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中美律师事务所比较研究

2006-07-10 10:27   来源:中国法律翻译网       我要纠错 | 打印 | 收藏 | | |

  英文:

  The lawyering originated from ancient Europe, but has great development in America. No matter as a phenomena or a science, the American lawyering is worthy to be studied. China is one of the several countries that just began to develop lawyering. It is necessary to compare American law firms with Chinese law firms. First, we can learn a lot from American colleagues. After hundreds of years, American law firms have accumulated many valuable and successful experiences. If we use for reference, we can avoid going by a roundabout way. Second, it is helpful to enhance the competency of Chinese law firm to compete with foreign law firms. With China's admission into the WTO, the legal market of China will be open to the foreign law firms. We have to face the challenge of foreign law firms. There is a dictum in ancient China, which said that you will never loss if you know yourself as well as your opponent. Third, we can predict the growth trend of Chinese law firms. American law firms are fully developed, while our Chinese law firms are at the stage of learning to fly. So we can predict what the Chinese law firms would be from what the American law firms are. There are many differences between Chinese law firms and American law firms, such as the history, the organization form, the management, the size, the way they fetch the client, etc. For the reasons above, I will address them one by one.

  I. The History.

  There were 41000 lawyers in the United States in 1870, while the population of United States at that time was 4000,00,00.That is to say almost every 970 persons had one lawyer. The American Bar Association set up on may 4th, 1878, indicated the beginning of formal regulation on lawyering. At that time, China was at feudal society, and there was no person acted as an agent in litigation, not alone legal profession. It was not until 1912 did China introduce into the western concept of lawyer. The Northern Warlords government published the Temporary Rule on Lawyers in 1912, and they developed 3000 lawyers before 1928.

  In the middle of 20 century, the number of lawyers of American was 180000 to 200000; every 750 persons had one lawyer. This period was the golden period of the development of lawyering. In the 1980th, the amount of lawyers in American exploded into 500000; every 400 persons have one lawyer. After 1990, American law firms became larger and larger; some law firms had $100,00,00,00 incomes in a year (This figure is equal to all the Chinese law firms' incomes in a year!) Now, there are 100,00,00 lawyers in American; every 300 persons have one lawyer. 80 percent of the lawyers in the world are concentrated in the United States.

  The American law firms have an uninterrupted development history of hundreds of years, while Chinese law firms only have twenty years' history after the People's Republic of China set up in 1949. The General Rule of Peoples' Court of July 1950 provided that the defendant had the right of advocacy, it was the legal base of the existence of lawyers and law firms. Four years later, the central government tried out to set up law firms in several large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin. The first Constitution of 1954 provided that defendant had the right to defend by himself or hire a lawyer to defend. In 1956, the Regulation of Lawyers' Fee was effective. But the process of constructing law firms had been stopped in 1957 due to political reasons. During the following twenty years, China had no law firm. It was not until 1979 did the Communist Party decide to resume the law firms. From then on, China began to construct government law firms. There were ten national law firms in Beijing before 1995.The largest law firm was The First Law Firm of Beijing, which had nearly one hundred lawyers at her height of power and splendor. In the 1995, the Judicial Bureau of Beijing began to reform the government law firm in Beijing. All the lawyers were encouraged to practice in self-dependent law firms. For those who were up to the mustard of setting up partnership law firms, the municipal provided conveniences for them to register. Beijing was the first city that began the reform of law firms. Many of the large cities followed the lead of it. According the latest statistic, there are 11,00,00 lawyers and 100,00 law firms in China.

  The different history of American law firms and Chinese law firms reflect the different history of the two countries. We can find that the history of law firms in one country has close relationship with the society they exist and can duly reflect the evolvement of the society.

  II. The Law Firm Organizations

  There is no uniform act on lawyers in the United States. The lawyers and law firms are regulated under the state laws. There are three kinds of law firms in the United States: Limited Liability partnerships, Limited Liability Companies and individual practice (Boutique Law Firm). Unlimited partnership was a traditional law firm organization. It required the partners take unlimited liability, which put too much responsibilities to the partners thus limited the development of a law firm. Prior to 1960, no state allowed professionals, including lawyers, to incorporate. All most all law firms were organized as partnerships.

