In the global legal services market, China has some of the youngest law firms, but also some of the largest. In the past decade, several Chinese corporate law firms have grown into mega-firms with offices in China and abroad, with hundreds or even thousands of lawyers in total. As part of the Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies (GLEE) Project, this study uses the case of China to develop an ecological theory of law firm growth. We argue that law firms exist and interact in an ecological system composed of other law firms. These firms not only compete for clients and business opportunities, but also compete for lawyers and more symbolic things such as size, number of offices, overseas offices, etc. In the struggles for market advantage, law firms develop different models of growth according to their different ecological positions. In this process, some firms become “big but brittle,” whereas others remain “small but beautiful.”

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About the Speaker

Sida Liu is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Faculty Fellow at the American Bar Foundation. He received his LL.B. degree from Peking University Law School and his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago. His current research interests focus on the historical change, social structure, political mobilization, and globalization of the legal profession. He has published articles in the Law & Society Review, Law & Social Inquiry, Wisconsin Law Review, Fordham Law Review, China Quarterly, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, as well as in leading law and social science journals in China. He is the author of two books in Chinese: The Lost Polis: Transformation of the Legal Profession in Contemporary China (Peking University Press, 2008) and The Logic of Fragmentation: An Ecological Analysis of the Chinese Legal Services Market (Shanghai Joint Publishing Co., 2011). He also edited and translated into Chinese The Holmes Reader: Selected Essays and Public Speeches of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Shanghai Joint Publishing Co., 2009).

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