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China has a strong demand for lawyers
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2005-10-11 16:35

By Cui Yuqing

The National Judicial Examination is coming. This national examination, being held in the autumn every year, is famous for its strict requirements. This year, the number of candidates for the examination has reached 244,000, namely a year-on-year increase of near 50,000. This tendency has reflected the strong demand for legal professionals in the society.

People often combine expressions like high income, big work intensity, rich expertise, extensive "human relation" ... with the image of lawyers. And the reality confirms the point. According to statistic data, the average annual business income of a lawyer in China reached RMB 65,000 yuan in 2002, and the average business incomes of a lawyer in Beijing was RMB 0.4 million yuan in 2003, which is a relative high income among the industries all over the country.

It is known that there are more than 110,000 attorneys-at-law and nearly 12,000 law firms in China. The number of lawyers, namely 110,000, is far from enough compared with the 1.3 billion population of the whole country.

In China, the number of lawyers takes a proportion of 0.8 out of 10000 against the whole population. This figure is respectively 32.7 out of 10000 and 15.4 out of 10000 in the US and Britain, where a common law system is adopted. In Germany and France, where a civil law system is adopted, the figure is 8 out of 10000 and 4 out of 10000 respectively. Even if in Japan and India, where non-litigation is emphasized, the proportion is 1.2 out of 10000 and 1.3 out of 10000 respectively. In this sense, the lawyer team has a wide space to develop in our country.

In spite of the saying that "a high educational qualification is not equivalent to higher abilities", in the practice of law that requires a rather high level of expertise, educational qualification is an important tool in China today. The high educational qualification has a direct influence on clients' trust on the lawyers, which then directly determines the outstanding achievement of a lawyer. The reality shows that the incomes of lawyers with a high educational qualification are far higher than those of lawyers with lower educational qualification.

There are only about 700 lawyers with a doctor's degree and 9,000 more lawyers with a master's degree or two bachelor's degrees among the 110,000 lawyers in China, accounting for 9 percent of the whole lawyer population. With ten years' experience in the practice of law in Beijing, Mr. Pan, a lawyer of Beijing JingYuan Law Firm, said to the reporter that in order to build a reputation and an influence in the industry, a lawyer must depend on his "expertise and law cases", which is corresponding with the "high educational qualification and experience".

Though having had a clear awareness of the hardship of being a lawyer, a great deal of students majored in law still chose to be a lawyer without any hesitation. According to the provisions in present laws, once having obtained a bachelor's degree or above (in some regions, an associate diploma in law is ok), passed in the national judicial examinational, and gained a certificate of judicature qualification, one can apply to practice in a law firm. After one year's practice with all requirements satisfied, one can be a lawyer who is of a bright future.

Similar with many other industries, the developing direction of the practice of law is specialization. Take Shenzhen, a city in the frontline of market economy, as an example. The law service market in Shenzhen is relatively mature as it started relatively earlier. Now there are 3,100 lawyers and 204 law firms in Shenzhen. Last year, the total revenues of lawyers in Shenzhen were RMB1.06 billion yuan, and the ratal was RMB 98 million yuan. The per capita income was close to RMB350,000 yuan, being the highest among various big cities all over the country.

In Shenzhen, inter-disciplinary foreign-related lawyers and specialized lawyers are in fairly great demand due to the boost of law services and foreign-related legal service in connection with finance, intellectual property and high-tech development, as well as the rapid increase of labor-dispute lawsuits. According to the judgment by insiders, the former comprehensive law firms can no longer meet the requirements of the market, and specialization is becoming the direction of development for law firms and lawyers in Shenzhen.

There have been 16 law firms, as reported, proposing to the Lawyer's Association that they would like to be re-organized to be specialty law firms. And more than 300 lawyers are willing to join or build specialty law firms. It is possible for law firms in Shenzhen to take the lead in setting up specialty law firms in 10 directions such as penal cases, administrative cases, marital cases, real estate cases, etc within 5 years.
Along with the establishment and consummation of a market economy, the growth point of legal service business has been changing tremendously. Services concerning securities, finance, intellectual property, real estate, investment and foreign-related business are gradually becoming the main source of revenues for the practice of law.

A notable trend in the practice of law in recent years is that foreign-related lawyers are in shortage. After China's entry into the WTO, the demand of foreign-related lawyers has been increased, and there has been an indication of talent gap among the domestic foreign-related lawyers.
In the foreign-related lawsuits, an anti-dumping investigation is against certain kind of products, which often involves tens of or even hundreds of enterprises. Along with the improvement of domestic enterprises' awareness of "who respond to the lawsuits will benefit", enterprises' responsiveness and the rate of response is gradually improving. In addition, the expenses for employing foreign lawyers are quite expensive, so the enterprises ask for more of low cost domestic anti-dumping legal services, appealing for the emergence of many more such professionals. In the 1980s, domestic enterprises could manage to employ a US lawyer with only hundreds of dollars; this price, however, had climbed to hundreds of thousands more US dollars in the 1990s.

Now foreign-related lawyers in China are mainly in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou; however, there is nearly no such professionals in the middle and west provinces that are under-developed. Foreign-related lawsuits require a higher comprehensive quality of lawyers, and the procedures are so complex and trivial that a single person can hardly undertake the responsibilities; thus professionals in law, trade, finance and foreign languages are needed to form a team. The lack of foreign-related lawyers is a god-given opportunity as well as a new arena to perform for lawyers and legal professionals who are going to be lawyers. 
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