  There were two major concerns resistance to allowing law firm incorporation: first, the possibility that the corporation itself might interfere with the professional relationship between each client and the attorney handling his case; and second, the possibility that lawyers could avoid malpractice liability. However, lawyers and other professionals succeeded in assuaging these concerns by intense lobbying in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, every jurisdiction allows lawyers to incorporate and form "professional corporations" or "professional associations." Now, most law firms are organized as professional corporations, which are entities that possess qualities of both a partnership and a corporation. Selecting the form of incorporation, the partners can avoid unlimited liability and acquire significant tax advantages, including the opportunity to establish pension plans offering greater benefits than those available to partnerships. With tax reform in the early 1980s, the tax benefits of incorporation decreased significantly. Today, limited liability is the primary advantage of the professional corporation.

  According to the Law of the PRC on Lawyers, there are three categories law firms: one is the law firms which are established with the capital contribution from the State and this kind of law firms shall be independent in its practice pursuant to law and shall undertake liability for its debts with its entire assets. The other kind is cooperative law firms, which are established by lawyers and undertake liability for their debts with the entire assets of the law firms. The third one is partnership law firms which are set up by lawyers and the partners undertake unlimited and joint liability within his or her private assets. This year a new form of law firm was born in Beijing, which permits individual lawyer set up law firm in residential area to meet the people's need for legal service. Now more than 90 percent law firms in China are partnership law firms.

  In each country, it is hard to say that the law firms can freely select the forms of organization. The lawyers in each country do know what kind of organization is the most suitable and best one for the owners of the firms. But legislation on law firms in each country is a balance of all interest groups in the country. The results reflect the difference strengths of lawyers in different countries. There are large amount of lawyers and law firms in American, and they have formed an independent social class that possesses distinct political rights. Thus their opinion can effect the legislators and easy to be adopted.

  III. The size.

  One of the astonishing characters of the America lawyering is that there are many super size law firms. If I didn't come to Chicago, I could not believe how a large-sized law firm would be. The largest law firm in the United States has 800 partners and 2000 lawyers. It is not rare for a law firm to rent a skyscraper as their office. A middle-sized law firm has 500 lawyers or so. One law firm in American can earn $100,00,00,00 one year, which equals to all the incomes of Chinese law firms. There is a trend of the law firms in American: some law firms will become larger and larger in the future.

  According to the status mentioned above, we can figure out that the average size of one Chinese law firm is 10 lawyers. The total incomes of Chinese law firms are 10 hundreds million dollars. The average income of a Chinese law firm is $10,00,00.We often heard that some leaders of Chinese lawyering promulgated to construct large-sized law firms. But the large-sized law firms they have are small ones compare with American large-sized law firms. Even the largest law firm in China has the amount of lawyers no more then 100. It is hard for a Chinese lawyer to image how can a law firm has 2000 lawyers. But it is the truth in American.

  The advantage of a large firm is the large firm has more lawyers, so they have more opportunity to handle complicated legal affairs and provide legal services to large companies or big projects. But it is hard to say the larger the better. Large-sized firms have their difficulties too. A senior partner of a Chicago law firm said that it wasn't the larger the better, but the better the better.

  Why America has large-sized law firms while China hasn't large-sized law firms? I think the essential reason is that there are large amount of lawyers in American, and it is the basic to form a large-sized law firm. The law firms adopt the organization of corporation is the other important reason. It is easy to manage a corporation. Within a corporation, the relationship is simplified both in the interior and exterior of the law firm. There are ideology basis to form large-sized firms too. An American lawyer does not mind to be an employee in a law firm, while almost each Chinese law student dreams to have his own law firm after graduation.

  IV. The management

  There is much different management in American law firms, but they all aim at profits. In China, we are ashamed to say we have the purpose of profit, but everyone will be proud if they earn more and the Judicial Bureau takes profits as one of the index to judge a firm successful or not.

  The large-sized law firm in the United State use computers to manage. It is efficient. They use computers to type the documents, receive and sent email, manage accounting and lawyers, etc. Generally speaking, the law firms hire the lawyers, and give them wages. In some area, the initial wage for a lawyer to join a law firm is $12,00,00 per year. And his wage will go up according to the rank he gets. It is called a pyramid kind of management. After 8 years or so he has the opportunity to become a partner of the firm.

  In China, it is rarely for a law firm to pay wages for its lawyers. Most lawyers have no fixed wages, all their earnings are decide by the amount of cases he or she brings into the firm. And the lawyers get some percentage of the incomes. The higher percentage the firm gives a lawyer, the more attraction the firm has to a lawyer.

