虽然过去的一年里，不少行业都饱受疫情冲击，但入选“2021 ALB China十五佳成长律所”榜单的律所依旧表现出了迅猛的发展势头：律所收费人员数量平均增长近百分之50；办公室平均新增近3家，除了北上广深一线城市，这些律所还在南京、海口、郑州、西安、成都等全国多地布局；招兵买马势必也带来创收的提升，据统计，今年的十五家律所在过去一年中营业额平均增长百分之87。
2021 ALB China Fastest Growing Firms
Amid the COVID chaos of the past year, the firms on the 2021 ALB China Fastest Growing Firms list have seen vigorous growth. On average, the number of billable professionals or fee earners of each firm increased by nearly 50 percent, and each firm opened three new offices. In addition to the first-tier cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the firms have been expanding their presence to other Chinese cities such as Nanjing, Haikou, Zhengzhou, Xi’an and Chengdu. The expansion has brought revenue growth, with statistics showing an average of 87 percent during the past year.
How did these growing firms gain a foothold and expand successfully in China’s increasingly competitive legal industry? What "growing pains" did they go through on the path of development? ALB spoke to the partners of some of those firms to hear their thoughts and reflections.
LARGER TALENT POOL
Founded in 2003, Beijing Docvit Law Firm was one of the law firms in China to first adopt the corporate management system. In the past year, the number of Docvit's billable professionals and fee earners jump from 128 to 269, an increase of 110.16 percent. The new partners that joined the firm last year mainly practice in the areas of banking and finance, government and social organization, family wealth, data compliance and antitrust, asset management, construction engineering, and intellectual property.
Liu Guangchao, director and founding partner of Docvit, tells ALB that the firm follows two principles in talent acquisition and training: A "transitioner" for senior lawyers and a growth accelerator for young lawyers. "For highly experienced lawyers, we implement a '1234' support program for partners and a 'five ones' program for newly promoted partners. Both programs aim to help partners identify the most suitable business areas, the best marketing channels, the best-fit clients, and the most suitable teams to work with in the current market environment. And we run the DOCVIT youth training camp for young lawyers, which opens in the middle of each year, to fully empower young lawyers in terms of specialty, market, and management," says Liu.
Hairun Law Firm, established in 1997, is headquartered in Beijing. In 2020, Hairun made talent recruitment and cultivation its top priority, and hired more than 100 professionals to form an elite team of nearly 500 people, representing a personnel growth of 30 percent. Many of them are outstanding partners and lawyers who are recognized and recommended by legal rankings and media organizations such as Chambers, ALB, CLJB, IFLR1000, Benchmark Litigation, Legalband, and Jiemian, including among others, Zhu Yushuan, Zhou Jinlong, Gao Chao, Zhang Shenghuai, Xing Lixin, Yan Kebing, Zhao Tingkai, Huo Yi, Wang Xiaodong, Tong Shanshan, Guo Jie, and Shan Zhenyu.
Zhou Jinlong, executive director and senior partner of Hairun, says that most of the new partners and lawyers graduate from well-known universities at home and abroad, and many partners had worked with prestige firms for many years before joining Hairun. They have rich experience and profound expertise; and their practice areas cover financial management, financial and commercial affairs, intellectual property, dispute resolution, criminal compliance, construction engineering and infrastructure, involving industries such as entertainment media, real estate, energy, pharmaceutical, finance, culture, and the Internet. "They're experts in their respective fields and have a keen awareness of market changes and the ability to quickly respond to those changes. They're a great asset to Hairun and will help the firm to further entrench its advantages in the corresponding fields," Zhou says.
"We have a well-established employee selection process. And we provide on-the-job training for all lawyers and paralegals after they join the firm. In 2021, we continue the efforts to optimize the division of labour, attract and promote outstanding talent in various practice areas, improve internal management capabilities and service levels, and perfect the firm's business structure to build an interconnected ecosystem within the firm and a good and transparent promotion and development mechanism for partners and lawyers," Zhou adds.
Beijing Javy Law Firm was founded in 1998, with its head office in Beijing. Zhao Zenghai, director of Javy and vice president of the Beijing Lawyers Association, tells ALB: "We have scaled rapidly during the COVID pandemic last year." With about 40 billable professionals and fee earners at Javy in April 2020, the number now has reached over 100, and is still going up steadily. The partners newly joined the firm specialize in practice areas of criminal defence and criminal representation, dispute resolution and litigation, capital market, State-owned capital operations, mergers and acquisitions and reorganizations, enterprise and corporate bonds, private equity funds, major civil and commercial litigation and arbitration, and legal risks and compliance.
