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Legal profession is undergoing fundamental changes; and this is the case not just in established legalmarkets. Based on a state-of-the-art sketch, this paper identifies and analyzes the latest innovation initiatives and alternative business models in China’s legal profession. It finds that, propelled by the market demands and benefiting from technological advancements, the provision of legal services has become highly versatile today, giving rise to various alternative service providers, especially the rapidly rising online legal service portals. Because they are technically not law firms, the exclusivity requirements on lawyer ownership and legalservice provision are not applicable to them. In the meantime, the competition for large corporate clients and lucrative business transactions is fierce and will continue to be so, not only within the club of big Chinese corporate law firms, but also between Chinese law firms and international law firms globally. In this course, some leading big corporate law firms in China are observed to have creatively incorporated key corporate features in running their business and compensating their partners, effectively deviating from the partnership pure legal services regulation. Such market realities question the necessity and effect of the regulatory restrictions on law firm legal form and ownership structure, and calls for an agenda for related research in the future.

Jing Li – Tilburg University, Department of Business Law

Full Paper Available Here