  Pay wages to lawyers based on a large amount of business the firms have. How can the law firms get the enough business to afford the lawyers they hire? From the following comparison, we can unclose part of this secret.

  V. The ways of the firms to fetch clients

  In every country, the client is the lifeline of each law firm. In America each lawyer has 300 potential clients. We can imagine how hot the competition is! But American law firms can earn large amount of money. It is a miracle. Why they are so successful? One important reason is that they have a series of manners to fetch, catch and keep their clients.

  中文:

  律师业起源于古代欧洲,但是却是在美国取得了巨大的发展。因此,不论是作为现象还是科学,美国的律师业都值得我们研究。中国是少数几个律师业才起步的国家之一,比较中美律师事务所很有必要。首先,我们可以从美国同行那里学到很多东西。美国的律师业经过百余年的发展,积累了大量成功的、有价值的经验,如果我以之为参考,可以少走很多弯路。其次,这也有助于加强中国的律师事务所与外国律师事务所的竞争力。中国加入世界贸易组织后,法律服务市场将对外开放,我们面临着外国律师事务所的挑战,俗话说,知己知彼百战不殆。因此,了解外国律师事务所是参与国际竞争的基础之一。第三,我们可以预见中国律师事务所的发展方向。美国的律师业是发展成熟的行业,而中国的律师业正处于起步阶段。因此,我们可以从美国律师业的现状,预测中国律师业将来的发展趋势。

  中国的律师事务所与美国的律师事务所相比,有很多差异,比如历史、组织形式、管理、规模、吸引客户的方法等等。基于前述原因,我将阐述如下:

  一、 美律师业的历史差异

  早在1870年全美就有律师41000人,当时美国的人口才4000万。也就是说,当时大约每970人就拥有一名律师。1878年5月成立的美国的律师协会,预示着美国的律师业开始了规范管理。而那时,中国正处于晚清封建社会,在诉讼中没有人充当辩护人或代理人的角色,所以法律职业无从谈起。直到1912年,现代意义的律师才正式在中国出现。1912年,北洋军阀政府颁布了临时律师规则,截止1928年,共发展了3000名律师。

  二十世纪中叶被称为美国律师业的黄金发展阶段,律师人数为18万到20万,每750人拥有一个律师。二十世纪八十年代,美国的律师人数突破50万,每400人中就有一个人是律师。1990年以后,美国的律师事务所规模发展得越来越大,有的律师事务所年收入10亿美元,这个数字相当于整个中国律师业的年收入总和。现在,美国的律师人数是100万,占全世界律师人数的80%,换而言之,每300个美国人中就有一个人是律师,全世界80%的律师都集中在美国!

  美国的律师业有一个百余年不间断发展的历史,而中国律师业连续发展的时间不过二十几年。1950年的人民法庭规则规定当事人有辩护权,这是中国发展律师业的法律基础。四年后,中央人民政府才开始在北京、天津、上海等几个大城市组建律师事务所。1954年宪法规定被告人可以自行辩护也可以请律师为其辩护。1956年,律师收费规定开始生效。但是律师事务所的组建过程在1957年不得不因为政治原因终止了。之后二十年,中国没有律师事务所。直到1979年,党中央才决定恢复律师制度。从那时开始,中国政府开始组建国办律师事务所。1995年,北京进行了国办所的改制,极大推进了合伙制律师事务所在中国的发展。据统计,中国有律师11万人,1万家律师事务所。

  从中美律师事务所的历史比较中,我们可以清楚地发现,律师业的发展与国家的社会经济紧密相连,并及时地反映了社会的变迁。

  二、律师事务所的组织形式

  在美国,没有统一的律师法,律师和律师事务所的规范是由各州的法律来调整的。美国的律师事务所分三种类型:有限责任合伙、有限责任公司和个人执业。无限责任的律师事务所是一种传统的律师事务所的组织形式,在1960年以前,没有一个州允许律师事务所公司化。无限合伙因为要求合伙人承担无限责任而限制了律师业的发展。