Javy adopts an innovative and people-oriented strategy to attract and retain talent – a "zero-cost practice" strategy, that is, all offices and office premises are free to use. Meanwhile, different offices are set with corresponding revenue targets in light of different circumstances. Lawyers can enjoy an independent office area as long as they hit the targets. Lawyers who work at shared office spaces are not set with fee earning targets, Zhao says.
The "zero-cost practice" strategy aims to reduce the burden on lawyers. "Young lawyers who have just joined the profession don't have stable incomes and clients, and have quite some pressures in life. We should give them encouragement and support, and help to reduce the burden on them, so that they can be more concentrated on their cases," says Zhao.
Javy also values the coaching of young lawyers, and implements a talent training program named "golden seedling program" to comprehensively and vigorously train and cultivate young lawyers by means of thinking guidance, business training, and case source sharing. Javy assigns equity senior partners and supervisory lawyers to be the mentors for lawyers and paralegals, and all employees must participate in more than 60 hours of training annually. Every year, Javy holds over ten business exchange meetings and seminars, and sends 30 to 50 employees to attend external training, and three to five employees to study abroad. For new employees, Javy provides pre-job training such as practical and theoretical training, practice discipline and professional ethics training, office skills training, and foreign language training to integrate new hires into the firm and its culture.
Jundu Law Firm, founded in 2001, is headquartered in Beijing. The founding partner of the firm, Tan, Jinghui tells ALB that in the past year, Jundu's billable professionals and fee earners increased from 90 to more than 160, an increase of nearly 80 percent. The new partners mainly specialise in three core business areas of the firm, namely construction and industrial real estate, financial capital, and dispute resolution. Other lawyers newly joined the firm last year include experts in the practice areas of entertainment law and non-performing asset disposal. These new hires help Jundu to provide one-stop legal services for a wider group of clients.
Jundu always welcomes young lawyers to join them, Tan says. "We're willing to create flexible conditions to facilitate the growth of young lawyers, to help them become respected experts in their practice areas. We value the same the career development and personal growth of lawyers. We believe that profound expertise and strong professional skills rule in all circumstances."
MORE CLIENTS, MORE REVENUE
Javy's client groups experienced great expansion along with the increase in the number of employees. "At Javy, each team provides services for clients involving various industries and sectors, including among others government/public affairs, investment and financing/finance, cultural/intellectual property, automobile commerce, and construction engineering. In the context that almost all industries were heavily affected by COVID in 2020, in addition to employee increase, Javy achieved steady revenue growth – a year-on-year growth of over 237.55 percent," Zhao says.
Most of Docvit's new clients include large central enterprises, large state-owned enterprises, financial institutions, asset management institutions, Internet companies, and some large family businesses, Liu tells ALB. "With new lawyers joining the firm, the growth rate of the number of our clients exceeded the growth rate of the number of lawyers. This is mainly because that the new lawyers bring in new clients, leading to client multiplication; and meanwhile, the expansion of the internal market enables partners to further enlarge their client bases," he adds.
Hairun's teams support clients in a variety of industries and sectors, including traditional industries such as real estate, energy and chemical industry, service industry, and manufacturing, as well as emerging and fast-growing sectors such as the Internet, finance, pharmaceutical and medical care, game and media. In spite of the economic downturn last year, Hairun's endogenous growth increased by 40 percent compared with that in 2019, and the revenue generated by senior partners per capita exceeded 10 million yuan ($1.5 million). In 2020, Hairun undertook a total of 16 company listing projects, of which eight have been successfully listed and eight have passed the review. Of the eight successful listing projects, the average fee per project is 6.9618 million yuan, ranking first in the industry in China. In addition, Hairun has undertaken a number of cases worth ten billion yuan, which involve various types such as civil and commercial matters, criminal compliance, arbitration, enforcement, and administration.
"In order to better serve the needs of the economic and market development in the new era, Hairun is committed to promoting business upgrading, and further strengthening the specialization ideology featured hierarchical management, three-dimensional setting, and highly recognizable. We also, in light of the market changes, the development of the legal profession, and the firm's current business classification system, make prudent and practical adjustments, set up a new business and industry classification system, and fully implement the business upgrading plan. By doing so, we further promote the cross-integration of firm's business development with our efforts to dig deep in industries, to provide clients with a higher value-added service experience," Zhou shares.
