Purpose – The paper aims to explore the extent to which the legal experience of minority shareholder actions in Hong Kong supports the sociological model of the Chinese family firm as developed by Wong Siu-lun and reports some preliminary findings for the period 1980-1995. Design/methodology/approach – This paper is based upon the analysis of 275 minority shareholder petitions in the High Court of Hong Kong between the years 1980 and 1995 inclusive. It also draws upon material from a questionnaire sent to law firms involved in those petitions and interviews with members of the Hong Kong judiciary with experience of hearing minority shareholder cases, members of the legal profession and accounting and company secretarial professions directly or indirectly involved in the administration of companies in Hong Kong and regulators. Findings – The findings indicate that the problematic early, emergent stage of the model as described by Wong Siu-lun is quite accurate. Whilst there is considerable support for some aspects of the model of the Chinese family firm, the experience indicates a number of complex dynamics at play, some of which the model does not take into account. However, the findings, at least by implication, do point to the cohesive strength of the Chinese family firm with occasional fault lines resulting in some “disputes” of earthquake proportions which may rumble on in some cases for years. Practical implications – The findings demonstrate the usefulness of lifecycle modeling of the family and other type of corporate firm. It also demonstrates some of the complex subtleties at play. The findings also have implications for the law matters thesis of La Porta et al. Originality/value – This is one of the first studies to actually examine the legal experience of minority shareholder protection in a particular jurisdiction (Hong Kong) by examining the petitions and writs actually filed and relating them to a sociological model of the Chinese Family firm.