A LAW that would give Shenzhen's legal profession much greater autonomy is under discussion by the legislature, a Hong Kong-based lawyer said. Under the legislation, which is expected to be approved by the Shenzhen People's Congress' Standing Committee soon, lawyers will be managed by their professional associations instead of the Judiciary. Moreover, lawyers will be allowed to work for themselves instead of staying on the government payroll. There is also a provision stipulating that law firms' premises will belong to the partners instead of the state. Carson Wen, a Hong Kong solicitor and a China-appointed attesting officer, described the provisions as a 'breakthrough' as they provided more incentive and autonomy to the profession. 'The question of who owns the property - the office equipment, quarters and goodwill - has been a problem to Judiciary officials for a long time,' Mr Wen said. 'Since Xiao Yang became the Minister for Justice, private-practice lawyers have been paid by their law firms and they share the company's profits, but the state still owns the law firms' properties,' he said. Under the proposed bill, the lawyers' associations will handle registration and training and act as professional watchdogs. But analysts said the Government could still maintain its control over the profession through the associations. Such bodies are often headed by retired Judiciary officials who are Communist Party members. And Mr Wen pointed out this was only the first step towards the profession becoming genuinely independent. 'There is also the question of lawyers being party members,' Mr Wen said. 'Under some circumstances, their loyalty to the clients and the party will be questioned. 'Of course, lawyers in other countries can also be political party members, but the Chinese Communist Party is a ruling party and its control is strong.' Mr Wen said the new law would allow people charged with crimes to hire lawyers as soon as they were arrested - an improvement on the current practice in which defendants meet their lawyers only days before trials are to take place.