2020 ALB China Fastest Growing Firms
The accomplishments of this year's Fastest Growing Firms in China can be characterized by stronger and expanded teams, business growth, expansion into the western and southern parts of China, and revenue boost. These firms actively recruit talented people to strengthen their teams, while maintaining the efficient operation of the teams with a smart management model. While continuing to work hard in the traditional business, they strive to explore new fields to provide strong legal support to more clients. By expanding their presence in West China and South China, they continue to perfect a service network covering the whole country. Thanks to these strategic arrangements, these firms have gained the trust of more clients, and achieved remarkable revenue. We congratulate the firms that made the list year for their outstanding achievements.
The Fastest Growing Firms this year have shown stunning growth rates in multiple facets. In terms of the teams, most firms had over 20 percent growth in fee-earners, and remarkably expanded their teams. In terms of practice areas, all law firms add new areas to their practice area lists, while capital market, finance, medical care, compliance, high technology, and intellectual property are the hot areas for business expansion. In terms of geographic expansion, there is clear trend showing that the firms on the list this year are expanding towards West China or South China over the past 12 months. For example, Beijing DHH Law Firm opened four new offices, one in West China (Xi'an), and two in South China (Foshan and Nanchang); Duan & Duan opened three offices, one in South China (Ningbo), and one in West China (Taiyuan); and HanSheng Law Offices opened two offices in South China (Changsha and Shenzhen), and one in West China (Shihezi). In terms of revenue, the growth figures in this year's Fastest Growing Firms revenues are even more exciting. Most firms on the list saw over 40 percent revenue growth, and among them Hai Run Law Firm recorded 90 percent revenue growth.
We spoke to some of the firms that made the list about their achievements and successful experiences, their current positioning, and future prospects.
ACHIVEMENTS AND PROGRESS
Talking about the growth of their firms in recent years, the lawyers share with us the firms' outstanding achievements in many aspects.
First, in terms of the number of employees, Ding Zhenbo, senior partner at HanSheng Law Offices, says that HanSheng continues to absorb talented people. For example, HanSheng's Shanghai head office ranked among the top 10 law firms in Shanghai by the number of employees for three consecutive years. Meanwhile, HanSheng has further improved the performance evaluation mechanism and employee promotion policy to appropriately allocate internal sources of personnel promotion and give more support to young lawyers in terms of professional development and resources.
Zhu Ning, the director of Chance Bridge Partners, shares with us that 29 lawyers joined Chance Bridge last year. While actively recruiting new talent, Chance Bridge also offers young lawyers opportunities for professional growth and development, two young lawyers were promoted to partners in January this year.
Hai Run Law Firm continues to expand its team of lawyers. According to Luo Huiyuan, the director of Hai Run, 83 professionals joined Hai Run last year. Now the firm has an elite team of over 300 lawyers.
Secondly, in terms of areas of practice and business development, Ding says that HanSheng continues to build an efficient and professional business platform and talent cultivation mechanism to support the development of its core business areas. With the establishment of an internal professional committee, more talented people are attracted to HanSheng. Furthermore, the firm is playing a more active role in academic and business exchange activities, and has built close cooperative relations with many key universities and institutions at home and abroad.
Luo says that Hai Run has achieved breakthrough growth in the areas of securities, capital market, bankruptcy and dispute resolution after the merger with Tianrui Law Firm. Now the firm has a securities team of 120 to 130 people, and its ranking in this area has been moving up year by year. In the area of bankruptcy, Hai Run came top in terms of the comprehensive score of bankruptcy mangers according to a ranking by Beijing High Court last year. The firm also made progress in areas of banking, commercial dispute resolution and intellectual property in terms of size and quality.
Zhu tells us that Chance Bridge has made remarkable progress in its core areas of practice, capital market and finance. "Since last year, we have provided professional services for several major commercial banks, including China Construction Bank, China CITIC Bank, and Minsheng Bank, as well as trust companies, securities companies, and asset management companies. And we have made great breakthroughs in capital market, banking and finance related dispute resolutions," Zhu says.
On the basis of its existing business, Chance Bridge is also actively exploring new areas of practice through the introduction of external specialty teams and integration of internal team to meet the needs of clients, and has make substantial achievements. Its new areas of practice include dispute resolution in the banking and financial sector, cross-border compliance, cross-border dispute resolution, financial derivatives, antitrust, and bond default disposal.
And thirdly, regarding the expansion of law firms, Luo says that Hai Run has opened offices in Tianjin, Chongqing and Shenzhen in recent years, and the building of offices in Nanjing, Dalian and Zibo is in process. "In the next two to three years, we hope to establish our presence in major central cities or major regions of the country," Luo says.
HanSheng is expanding domestically and internationally. "HanSheng has been steadily advancing its domestic and international expansion, and has made important progress in international business development. We have set up four overseas offices in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, having basically realized the coverage of global legal services and the effective allocation of legal resources," Ding says.
Chance Bridge did not launch new offices in the past 12 months, but it already has plans. Zhu says that Chance Bridge will start the establishment of Shanghai and Hainan offices this year and plans to open Shenzhen office in the second half of next year. Furthermore, Chance Bridge has joined the Alliott Group, becoming the first Chinese mainland law firm member of the alliance, to actively lay the foundation for setting up offices abroad in the future and actively develop international cooperation.
In addition to the above three aspects, Luo also shares with us Hai Run's achievements in brand building and business management.
