CHONGQING — Lan Yiming, a 30-year-old barista who has been in the coffee industry for over 10 years, didn’t expect that coffee would get him involved in “legal affairs”.
At a crossroads in Chongqing’s Shapingba district, the BeLink Western-style cafe stands out among building clusters that are home to the local court, procuratorate, and public security department.
Behind its fashionable design, BeLink functions as a cafe, the branch of a law firm and a mediation center.
While the first floor serves coffee lovers and lawyers provide free consultations, the second floor has a private room for people seeking to resolve disputes with the help of a mediator. To tie in with this theme, Lan launched a latte named “Mediation Coffee”, that uses lightly roasted coffee beans from Honduras.
Opened in May this year, the cafe housing BeLink, Juwer law firm, and the local justice bureau, has resolved over 300 disputes and provided more than 100 legal consultations. Introduced by Hu Juan, head of Juwer law firm’s Shapingba branch, the mixed business idea was inspired by Hongyan comprehensive mediation stations.
In 2021, to promote high-quality mediation services, the justice bureau in Shapingba established mediation stations in communities, shopping malls, tourist sites and other venues, with judges, police officers, lawyers, inspectors, notaries, and mediators invited to provide comprehensive services.
“This changed the past situation when mediators worked alone and integrated resources required for resolving disputes,” said Qin Zhanyi, head of the Shapingba justice bureau. Now, 45 mediation centers have been established, which have successfully resolved over 10,000 cases this year, nearly triple the figure recorded in 2020.
“We have been providing free consultancy and legal lectures in mediation centers for more than three years. We think it’s very meaningful and want to go deeper into providing social services,” Hu said.
He added that as a consequence, it was decided to develop a lawthemed space and invite the local justice bureau to set up a mediation center as a way of expanding its public services. Also, the availability of a coffee shop not only helps cover costs but also draws more attention to the venue and helps promote the mediation services on offer.
Song Jing, an experienced lawyer and mediator, has gone to the cafe almost every day since it opened.
“Before, mediation always took place in a stark setting and mediation was quite tense. However, this cafe can provide soft light, soothing music and even a private room, which is very conducive to mediation,” Song said.
In addition, both lawyers and baristas benefit from the blending of the law and coffee. Yan Jiangyu, a 28-year-old lawyer, said she felt creative inspiration when she first heard that the law firm was opening a cafe. As one of the duty lawyers, she normally handles two or three legal consultations a day.
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