.