Morning Briefing: Study says law firms have a tough time in China

by NZ Lawyer19 Mar 2015
Study says law firms have a tough time in China
A new study reveals what many international law firms know from experience; practising in China can be tough. The report has been authored by academics at UC Berkeley in the US who obtained data from the 174 international law firms registered in China in 2012. It shows that there were on average 12 new law firms per year from 1992-2012 but that 7 closed each year because of bankruptcy or merger, while 25 in the whole period closed because of strategy change. Meanwhile China’s domestic law firms have grown in size and expanded beyond its borders especially in the last few years. The authors note that the top Chinese law firms are often considered to be of equal quality as international firms in Chinese legal circles.

Although firms may not find their presence in China does much for revenue, the study shows that many firms are playing a long game and that longevity and size international size does have an impact on its reputation within China. It concludes that: “The common experience of stagnation following initial excitement about market entry illustrates the strength of hype, the constraints of partnership, and the ongoing power of the Chinese state to shape the legal services market. The rarity of exit reflects perceptions that a China presence is a valuable symbol of global commitment and a worthwhile bet on future growth.”

Law Society launches ethnic minority group
The Law Society in England has officially launched its Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division to represent and provide a forum for its Black, Asian and minority ethnic members. Chair of the division Caroline Newman commented: Our research has shown that some ethnic minority solicitors are struggling with their businesses and to get on in their careers. It's not easy being a solicitor these days and it's not getting easier. But we want our members to know they are not alone.”

Chinese lawyer posthumously approved by California
In a case of righting the wrongs of the past the California Supreme Court has ruled that Chinese immigrant Hong Yen Chang was treated unfairly when he was refused a licence to practice law in the state because of his race. Chang applied to practice in 1890 having already been granted a licence in New York. Two laws, which were repealed many years ago, meant that only US citizens could be lawyers in California but that Chinese immigrants could not become citizens. In 2011 a group of academics and lawyers took up the plight of Chang, who died in 1926, and have finally seen a great injustice corrected.