The Ministry of Justice will allow Hong Kong and Macau law firms to enter into contractual cooperation agreements with mainland law firms as of January 1, 2004. On the basis of such agreements, the representative offices of Hong Kong and Macau law firms registered in mainland China will be able to cooperate with mainland law firms to build closer relationships, and even occupy the same office. But the cooperation cannot take the form of a partnership or shareholding arrangement. The cooperating firms shall handle respectively Hong Kong or Macau law, or mainland law as they have been duly licensed. The legal status, name and financial affairs of each firm shall be independent from each other and each firm shall bear civil liabilities separately.