Way back in 2006, I wrote about fake China law firms in China: Where Even The “Law Firms” Are Fake. In that post I talked about fake Chinese lawyers taking money from foreign companies for trademark registrations:
There are those who take money to file trademarks in China and then simply run away. A new client told me he had sent about $750 to what he thought was a legitimate China law firm to have his company’s brand name registered. As soon as the first $750 hit Shanghai, he was asked to send an additional $600 to “cover the filing fees,” which he did.
A week later the website was down and the Shanghai “firm” was gone, “leaving no solid clues, nor trace, only a space in the lives of their friends.”
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It turns out this scam is actually pretty common and it also turns out that in every case of which I am aware the scammers were neither licensed Chinese lawyers nor licensed Chinese trademark agents. In other words, they are just people who run China trademark registration scams.
We should have written more about fake legal providers in the interim because since 2006 I have heard multiple accounts of companies that paid for trademarks and employment contracts and company registrations and various other things China lawyers typically do for their clients, only to receive nothing in return and only to learn that the “law firm”or “lawyer” to which they paid the funds never even existed. How many companies believe their trademarks are registered in China when in fact they never were?
Then in 2007, in NEWS FLASH — Mongolian Law Firm Clones Famous China Lawyer, we wrote about a Mongolian firm that claimed Steve Dickinson, who heads up my law firm’s China law practice, was an attorney at a Mongolian law firm. Our blog post shamed the firm into removing Steve’s picture and bio (taken straight from our own website).
Now we are learning that fake law firms and stolen bios and photos have become an international phenomenon. The ABA (American Bar Association) Journal just did an article on this, entitled, Fake law firm websites use real firms’ photos and info, but alter contact details. It begins with this:
A smiling man in a business suit pictured on the Dovernor Chambers website in a wood-paneled office looks like a seasoned legal practitioner, and is.
However, he actually is a U.S. lawyer practicing in Kansas. The Dovernor Chambers firm—which purports to operate in the United Kingdom—is fake, and its website contains photos lifted from other law firm websites to create a convincing online presence to scam would-be legal clients, the Mirror reports.
Such schemes are common and increasing. The Solicitors Regulation Authority says it is identifying a new fake law firm on an almost daily basis. Some scammers reportedly are stealing a law firm’s entire Web page, then changing the contact information to redirect traffic elsewhere.
I want to emphasize that we have absolutely no reason to believe any licensed China lawyer or U.S. licensed lawyer has had any part in these schemes.
So how can you avoid this happening to you? Check to confirm the lawyer(s) you are using has a law license. That alone ought to solve all your problems. I believe every U.S. state lists its licensed practitioners online and avvo.com also lists all or nearly all licensed lawyers. Here is my proof on Avvo that I am a real lawyer, licensed in Alaska, Illinois and Washington.
Do some due diligence before you pay/hire a China lawyer, especially if you will be paying upfront for something like a China trademark or a China company registration where it may take years for you to realize you were scammed.