Data recently released by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) shows that Chinese lawyers provided free legal services for the country's disadvantaged people in over 1.081 million cases last year.
They also served as legal counsels for over 600,000 villages and urban communities across the country by setting up more than 270,000 groups on WeChat, the most popular mobile messenger app in China, where they can counsel people online.
Overall, Chinese lawyers provided over 1.272 million pieces of legal services in the public interest last year, including providing legal aid, handling public complaints and proposals, mediating disputes and participating in urban management authorities' law enforcement activities.
To increase lawyers' participation in public legal services, the MOJ specified in October that each lawyer was encouraged to provide at least 50 hours of public-interest legal services or handle two legal aid cases every year.
The data show that by the end of 2018, there were 423,000 certified lawyers in China, an increase of 14.8 percent from a year earlier.
Full-time lawyers account for 85.89 percent of the total, while part-time lawyers, government lawyers, corporate lawyers, legal-aid lawyers and military lawyers account for 2.87 percent, 7.43 percent, 1.71 percent, 1.75 percent and 0.35 percent, respectively.
As of the end of 2018, China had over 30,000 law firms, an increase of 8 percent from the previous year. More than two-thirds or 66.16 percent of them are partnerships while about one-third are sole practitioners. The remaining 4 percent of Chinese law firms are state-funded.
In 2018, Chinese lawyers handled a total of 10.68 million legal matters, including 4.98 million lawsuits, 1.06 million non-litigation affairs, 3.23 million legal counseling and legal filing writings, and 162,000 arbitrations. They also served as counsels to 700,000 government agencies, people's organizations, corporate and public institutions.
Progress had also been made in opening up China's legal service market as 250 overseas law firms from 23 countries and regions had established 302 offices in China by the end of 2018.
In addition, 127,000 foreign-related legal affairs, involving such matters as cross-border investments and mergers and acquisitions, as well as intellectual property rights and foreign trade, were handled last year.