By the end of 2019, there were more than 473 thousand practicing lawyers in China, an increase of 11.8% over 2018. This is the 6th consecutive year that the Chinese lawyer profession has maintained rapid growth.
The data come from the article published by the Ministry of Justice on its official website on 20 June 2020. Also according to the article, there are more than 32 thousand law firms in China.
The upward trend can be seen clearly from the table below. The total number of lawyers were around 204 thousand by the end of 2010, and had reached nearly 300 thousand by the end of 2015. It took five years for the number to increase from 200 thousand to 300 thousand, while it only took less than three years to increase from 300 thousand to 400 thousand. Especially since 2018, it has maintained an annual increase of 50,000 for two consecutive years.
This rapid increasing trend is due to the promotion of China’s Ministry of Justice. On 11 Jan. 2019, the Ministry of Justice published the “Outline of Comprehensively Deepen the Reform of Judicial Administration”(全面深化司法行政改革纲要(2018-2022)) .
According to the Outline, the total number of lawyers nationwide is expected to reach 620 thousand in 2022, and the number of lawyers per 10,000 citizens will reach 4.2.
When the outline was released in early 2019, there were 423 thousand Chinese lawyers. This means that the Ministry of Justice hopes that the number of Chinese lawyers will increase by nearly 200 thousand in four years, with an increase of 46.6%.
It also implies that once the goal is achieved, the number of Chinese lawyers will increase from 250 thousand in 2013 to 620 thousand in 2022, with an increase of 147.64% in the ten years.
Needless to say, this is a very ambitious plan.
To my knowledge, the Ministry of Justice’s main method to achieve the goal is to largely increase the pass rate of the national uniform legal professional qualification examination. The number of applicants for the exam had reached 600,000 in 2019, which provided a large team of candidates for the lawyer profession.
Once there are so many lawyers in China, it will surely promote the access to justice for Chinese citizens. We are also looking forward to seeing how these new lawyers will change Chinese society.
It is worth noticing that, as of now, there is still a 147-thousand-gap to reach the goal. In other words, we will need 50,000 new lawyers each year in the coming three years. Under the COVID-19 epidemic and economic situation, we have certain doubts about whether this goal can be achieved as scheduled. We will continue to pay attention to this issue.
Photo by zhang kaiyv (https://unsplash.com/@zhangkaiyv) on Unsplash