At a moment when law firms worldwide are besieged by a shared sense of crisis, how are international law firms faring in China? Drawing on a mix of qualitative and quantitative data collected in 2013, this talk will present the first comprehensive overview of the field, including information about the global mix of players, the size of their China practices, and variation in market niche. What emerges is extraordinary convergence on one business model: an outpost office with a median size of ten lawyers responsible for under five percent of firm revenue. At least at present, the experiences of international law firms in China illustrate the limits of interconnection far more than the explosive growth potential of emerging markets. The presence of over two hundred international law offices in China—and their difficulties growing beyond a certain size—illustrates the strength of hype, the constraints of partnership, and the ongoing power of the Chinese state to shape the legal services market.

About the Speaker

Rachel Stern is an assistant professor of law and political science at the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at Berkeley Law. She is the author of Environmental Litigation in China: A Study in Political Ambivalence (Cambridge University Press 2013) and a former Junior Fellow at the Harvard University Society of Fellows. Earlier articles on law, social activism and environmental issues in China and Hong Kong have appeared in Comparative Political Studies, Law and Policy, China Quarterly and other journals.

Feb. 11, 2014, 2:30–4:00 p.m., LAW 3500

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