The tough market conditions of 2009, particularly in the first six months, have been well documented, but some firms still managed to record exceptional growth. ALB China's annual Fast 10 returns to acknowledge the fastest-growing firms in a trying year
This year's Fast 10 reflects an industry in transition - mergers, personnel movements and changes in demand have all made their impact on the composition of this year's list.
The sobering effects of the changing market dynamics have created a new and diverse range of law firms. While many established first-tier firms scale back their growth expectations in 2009, 10 of the country's fastest-growing firms only get bigger and stronger, increasing their turnover in preparation for the next phase of opportunity for the legal sector.
Yingke, a Beijing-headquarted firm, has claimed the top spot of this year's Fast 10 list, reporting a record-breaking y-o-y revenue growth rate of 787%. Much of the growth was contributed by the new partners and lawyers joined the firm, who have brought their book of businesses with them. The firm currently has 82 partners, up by an impressive 10 fold from just seven last May.
"People, a law firm's intellectual capital, will be the firm's most important asset and a key component of the firm's overall competitive advantage," said Mei Xiangrong, managing partner of Yingke. "To prosper in the coming decades, law firms have to be not only market oriented and client focused, but also dedicated to their staff."
Over the past 12 months, the firm has also managed to open branches in Shi Jiazhuang, Tianjin, Nanjing, Shanghai, Hohhot and Shenyang. What normally would take a firm a decade to achieve, Yingke has done it in just one year.
The country's fastest growing firm shows no sign of slowing down yet. Under the leadership of Mei Xiangrong, the director of the managing committee, the firm is endeavouring to become "China's Baker & McKenzie", and is in the process of significantly expanding its national network. It plans to open more branches and grow the total headcount to over 1,000 in the next three years. "It's increasingly difficult for smaller firms to stay competitive in this market. So the partners have decided to attract a large number of talented lawyers on board and together we aim to forge a leading PRC firm on a global scale," says Mei.
However, Yingke's aggressive growth strategy naturally attracted scrutiny and criticism, particularly on its sustainability, quality control and risk management - which may or may not prove to be warranted. The purpose of the Fast 10 is to simply provide a guide to the fastest-growing firms and to leave the market to draw its own conclusions as to the merits of the particular growth strategies employed. ALB
ALB China Fast 10 firms – at a glance
|The Fast 10 list is based on a survey sent to over 100 firms across China. Only firms which completed the survey were considered for inclusion in the Fast 10. The primary criterion for inclusion was percentage revenue growth for the 2009 financial year and to a lesser degree growth in fee earners. Figures were supplied by the firms themselves. All growth figures and percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.
*For a full list of the 2010 ALB China FAST 10 firms and to learn more details about their growth, please see ALB China Issue#7.6