photo by yeowatzup
post by Dr. Lisa Rohrer, Executive Director of the Case Development Initiative at Harvard Law School
CDI is pleased to announce the publication of its first case on the Chinese legal market: Tiantong & Partners: Transforming Litigation in China, co-authored by Ashish Nanda, Director of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) and HLS Distinguished Executive Education Fellow and Lisa Rohrer of CDI. The case, jointly published with IIMA, depicts an unusual Chinese litigation firm that while small in number of lawyers, is big on ambition. The founder of the firm, Jiang Yong, is a former judge of the Chinese Supreme Court and founded the firm with the goal to improve the litigation system in China. Many Chinese lawyers, Jiang says, do not want to become involved in litigation and the Chinese public views it with suspicion, yet it is an important component of the justice system. “When a society develops following the principle of rules of law,” he says in the case, “litigation as a practice must also develop.”
But Jiang does not stop with simply representing clients in important cases before Chinese courts. What makes Tiantong an interesting case study is how Jiang is pursuing his larger mission to improve the Chinese litigation system. By leveraging technology such as social media (Tiantong’s WeChat app connects lawyers across the legal profession and the firm estimates that 50% of all practicing lawyers in China were followers) and knowledge management tools, Tiantong is a fascinating blend of old and new China. The lawyers, who are situated in a traditional Chinese residence in the heart of Beijing, sit just a short walk away from an airy, modern loft that houses programmers and technicians, working on cutting-edge technology designed to improve knowledge sharing across the profession through case research tools made freely available to other practitioners.
The case provokes interesting questions about the evolution of litigation in China, with potential implications for other emerging legal systems. In addition, it asks readers to consider how far a small firm can take a platform designed to level the playing field for litigators across the country while still remaining profitable and focused on serving its clients. With the Chinese legal profession rising quickly to compete with western firms, this tale of old and new provides an additional perspective on this important market and on the evolution of justice in a society of over 1.3 billion people.