lawyers


lawyers
Once reviled as lackeys of the capitalist class, lawyers have not only come to enjoy high socioeconomic status, but are viewed as central to developing China’s market economy and the rule of law. At the beginning of the Reform Era, China had fewer than 3,000 lawyers, all employed by the state. Two decades later, over 110,000 lawyers worked in 10,000 law firms, most of which were private, primarily partnerships and cooperatives. As indicative of a new profession, although the number of law schools jumped to over a hundred in the 1990s, few lawyers attended law school; the largest segment only had a junior college degree in law.
Lawyers have both fed and taken advantage of a growing litigiousness among the populace, as lawsuits have become more common in the context of a weakening system of informal mediation in the workplace and neighbourhood. There has been an explosion of cases in contracts, intellectual property rights, consumer protection, foreign investment and trade, and family law. The legal profession, however, faces major problems.
Criminal defence lawyers have difficulty seeing state evidence before trial, are often not allowed to fully question witnesses, and are themselves beaten or arrested. Verdicts are commonly politically directed. Not surprisingly, few criminal defendants have counsel. Lawyers also often use bribes and connections to obtain favourable rulings. And although there were over a hundred foreign law firms operating in China at the turn of the century, they are confined to foreign-related legal issues and cannot represent clients in court or administrative hearings.
Alford, W. (2002). ‘Of Lawyers Lost and Found: Searching for Legal Professionalism in the People’s Republic of China’. In A.Rosett, L.Cheng and M.Y.K.Woo (eds), East Asian Law: Universal Norms and Local Cultures. London: RoutledgeCurzon.
SCOTT KENNEDY

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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