The challenge in the digital economy age
Date: 2021-03-09 Viewed:168

It brings unprecedented opportunities for the development of lawyer industry with the advance of law-based governance and the coming of an era of mobile internet. The mode of lawyers work is changing from the craftsman style and workshop style to the large-scale, integrated and standardized style.  The government or the relevant authorities should increase policy support for the industry, ease industry access, orderly guide or release of resources to promote industry development.Sun Zaichen, the founding partner of the Winteam 500 and the principal of the headquarter, said in the interview with a reporter from "Economic Information Daily" .

Sun Zaichen, who has worked as public security personnel and lawyer for more than ten years, has a unique feeling for the lawyers practice. He established the Winteam 500 in 2013. After seven-year development, Winteam 500 has already owned more than five hundred law firms and  been responsible for the business of more than one hundred countries and areas, which include legal training, e-contract, cultural and creative products, lawyer museum, etc.. He is trying to create a legal ecological platform.

Law firm industry has vast space for development

From a national perspective, the promotion of law-based governance is becoming a profound change in national governance, and the team of lawyers is growing into a significant force in the law-based governance. From the industry perspective, until now there are about 500000 lawyers practicing in our country. There will be more than 1000000 people by 2030. Relative to the population base of 1.4 billion, the quantity of lawyers is still very small, and the development of law firms is still relatively extensive. So the future market space is huge." Sun Zaichen told to the reporter.

On June 22, 2020, the Ministry of Justice released data showing that, until the end of 2019, there were more than 473,000 practicing lawyers nationwide and more than 32,000 law firms in total. In terms of the size of law firms, there are more than 21000 law firms, which account for 65.57%, have less than 10 lawyers; 21.06% of law firms have 11 to 20 lawyers; and 10.48% of law firms have 21 to 50 lawyers; 1.90% of law firms with 51 to 100 lawyers, and only 0.99% of law firms with 100 or more lawyers.

"From the perspective of scale, the development of the lawyer industry is relatively backward, which mainly reflect on lacking unified operation, brand awareness, long-term strategy, and integration capabilities. Small and medium-sized firms are unable to put sufficient manpower, material and financial for branding, operation, informatization, marketing, and training. So they fall into the dilemma of small and medium law firms. Even for some large law firms, most of them focus on business rather than management, and there is no corresponding accumulation and investment for branding and scale. The management level and digital level of the entire industry are relatively low . This is the market and space I see." Sun Zaichen said.

If the mode of lawyers work was craftsman style and workshop style in the past, we believe that the lawyers and the legal industry in the future will develop in large-scale, integration and standardization. "Sun Zaichen said confidently.

According to the reporter, Yinghe Law Firm is ready for future development. In terms of platform layout, they are going to create borderless law firms which involve both domestic and international businesses. At the end of 2014, Yinghe had only 20 member law firms. At the end of 2017, Yinghe had more than 100 member law firms. After seven-year development, Yinghe got great achievements which other law firms should take more than ten years to get. At present, Yinghe has more than 500 law firms worldwide with more than 10,000 professional lawyers. In addition, Yinghes business covers various fields in more than 100 countries and regions . A global legal service system has been initially formed.

In terms of legal technology, offline and online integration is a new legal service model. The KindleLaw 2.0 version has been launched, with the large data volume of 100 million, leading the entire industry and becoming a lawyer's case handling tool, law firm management software, business collaboration platform, and the support of case distribution and resource integration. It opens up new channels for the future development of law firms.

 In terms of business ecology, law and business are integrated as cross-border integration. Yinghe platform has incubated a number of ecological projects such as Fadada, Wei'an Legal Finance, Original Treasure, etc., and obtained more than 1 billion yuan from Tencent, Youngor, Tiger Fund, Saima Capital, etc. The best financing ability and capital endorsement of the legal service industry provide more possibilities for Yinghe's development.

Opportunities and challenges coexist in the digital economy era

With the coming of the Mobile Internet era, emerging technologies such as Mobile Internet, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, and the Internet of Things have been widely used. Building a "Digital China" and developing big data have become national strategies. "At this stage of social development, the organizational forms, customer needs, and the cognition and living habits of the general public are constantly adjusting and changing, prompting the service model of the law firm industry to keep pace with the times and make comprehensive adjustment. That contains both opportunities and challenges." Sun Zaichen said.

