Geographical expansion remains a key focus of many of China’s largest law firms, as 17 of the top 30 Chinese firms by revenue opened one or more new offices in the past 18 months.
According to The Lawyer China Top 30 2017 report, China’s 30 largest firms by revenue together generated RMB26bn (£2.9bn) last year, up 29.73 per cent from 2015. National expansion is one of the reasons behind the strong growth and the firms have showed no sign of slowing down.
Yingke, already a legal giant with nearly 5,000 lawyers, opened the largest number of new offices among the group. It has launched nine new offices since the beginning of 2016 and pushed its total number of offices in China to 40. Its chairman Mei Xiangrong sets out a plan to grow the firm to a 10,000-lawyer firm by 2021, the firm’s 20th anniversary.
Grandall comes second with six new offices. The offices were set up mostly through hiring established teams and acquiring small firms from Chinese regional markets. It now has 21 offices and 1,400 lawyers, almost doubling its size since 2011 when it had 712 lawyers.
Shanghai-headquartered AllBright is another active expansionist firm. It added five offices last year, in Hefei, Zhengzhou, Fuzhou, Nanchang and Xi’an respectively. Due to the expansion, it is ranked as the eighth fastest growing firm with an annual turnover increase of 37 per cent. It is also the second fastest growing firm by lawyer headcount, which went up 35 per cent from 1,228 in 2015 to 1,661. Managing partner Wu Mingde said the firm aim to grow the number of offices from 19 to 25 in the next a couple of years.
Some of the red circle firms, which had traditionally been more cautious in expansion than their national rivals, have also launched new offices in the past year.
Most recently, JunHe established its 11th office in Qingdao, Shandong province. The new office, which initially consists of over 10 lawyers, will offer legal services ranging from wealth management, financial services, capital markets, start-up enterprises and shipping.
Managing partner Xiao Wei unveiled that the firm has further plans to expand following two years of focusing on internal reforms and integrations.
“We’ll continue to seek outstanding teams in the fast-developing second-tier cities and bring them on board as an integrated part of the firm,” said Xiao.
The new office launch comes shortly after the firm elected its new management committee. At the beginning of September, the firm’s partners elected a new six-member leadership team, consisting of Xiao Wei, Zhao Xiyong, Ma Hongli, Hua Xiaojun, Zhang Ping and Zhou Hui. Xiao’s relection as the managing partner is a strong indication that the firm’s reforms, such as on its partnership remuneration system that started in 2015, has been given a stamp of approval, as well as partners’ support to the firm’s strategy to expand in the next three years.
Its red circle competitors King & Wood Mallesons and Zhong Lun have also opened a new office recently, in Nanjing and Hangzhou respectively. Zhong Lun is also in the process of setting up a base in Nanjing, the capital city of Jiangsu.
“Jiangsu is the second largest province in China by GPD, just after Guangdong. It’s also home to the largest number of foreign invested enterprises and the newly established circuit court. The region offers great potential for us”, said Zhang Xuebing, Zhong Lun managing partner.
Apart from opportunities for corporate work, Nanjing is equally attractive for litigation practices, particularly following China’s Supreme People’s Court’s decision to set up six circuit courts across the country. Nanjing houses one of the six circuit courts, which will handle major SPC cases arose in five provinces, namely Jiangsu and neighbouring Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Fujian and Shanghai.
|Firm||New domestic openings (2016-17)
|Yingke||Yinchuan, Taiyuan, Nanchang, Wenzhou, Dongguan, Zhuhai, Xi’an, Harbin and Haikou|
|AllBright||Hefei, Zhengzhou, Fuzhou and Nanchang|
|Grandall||Suzhou, Changsha, Taiyuan, Wuhan, Guiyang and Urumqi|
|W&H||Shenyang, and Nanjing|
|Beijing DHH||Chengdu, Guangzhou and Wuhan|
|Tahota||Guiyang and Tianjin|
|Longan||Chengdu, Guiyang, Huzhou and Zhengzhou|
|JunHe||Tianjin and Qingdao|
The Lawyer China Top 30 2017 report will be available to purchase exclusively online from 2 October 2017. Watch this space for further coverage and findings.