Hong Kong legal firms seeking talented lawyers should look to the mainland, according to Celia Lam, corporate finance partner at Linklaters & Alliance. Ms Lam said: 'I am very impressed with the new generation of lawyers in China. In the early 1990s, if you talked with a mainland lawyer, they had no concept of common law. You had to explain to them what share capital was. 'But now, they are more exposed to international transactions . . . they have a very good understanding of how transactions are being conducted in Hong Kong and internationally.' Linklaters, which was recently granted a second operating licence in the mainland, expanded its Beijing operations at the beginning of the month and is now headed by Ms Lam. Under World Trade Organisation regulations, international law firms can now apply for two practice licences in China. Like most international law firms, Linklaters has been eager to expand in China to cash in on the growing demand for corporate finance, fund-raising, and mergers and acquisition (M&A) services. 'After introducing China company law eight years ago, we're seeing more M&A activity. Obviously, not many mainland enterprises can afford international law companies, but they do need advice from an international perspective because these M&A activities are going to become more and more complicated.' However, there are still onerous restrictions on international law firms which are barred from practising law in the mainland. 'We are not able to practice PRC law in China, and this to a large extent restricts our ability to build a very strong corporate practice within China,' Ms Lam said. 'But I think [allowing international law firms to practice mainland law] will happen eventually.'