One of the challenges is that with the popularity of the Internet, the number of online disputes has increased. "Customers often ask if there are lawyers who provide legal services for Internet companies, but the reality is that many lawyers even do not understand the Internet model and cannot meet the needs of their clients. This directly exposes the shortcomings of the lawyer industry in terms of on-the-job education. But on the other hand, It also shows that there are great market opportunities in on-the-job training and law firm development.Sun Zaichen said.

Because the offline arbitration process is cumbersome and complicated, time-consuming and costly, the demand for online arbitration has increased sharply. In recent years, Internet courts have been established in Hangzhou, Beijing, Guangzhou and other places. One-click arbitrationand remote trials have been widely used.

According to data from the Supreme People's Court , until August 31, 2020, Internet courts had accepted 222,473 cases and closed 194,697 cases. The online case filing application rate was 99.7%, and the online trial rate was 98.9%. The average trial duration was 29 minutes, which was higher than the average offline trial. It saves about three-quarters of time compared to offline litigation.

All the legal processes in the Internet court are generally completed online, which is equivalent to that the legal services provided by lawyers are all digitized. But in reality, the level of digitalization and overall operation and management is still relatively low, so there is plenty of room for improvement in the future." Sun Zaichen pointed out.

So how can law firms seize the opportunities of the era and achieve high-quality development? Sun Zaichen told reporters, "The law firm industry needs to further adjust and upgrade in terms of operation management, organizational change, technology support, and job training. Offline and online, law plus technology, platform and technology are the infrastructures of Yinghe and even the lawyer industry. Only on this basis can there be products, businesses and content."

To increase policy incentives and to promote industry openness

"Facing the huge space and opportunities, it is a major trend that the law firms will become bigger and stronger in the future. The competent department should make more efforts in formulating industry rules, maintaining order, strengthening supervision, and grasping industry boundaries.Sun Zaichen thinks.

"According to the regulations, a law firm can only be a professional service organization that does not have corporate capacity. The law firm is not registered in the Industrial and Commercial Bureau and cannot obtain a business license but the "Practice Permit" issued by the provincial and municipal judicial departments. This  will block some resources out of the door. It is not conducive to the further expansion and strength of the law firm." Sun Zaichen said.

In fact, in the recent two years, fees for lawyers have been liberalized in many places across the country, and barriers to entry have been relaxed. Among them, in order to promote market competition and stimulate market vitality, on July 1, 2019, Shandong Province liberalized the charging standards of lawyer service fees and basic legal service fees, and no longer implemented government guidance prices.

On October 1, 2019, the "Regulations on Lawyers in the Hainan Special Economic Zone" was formally implemented. One of the highlights of this Regulations" is to further ease the access of the Hainan lawyer industry and increase the degree of openness to the outside world. In addition to practicing lawyers, other professionals such as certified public accountants and registered tax officers are allowed to become partners of special general partnership law firms; qualified law firms are encouraged to implement corporate management; Hong Kong, Macao and foreign law firmsrepresentative offices in Hainan are allowed to engage in commercial non-litigation legal affairs and conduct joint operation of law firms, etc.

Sun Zaichen said that Relevant authorities should ease industry access on a wider scale. Business operation itself is not a bad thing, but it is important to have responsible and sentimental people to do it, and then discuss the business model on this premise.

A lot of people think that lawyer is only who gives court debates and writes legal instruments. Cant the people who provide legal services as immigration, counseling or helping company to be listed be lawyers?Sun Zaichen asked in reply. In his opinion,The practice scope of lawyers should be further expanded. On the other hand, more people and resources should be brought in to promote the development of lawyer industry. The high-quality development of the lawyer industry represents that the private rights of people have been more protected, and the country's rule of law has been improved.

This is a stage of mobile internet where is full of unprecedented opportunities for the development of lawyer industry. Thats why it is worth the effort of our generation. Doing some small things to promote social development and the progress of the countrys rule of law with our professional expertise is more valuable than how much counsel fees we earn.At the end of the interview, Sun Zaichen said with emotion.

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