Hangzhou is bursting with tech potential, so what hurdles are preventing law firms from reaching their full potential? Frankie Wang reports

Hangzhou, in the Yangtze River Delta region, is a city perched on the cutting edge of the world’s digital revolution. With several high-tech giants including Alibaba sitting within its boundaries, Hangzhou achieved a GDP of RMB1.05 trillion (US$149.18 billion) in the first three quarters of this year. Technology and artificial intelligence has also turned this city into a top competitor for the title of “China’s Silicon Valley”, along with Shenzhen.

But while it is bursting with new waves of innovation within its infrastructure and planning, has the development of the legal industry been keeping pace?

Hangzhou is the provincial capital and the economic, cultural and political centre of Zhejiang province, which is fuelled by private enterprise as the main force in its economic development. According to Shen Tianfeng, the chairman of the Hangzhou Lawyers Association and managing partner in the Hangzhou office of Grandall Law Firm, Hangzhou has about 10 law firms that each boast more than 100 practising lawyers. At the end of June 2019, the city had 533 law firms and 8,607 lawyers (see table below).

Shen says that the services of Hangzhou lawyers also cover Zhejiang. “We feel that the development of the lawyer profession in Zhejiang is fast and stable, mainly due to the rigid demand for legal services by private enterprises in Zhejiang,” he says.

Zhang Zhenyu, a partner in the Hangzhou office of Zhong Lun Law Firm, says Zhejiang, especially Hangzhou, has a relatively developed private economy different from that of Shanghai and Beijing. “Shanghai has a lot of foreign-related business involving many multinational clients,” says Zhang. “Most clients in Beijing are from state-owned enterprises, central enterprises and government departments. Zhejiang’s private economy, especially private listed companies, are the focus of our services.”

A table of number of law firms and number of lawyers from 2014-2019.06

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