How do Chinese lawyers view pro bono? A sociological analysis
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ABSTRACT Over the past decade, the Chinese legal profession and the law firms that employ these lawyers have changed dramatically. These changes are occurring within an emerging global market for legal services. Related to global legal services development is the growth in pro bono legal services in China. Recently, Chinese pro bono work and education has been increasingly institutionalized. An increasing number of lawyers and law firms in China have engaged in pro bono work. In this study, I examine quantitative and qualitative data obtained from the Shanghai Bar Association to investigate how Chinese lawyers view their pro bono practice within the current Chinese context which is highly globalized and deeply embedded in Chinese Communist Party politics. Issues related to pro bono endorsement, benefits, motivations, challenges and barriers, as well as preferences are examined under the framework of institutional theory. Employing a mixed method approach including survey analysis and qualitative interviews, this study broadens the socio-legal understanding of Chinese pro bono practice and education within a global legal perspective. Pro bono’s institutionalization is indeed ongoing in Chinese layering and legal education. By focusing on the local legal environment, the findings from this study challenge classical notions of global diffusion, which is not simply the exportation of western laws. While pro bono legal services have been growing as part of legal globalization, they are enacted within a context of local institutions within China. Pro bono in China may have a western looking face but it has uniquely Chinese features and expressions. The development of pro bono in China is a process of challenging-reconstructing. Local institutions have great power to reconstruct pro bono’s meanings. In the end, the expansion of pro bono in China is a mixed process in which both global and local forces work together.