The current clients of Jundu are mainly central enterprises and large state-owned enterprises, as well as some renowned private enterprises and foreign enterprises, which are mainly engaged in key areas of the national economy such as construction engineering, real estate, financial services, industrial manufacturing, pharmaceutical and medical care, and agriculture. Many of them are leading enterprises in their respective industries, such as China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), Power Construction Corporation of China, China Railway Construction Group, China Construction Communications Engineering Group, China Road and Bridge Corporation, Capital Engineering & Research Incorporation Limited (CERI), State Grid, China Energy Investment, and China National Aviation Fuel Group. "We'll step up efforts to expand our client groups on the basis of the present strong client base, to make contribution to the development of the national economy by providing quality legal services and use legal technology to help our clients improve productivity," Tan says.
COVERING MORE CITIES
Last year, Jundu set up offices in two major coastal cities in China, Haikou, and Guangzhou, and established an overseas office in London through a strategic cooperation agreement with a British law firm. Tan is very pleased with the expansion and says: "Although located in different places, our offices often support and interact with each other in terms of knowledge and experience sharing, business development and brand promotion, talent recruitment and acquisition, and Party construction and public welfare activities, thereby forming a unique competitive advantage."
Docvit opened offices in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Haikou, and Harbin last year. As for the reasons why they set up offices in those four cities, "Shenzhen has been an innovation hub in China, and is the core city of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. We chose to set up an office there because there's a lot of room for future economic growth, scientific and technological growth, financial growth and social growth in the city. Shanghai is a demonstration area for the next round of in-depth reform and opening up, and it's the most important city connecting China with the world. Harbin, as the bridgehead of economic connections in Northeast Asia, has important strategic significance in terms of the geographical location, and there're opportunities for business growth in its legal market. As for Haikou, I believe it's going to be China's 'Cayman (Islands)'," Liu says.
Regarding the relationship between DOCVIT's branch offices and the local law firms, Liu says: "We're convinced that branch offices should be developed in a way of integrating with the local community and serving the local community. We don't go there as a competitor. Instead, we hope that our innovative services would offer more choices for the local clients."
Hairun opened four offices last year, in Chongqing, Dalian, Nanjing, and Zibo. Dalian is among the first batch of coastal cities of China opening up to the outside world and the only port city in Northeast China that is included in the master plan of the Belt and Road initiative, and the local market demand for the related legal services continues growing. By setting up an office there, Hairun is building a stronger presence in Dalian and the Northeast China, and meanwhile sharpens its competitive edge in maritime legal services, Japan related and South Korea-related legal services, and free trade zone legal services. The Nanjing and Shanghai offices will collaborate to integrate legal service resources to contribute to the economic development of the Yangtze River Delta, and meanwhile work together to, relying on geographic advantages, consolidate the firm's advantages in the important business areas such as capital market and high technology.
"The first post-merger of Hairun and Tianrui ‘three-year plan’ was accomplished in 2020. In the same year, we started the business transformation and upgrading reform. Relying on Harun's overall platform advantages and strong talent pool, all of our offices have been strengthening connections and continuously optimizing localized legal services. We'll continue the business expansion and deployment through our offices in Hainan, Hefei and Zibo, to expand our legal service coverage in North China and East China. Through the effective division of labour, the close team collaboration and the resource integration, we help our clients navigate through the fierce market competition," Zhou says.
Javy opened offices in Nanjing and Jinan last year. Furthermore, it's preparing to set up offices in Guangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Jilin, and Chengdu. "The total population of Nanjing and its surrounding areas far exceeds that of Beijing, and the economic activities there are very active, too. Ranking as National Excellent Law Firm by All China Lawyers Association (ACLA) and relying on its geologic advantages – headquartered in Beijing, Javy has gathered outstanding lawyers and enjoys prime external communication channels, these advantages will be conducive to development of our Nanjing Office," Zhao says.
In 2021, Hairun will continue to focus on business development and upgrading, and make comprehensive efforts to improve its service system, planning and capabilities from the aspect of management and support systems, Zhou says. And meanwhile, the firm will continue to acquire talent to strengthen its core competitiveness.