"Hai Run did very well in increasing its brand awareness in recent years. The firm often appears in rankings done authoritative organizations, and meanwhile has established a good reputation in the industry. In terms of standardized business management, we have built a set of complete systems, including internal risk control, internal audit, personnel management, and financial management. Hai Run is growing for a boutique firm to a comprehensive large firm," Luo says.
Given the increasingly intense competition in the market today, it is not easy to achieve such rapid development. Looking back on how they have made those achievements, the lawyers share with us a few factors that are vital to growing law firms:
1. Good business practices
"Businesses are the basis of a law firm. To grow rapidly, you must have competitive advantages in at least one or two practice areas," Luo says. He believes that the good business practices are the only approach for a firm to build a good reputation, and then to attract more talent.
2. Unity and harmonious relationships in the workplace
In Luo's view, it is particularly important for a law firm if its partners have harmonious working relationships and share the same business philosophy. "When we recruit a partner, one of the important criteria is whether he shares the same business philosophy with us, and whether he advocates harmonious relationships in workplace. Partners of a firm should maintain harmonious working relationships, so that they can truly work closely together to do business well and make the firm bigger and stronger," Luo points out.
Zhu echoes Luo's opinion and she believes that the high cohesion of teams is one of the strong impetuses driving the rapid growth of Chance Bridge in recent years. "Team cohesiveness and acceptance of the same development direction make partners and lawyers remain committed to the development of the business and the firm. A growing law firm must have a 'soul' and cohesiveness, and partners and lawyers should agree on the future development direction and work closely together to achieve satisfactory results," Zhu says.
3. Recruiting talented people
For a growing law firm, its core practice area needs to develop well and quickly, which largely depends on the joining of outstanding talent. "One of the reasons why Hai Run has been growing so fast in recent years is that it has absorbed a number of excellent partners. Hai Run already laid a solid foundation in its securities, banking and bankruptcy businesses. The joining of new partners is like 'adding wings to a tiger' and icing on the cake," Luo says.
4. Law firm branding
"A good reputation also contributes to the rapid growth of Hai Run. We did not do a lot in the past to get market publicity for our firm. Our business philosophy is putting our clients first and dedicating ourselves to ensuring our clients are successful. Our high-quality services have won us a good reputation in the industry, and created strong customer stickiness. Many clients have worked with us for more than ten years, which shows the importance of a good brand reputation for the growth of law firms."
5. A management system combining scale and quality
One of the major challenges facing many growing firms is how to remain as specialized firms and maintain service quality while growing in size. "To better serve our clients, a law firm needs to have an appropriate scale, so as to ensure that there are enough people to meet the comprehensive needs of clients. Meanwhile, it is a big challenge for managing partners with the increase in the number of staff and the expansion of teams," Zhu says.
To address this challenge, Zhu set up a more stable management structure by implementing clearer work norms and a stricter work quality review system, to maintain the professional levels of the teams and ensure quality services while expanding the firm to an appropriate size.
"As long as we can meet the needs of most of our clients, it should be the right size for us. At Chance Bridge, we won't expand 'blindly'. We believe that whether we can provide specialized and quality services to clients is the most important criterion measuring our success," Zhu says.
Luo agrees with Zhu and says: "In the process of expansion, good services for clients always come first. It is true that a bigger firm might have better exposure and could attract more talent, but for us, providing quality services is always our top priority." Hai Run will slow down the expansion in launching new offices this year. The firm will ensure the business management, processes and risk control of branch offices and the head office synchronized and consistent through an integrated management model to guarantee the quality of the services.
The firms we spoke to already have a clear positioning of themselves. "Specialization and talent are the basis of our firm," Ding says. "While expanding in size, HanSheng attaches importance to the development of practice areas and fostering of talent, to ensure and improve our service quality. And we'll make full use of our competitive edges to build our brand value and a good reputation in the market."
Hai Run is relatively large law firm undergoing rapid growth and development. "We've experienced an accelerated growth in recent years, especially firm’s standardized management and IT construction. Our goal for the future is to reach a healthy and sustainable development, which give us constant motivation to keep moving forward," Luo says.
Zhu summarizes the current positioning of Chance Bridge from several aspects: "From a market perspective, Chance Bridge is still quite young, like a 'newbie', and needs to learn from the top-tier firms in many aspects. Regarding specialized areas of practice, we could say that Chance Bridge is a rising star; we have a high positioning for ourselves in terms of expertise, capabilities and customer services, as well as the international presence. And about management, Chance Bridge has an open mind and is willing to learn from domestic and international firms to form our own management style and model with Chance Bridge's characteristics."
Looking ahead, Ding says that "HanSheng will stick to the development strategy of expansion in scale, specialization and internationalization, with equal emphasis on 'quantity' and 'quality'. And we'll continue to optimized our management model, enhance the cohesiveness of the firm, and develop steadily towards the goal of building a prestigious, specialized and strong international law firm."
Hai Run's goal is to be among the first-tier domestic large firms in China within the next three to five years. "It is not only about the number of employees and revenue, more importantly, we want to be comparable with the top-tier firms on the management level and service quality," Luo says. "We will also work to expand our brand's influence and to become a higher reputable firm in the industry."
Chance Bridge is committed to establishing itself in China and meanwhile expanding its international presence. The firm will adopt a development strategy featured providing clients with high-quality specialized services, appropriately expanding in size, and striving to be among the top firms in its core areas of practice, so as to win recognition and trust of clients and in the industry, Zhu says.
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