法律与创新 / Law and Innovation
China Law Blog最近就国务院新闻办公室发布的《中国的司法改革》白皮书中的某些内容展开了讨论。
China Law Blog建议企业界不要对在中国的法律风险和诉讼案件掉以轻心。按照传统思维，人们往往认为在中国被起诉的可能性不大。
China Law Blog指出，中国法官的增长速度要落后于注册律师。目前，中国共有法官20万名，几乎和10年前的数字完全相同。
Law and Innovation
The China Law Blog recently discussed some of the findings contained in the State Council Information Office's "White Paper on Judicial Reform in China".
One fact which struck me was the increase in the number of registered lawyers in China : 210,000 today, as compared with 110,000 just ten years ago, and a paltry 200 twenty years ago.
That's an impressive increase. On further reflection, it makes sense, given the huge changes in China's domestic and international commercial environment during this period, as well as the rapid development of new domestic (commercial as well as civil) laws and regulations.
The China Law Blog advises businesses not to be complacent regarding the risk of litigation and law suits in China. Traditionally, the risk of being sued here was considered to be relatively low.
That's gradually changing, with the assistance of China's 18,000-plus law firms, which handled 2.3 million cases of litigation in 2011. That means the probability of being sued in China is higher than in Japan or Korea.
China has a long way to go in matching the U.S. for lawyers and litigation. According to the American Bar Association, the U.S. has 1.1 million lawyers, or roughly 1 lawyer for every 300 people. (Many Americans argue that we have too many lawyers and have become an overly litigious society.)
According to The China Law Blog, the rapid growth in registered lawyers in China has not been matched by an increase in the number of serving judges. There are 200,000 judges working in China today, which is about the same number as ten years ago.
Despite the dramatic increase in caseloads that China's judges are coping with, there have been some process improvements to assist them, including more clarifications and guidelines on the applications of civil law issued by the Supreme People's Court and other high courts; and a more advanced case management system which speeds the pace of lawsuits proceeding to trial. There has also been progress in execution and enforcement of judgments, although there is still plenty of room for improvement on this front.
Execution and enforcement of appropriate judgments and penalties has long been a bone of contention in cases in China involving alleged intellectual property rights infractions.
This has been a weak link, which undermines the overall effort to improve China's intellectual property rights (IPR) regime. A solid IPR protection environment is crucial to spur more investment in research and development (R&D), which in turn is essential to promote a rich national culture of innovation.
Achieving a higher-level and broader-based climate of innovation in China is a complex long-term goal, but protecting companies' and individual's IPR is an essential part of the way forward.
Meanwhile, in tiny Hong Kong, figures as of late 2011 stated the number of practicing solicitors as slightly more than 7,000, with 1,100 barristers and 1,300 registered foreign lawyers qualified to practice in 28 different jurisdictions around the world.
Hong Kong did not really begin to produce home-grown lawyers until the 1970s when Hong Kong University established its faculty of law.
The current universe of legal practitioners in Hong Kong is a thorough mix of local and international talent, which is a key asset supporting Hong Kong's robust rule of law environment, independent judiciary, and thriving status as an international financial center.
According to the Basic Law, only the top judge in the Court of Final Appeal and the High Court must be Hong Kong Chinese. Other judges can be citizens of any nation well-versed in the common law, which forms the basis of Hong Kong's legal system. Currently, 10 out of 15 non-permanent judges on the Court of Final Appeal come from other common law jurisdictions such as Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
As a footnote on the legal profession generally, it's interesting to note that 60% of Hong Kong's solicitors are female, as opposed to only 25% in the U.S.
I don't have statistics on the gender ratio among China's 210,000 lawyers, but my anecdotal experience suggests it would be closer to Hong Kong's (ie 60% female) rather than to the US ratio (only 25% female).