What kind of work is there here for a Canadian Lawyer?

I am a Canadian Lawyer, practising mostly litigation law for the last 8 years. I moved here with my wife (who is Taiwanese) in June, 2005 and have been in school, learning Chinese since then. We live in Tao Yuan, but I commute to Taipei every day for School.

In Canada, I started out working in a general practice doing mostly plaintiff personal injury work, but also did some wills, real estate, family, criminal, general litigation, and a tiny bit of immigration.

I then worked for 3 years at a human rights firm representing mentally ill people who had been found “not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder” at their periodic Review Board hearings. In that job I also was co-counsel at a human rights tribunal hearing.

After funding cuts, I moved back into motor vehicle accident law, this time for the defence.

After taking Chinese for a year, I think I am at an intermediate level.

I hear there are a few foreign lawyers on this site and I wonder if you would have any advice to offer regarding looking for “legal” work in Taiwan and what kind of work is available for lawyers licenced in other jurisdictions in Taiwan.

I think as a result of the WTO I am entitled to practise Canadian law or international law, but for other work would be a “consultant”

I would be most grateful for any advice or information you could provide.

How well do you know the laws regarding illicit drugs? Gotta be some work representing your countrymen right there.


There seems to be a number of waiguoren who run afoul of Taiwanese law. Someone once suggested to me that all foreigners should carry the card of a lawyer and whenever they got into trouble they could simply give the lawyer a call.

The kind of trouble I’m talking about is stuff like being faulted for a motor vehicle accident by virtue of being a foreigner. I even know a Canadian woman who got into trouble with the police for passing counterfeit money. The cop, she claims, actually said, “You’re white, you’re guilty.”

I would certainly carry your some of your cards, and pass them out.

Suggest you nose around in the Legal forum, that may give you some ideas, a few foreigner lawyers post answers there.

Welcome buzz. There’s lots of interesting work here for native-English-speaking lawyers, especially now that you speak a little Chinese (which I don’t). I would suggest, however, that you forget about your past experience and start learning about international commercial, corporate, technology and IP law. That’s where most of the work is for foreign lawyers in Asia and those are great fields of practice.

I practiced law in California for 10 years before coming to Taiwan. Like you, I did lots of litigation, in my case involving property disputes, employment, personal injuries, and so forth. I had no experience in the types of matters I mentioned in the above paragraph. But since coming here 6 years ago I’ve worked my way into those fields, gaining lots of great experience as I worked up from one job to the next. My first position in a Taiwan law firm (after teaching kindy and conversation classes) was as an instructor of legal writing and US law. After a year, they refused to hire me as an attorney, so I moved on to an in-house position with a leading US tech company. That ended so I joined a local law firm and got lots of great experience drafting agreements mostly for the manufacturing, sale, distribution and licensing of IP and technology, along with other matters. Finally, after 2.5 years, that firm closed down, so I’m now the #2 lawyer in one of Taiwan’s most successful tech companies. It’s a terrific position and I’m very happy.

When I first graduated from law school I was excited about litigation: building a case against the oponent, filing opposing arguments and going into court to fight it out. But I quickly got tired of all the anger, hostility, lies, dirty tricks, pig-headed stupidity and irrational craziness of personal litigation, which is why I quit all of that and headed to Asia without a clear alternative. It’s worked out well. I find technology and IP law extremely interesting, it pays well, is much more rational and productive than personal litigation, and it’s among the hottest areas of law, with abundant work around the world.

One doesn’t need to speak Chinese to practice international commercial law in Taiwan or elsewhere in Asia. There’s plenty of work in English. When agreements are entered into between companies from two Asian countries, or an Asian country and a European or American country, they’re always in English. And big companies require a constant stream of written agreements.

I recommend that you learn about such new fields of law as I did. I’m confident you’ll find work that you find interesting and with experience your opportunities will only get better. Check the 104 job Website for legal positions and search martindale.com and apply with all the Taiwan law firms listed there. You may have to wait a few months, but you’ll find a position.

Thank you very much for your thorough and helpful response. I always did have an interest in IP.

I am finishing school in June and so until then will start reviewing corporate law and IP law. (Damn, I wish I took more of those courses in Law School.)

Mother Teresa, do you still belong to the Bar in California? Does your current employer pay for your dues? How about practising insurance? I guess you are not a member of the Taiwan Bar…or is there a special status for foreign lawyers practising here?

Currently I am a “non-practising member” of both the Alberta and BC Bars, but assume if I was working here would have to start paying fees and insurance to one of those organizations.

Thanks again for your helpful and positive response.

[quote=“buzz”]I always did have an interest in IP.

I am finishing school in June and so until then will start reviewing corporate law and IP law. (Damn, I wish I took more of those courses in Law School.)[/quote]

Don’t sweat it. As I said, I knew very little about tech and IP before landing on this island. You’ll learn it during your employment. Also, you might want to consider doing what I did. Starting when I was employed as a legal writing instructor, I decided to begin doing research on legal topics related to tech, IP and Taiwan in order to write articles for submission to various legal trade journals, to show I have some interest in the areas and a little knowledge on the subjects. I’ve been lucky enough to get a bunch of those articles published over the past few years and not only did I learn a great deal doing the research but I believe they helped me land at least one of my jobs.

Yes, I never let my license lapse. It’s too valuable. My employers have all paid the dues (abt US$350/yr), but if they didn’t I would anyway.

Don’t need it.

If you work for a law firm you can register with the Taiwan government as a Foreign Legal Affairs Advisor or something like that. Actually, it may be required to do so, but the firm I worked for previously didn’t want to pay for that or bother helping out so I never registered and I think many foreigners work here as attorneys without registering. Also, supposedly you’re only allowed to practice the law of your country or international law and are not allowed to advise on Taiwan law, but that’s BS and I’m sure most foreign lawyers here do advise on Taiwan law (but not me of course :angel: ). Now that I’m working in-house, I believe I’m not allowed or required to register as a Foreign Whatevertheycallit.

Depends on the employer. Despite all the Taiwanese that flee this armpit to live in BC, it’s probably very unlikely any local firm would require assistance with BC or even Canadian law, but perhaps they might want your license to be active. I don’t know. A California license is more impressive here as local firms commonly do business and get sued in California.

I have a year left before getting my J.D. in Seattle, and would like to return to Taiwan and work (lived in Taiwan from 1999-2000). A couple of questions.

Mother Teresa, do you think you should be in Taiwan prior to applying to the law firms off martindale.com?

Buzz, What city do you live in?