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Should Law Professors be Allowed to Work as Lawyers?

Being allowed to work as lawyers on a part-time basis, law professors could bring their teaching closer to reality, some said. But opponents argue they would tilt the legal balance

By Xu Mouquan Updated Jul.19

China is revising its law on lawyers, an important aspect of which is whether professors of law should be allowed to practice as part-time lawyers. Advocates say that by taking on cases, law professors' teaching will become more relevant, whereas opponents argue they will tilt the legal balance, reported the Legal Daily.  
“Teachers who are part-time lawyers will, based on the various cases they undertake, be more likely to gain insight into the key links in the application of law, and hence make their teaching more pertinent and closer to reality,” the newspaper cited several law professors from Chongqing-based Southwest University of Political Science and Law (SWUPL) as saying.  
Another reason is that “the total number of lawyers – also their overall levels of competence – will thus be increased,” Peng Jianjun of the Chongqing Municipal Bureau of Justice told Legal Daily. And “having already earned a wage from his teaching work, professors confront less financial pressure and thus can pay more attention to the problems that professional lawyers won’t,” said Wu Yue, a law professor at SWUPL. “They have a reputation to uphold, so they will provide better-quality legal services.”  
Nevertheless, about 52 percent of those interviewed by the newspaper are opposed to the practice. First, they argue that professional ethics dictate that professors should focus solely on teaching and scholarly research. Then as public intellectuals, professors should be relatively detached and neutral, and “professors who make unfair remarks are more often than not those who have part-time jobs,” Dr Wang Xinhuan of the Beijing Municipal People’s Procuratorate told Legal Daily. 
That law professors work as part-time lawyers means that they will have earned an extra income aside from the generous treatment they enjoy as professors, a phenomenon that is in itself unfair, and “some professors make it known that the judges were once their students, in order to draw more business,” an unnamed lawyer cited by the newspaper said, pointing out that this threatens judicial fairness.