China: Legal Aid vs Social Lawyers

Topics: Lawyers

Promulgation of the Legal Aid Law of the People’s Republic of China in August 2021 indicates that the state attaches great importance to legal aid, which has a positive effect on the further development and standardization of the legal aid system in China. The change from regulations to laws also symbolizes that the liability transfers from the government to the state. However, stalling of the legal aid authority is still chaotic, And the quality of legal aid varies greatly. For criminal cases only lawyers can be assigned to the defendant.

In practice there are two groups to undenake this duty. One is lawyers from the legal aid authority. who are paid by the nation. By representing their clients, they could get compensation which is an extra income out of their salaries and the other is lawyers from social law firms.

They gain compensation from the nation for their legal aid work. Nevertheless, some of them are less likely to spare no effort to help the defendant from legal aid cases due to existence of a pecuniary form of compensation gap.

It seems that this compensation only works for junior lawyers or lawyers without resources. So which type of lawyers is more effective when they handle criminal legal aid cases? Salaried legal aid lawyers or social lawyers? Experienced lawyers or young lawyers? Is there a possibility that scaling up the salaried lawyers in the legal aid authority may lead to an improvement of the average quality of legal aid without excessively increasing legal aid funds? How can we better institutionalize those lawyers to provide legal aid and guarantee the quality of legal aid cases?

Before answering these questions, we must clarify: How do salaried legal aid lawyers and social lawyers differ from the outcomes in terms of a custodial sentence? Are defense opinions of legal aid lawyers more likely or less likely to be taken than those of social lawyers? What causes this disparity? Professional skills? Different identities? It is almost impossible for policymakers to set a perfect institution that can make sure every part of the legal aid system runs efficiently, especially under current circumstances of uneven distribution of judicial resources and funds, insufficient incentives for lawyers, and blurred legal aid authority‘s functions.

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By comparing two types of lawyers’ performance we will have the factors that lead to this disparity which paves the way for us to discuss the possible implications of these findings. It will give us some inspiration for how to allocate judicial resources to improve the structure of legal aid staffing and to incentive for quality legal services not allowing legal aid as just a form of accessing to justice for the indigent‘ Legal Aid Law (2021) entrenched that providing legal aid services is lawyer’s obligation. However, the reality is not as optimistic as we expect. We try to do an empirical study which combines quantitative analysis and qualitative analysis. We hope that these analyses could provide some enlightenment on the economic incentives and ideological basis of legal aid in socialist Chinai.

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China: Legal Aid vs Social Lawyers. (2023, Mar 11). Retrieved from

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