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.