In the process of expansion, Hairun always puts quality first. "Although the larger the size of a firm, the greater the advantage the firm will have in terms of market influence and talent acquisition, we always value service quality over other factors," Zhou says. In 2021, Hairun focuses on building teams specializing in areas such as asset management and entertainment. The firm will also continue to provide quality legal services and improve customer experience through better division of work and efficient collaboration. Furthermore, Hairun will ensure that the business management, procedure and risk control of branch offices are consistent with those of the headquarters, so as to guarantee service quality and expand brand influence through an integrated management model, and meanwhile enhance its reputation in the industry, and maintain stable and endogenous growth.
Zhou also points out that it needs to use objective, scientific, and quantitative standards to evaluate and measure the systems for hiring, billable hours and remuneration. "By implementing a work pattern of partner + senior lawyers + young lawyers, we create a work environment in the firm where all our lawyers can share their ideas about projects or cases openly, and partners and lawyers encourage each other, and become each other's helper. With a well-established evaluation system and a transparent promotion and development mechanism for partners and lawyers, we are committed to giving our lawyers supports from both legal service aspect and business development aspect, so as to build an interconnected ecosystem within the firm," Zhou says.
Jundu's culture includes the vision of "being a top-tier law firm with its own unique characteristics" and the core values of "digging deep in the industry", Tan tells ALB. "Our firm's culture is not an illusory concept. We practice our core values in every management action, every market activity, and every talent acquisition. Guided by the core values, we'll continue to expand on the premise of ensuring service quality. We plan to double the number of expert lawyers in construction engineering, financial capital and dispute resolution in the next one to two years. At the same time, we also welcome like-minded reputable lawyers specialized in other practice areas to join us."
Javy has formulated a five-year plan for 2021-2025 in an attempt to become among "the large top-tier comprehensive law firms in China, with its own characteristics in terms of specialized practice areas and management, and continuous innovation." Zhao says. "'Top-tier law firm in China' means to meet standards for excellent firms set by the Ministry of Justice or the AllChina Lawyers Association, and be rated as the National Excellent Law Firm. It's a goal with objective standards, and meanwhile a dynamic goal since the standards for national excellent law firms continue to increase along with the advancement of the industry. Therefore, we won't be satisfied with achieving this goal at a certain point of time, and then stop there. We'll continue to make steady progress.
"'Large' means to rapidly grow bigger and stronger through merger and alliance with domestic and foreign law firms. We plan to become among the top ten largest firms in China in three years, and to build a global legal service network and become a globalized firm in five years. 'Comprehensive' means to consolidate our business base and meanwhile build teams specialized in a variety of practice areas,” says Zhao. “With our own characteristics in terms of business areas' means to develop the firm's pillar business areas and emerging business areas.” The pillar business areas are those that ensure the firm has stable incomes, while the emerging business areas are those that we have a leading position in China, set an example in the legal profession, and are able to drive the development of Javy.
"'Management characteristics' involve several dimensions: (1) to embody broad and extensive democracy, enabling all lawyers to participate in the management of the firm; (2) to establish a complete and rigorous system to manage all work processes of the firm according to norms and standards; and (3) to fully adopt information technology in management and digitalize all standards by using digital and information tools," Zhao explains.
For Docvit, a moderate scale is the core of its expansion plan, and high-quality expansion is its goal for future growth. "Whether it is moderate scale or high-quality expansion, our original intention will never change: we do everything for our clients, and our lawyers," Liu says.
In January, Docvit released its "five-year plan" for 2021-2025. About the scale development, the plan covers five aspects: (1) the number of employees exceeds 1,000, and the firm becomes a well-known medium or large-sized law firm in China in terms of the number of employees; (2) to have more than 20 offices in key cities in China; (3) the revenue scale exceeds one billion yuan, and to form a business layout with stable business and distinctive characteristics; (4) to have over 5,000 clients, and form regional systems of clients around China; and (5) to build over 30 collaboration systems, form industrialized development and build cross-industry platforms.
"By expansion, Docvit is committed to becoming a top-notch law firm in China in the next five years and building an operational, R&D, service, and technology-based law firm with corporate innovation as the core," Liu says.
（按律所名称排序 In alphabetical order）
Beijing Docvit Law Firm
Duan & Duan Law Firm
Faxian Law Firm
Guangdong Lianyue Law Firm
Hai Run Law Firm
HanSheng Law Offices
Hunan Tiandiren Law Firm
Beijing Javy Law Firm
Jin Mao Law Firm
Jundu Law Firm
Shaanxi Jiaxuan Law Firm
Shanghai Yingdong Law Firm
Sunhold Law Firm