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China: Legal Profession Developing

(Feb. 18, 2010) The legal profession has grown in China in the last few years. According to Ministry of Justice statistics for 2009, there were more than 15,000 law firms, 166,000 lawyers, and 220,000 individuals working in the field. (China's Law Profession Advances as Nation Builds Rule-of-Law System, XINHUA, Feb. 16, 2010, available at In contrast, in 2002 there were only 110,000 lawyers in the country, and 20 years before that there were only about 200. (Number of Lawyers Rapidly Rising in China, PEOPLE'S DAILY, July 8, 2002, available at Foreign law firms have been setting up representative offices in the country; there were 224 such offices from 21 nations as of October 2009, plus 65 offices in the mainland region representing Hong Kong firms. These developments have been described as important in strengthening the rule of law in China. (XINHUA, supra.)

China's lawyers handled almost two million suits, plus 534,000 other legal matters and 184,000 legal aid cases in 2009. The role of the profession in the governance of the country is growing but still small, as reflected in the statistics for the number of lawyers in the National People's Congress (16 out of 2,987) and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body (22 out of 2,196). (Id.; Organization, National People's Congress website,; & Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference website, (both last visited Feb. 16, 2010).)