  主张抵制律师事务所进行公司化的原因主要有两个:一是,律师事务所的公司化可能妨碍其与承办的每一个案件的客户之间的关系;二是,公司化可能会让律师避免承担玩忽职守的责任。然而,律师和其他法律职业者在六七十年代通过院外活动成功地打消了人们在这方面的顾虑。现在,每个地区都允许律师事务所进行公司化,组成一个具有合伙制和公司制双重特点的实体。选择公司化实体,合伙人可以避免无限责任并获得税收优惠,包括建立退休金养老等比合伙制更有利的制度。虽然随着美国八十年代税收制度的改革,公司的税收优势不复存在,如今,有限责任成了律师事务所采用公司制最主要的好处。

  根据中华人民共和国律师法,中国有三种类型的律师事务所:国家出资设立的以全部资产承担有限责任的国办律师事务所、合伙人出资设立的由全部合伙人承担无限连带责任的合伙制律师事务所和全部律师为合作人由合作人承担有限责任的合作制律师事务所。现在中国90%的律师事务所都是合伙制律师事务所。

  律师作为专业法律职业者当然知道哪一种组织形式更有利于律师和事务所的发展。但是,不是每一个国家的律师都不能自主选择律师事务所的组织形式。规范律师业的法律是社会各个利益集团的利益平衡的结果,其结果显示了各个国家律师力量的强弱。美国的律师和律师事务所数量众多,他们形成了一个独立的社会阶层,享有着独特的政治权利。因此,他们的意见能够被立法者采纳。

  三、 事务所的规模

  美国律师业有一个显著的特征就是美国有很多超大规模的律师事务所。如果没有去过芝加哥,我根本想象不到一个真正大规模的律师事务所会是什么样子。美国最大的一家律师事务所光合伙人就有800多个,律师有2000多个。一个律师事务所租用一整幢摩天大楼并不是罕见的。在美国,一个中等规模的律师事务所有律师500人左右。美国的律师事务所有一个发展趋势就是越来越大。

  中国,平均每个律师事务所有10个律师,每个所年均收入80万人民币。我们常听有人鼓吹要建立大规模的律师事务所,但是中国最大的律师事务所跟美国的大所相比要小得多。在中国一个律师事务所有2000多律师真是无法想象的事,但在美国就是现实。

  大所有大所的好处。有一点不容怀疑的是,大所有更多的机会承办复杂的案件和为大公司和大项目服务。但是,也不能简单以规模大小人数多少来衡量所的好坏。大有大的难处。一家美国中等规模的律师事务所的资深合伙人说的好,不是越大越好,而是好的才好。

  为什么美国能有大规模的律师事务所而中国却没有?我认为主要的原因是美国律师数量多,这是建立大所的基础。律师事务所采用公司化的管理也是另一个重要的原因。管理一个公司相对容易。在一个公司内部的关系比合伙制的律师所要简单。还有一个原因是,美国律师不在意给别人打工。这是一个观念问题。很多中国法学院的学生的梦想就是毕业以后当律师成立自己的律师事务所,每个律师都有自己当老板的梦。给别的律师打工,似乎是脸面无光难以启齿的事。

  四、事务所的管理

  虽然美国的律师事务所采取不同的管理形式,但是他们都是以营利为目的的。在中国,我们不说律师事务所是以营利为目的的,但是整个社会包括律师行业内部都是用挣钱多少来衡量人成功与否的。尤其是司法行政机关用收入数量作为衡量律师所成功与否的一个指标。

  美国的律师事务所用计算机进行管理,效率很高。计算机不只是打打文件,收发邮件那么简单,律师的业务很多是通过计算机和互连网来完成的。

  一般说来,是律师所聘用律师,律师为所办案件,所给律师发工资。有的地区,律师的起薪是每年12万美金。随着律师级别的增高,收入也越多。这样干大约8年左右,才有机会成为事务所的合伙人。

  在中国,只有少数律师是拿工资的。绝大多数律师是拿提成的,自己案子多,收入就多。律师与事务所的内在联系少。提成比例的高低成为律师所吸引律师加入的一个重要因素,律师流动频繁。

  给律师付工资取决于事务所案件数量多。那么,如何让一个事务所有足够的案源养活众多的律师呢?

  五、 事务所吸引客户的手段

  在任何一个国家,客户都是律师的生命线。象美国这样一个不到300人就有一个人是律师的国家,每个律师的潜在客户的数量有限,可以想象,律师业的竞争有多么白热化!但是,美国的律师所却可以赚到很多钱。这不能不说是一个奇迹。为什么他们能如此成功?一个重要的原因是他们采取了一系列挖掘、吸引、维持客户的手段。

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