“Maybe I’m the first woman managing partner in Vietnam offices, but I may not be the last one.” – Oanh Nguyen, managing partner at Baker McKenzie.
The first woman to helm Baker McKenzie’s offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi shares insights into her historic appointment and Vietnam’s economic landscape.
Q: As the first female lawyer to lead the offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, how do you perceive the significance of this milestone, not only for yourself but for the legal industry and aspiring female lawyers in Vietnam and how do you envision fostering diversity and inclusion within Baker McKenzie’s Vietnam offices?
A: I may be the first woman managing partner of our Vietnam offices, but I may not be the last one because I see these female associates in my office can see a very clear message from the firm that Baker McKenzie is a firm of possibilities. So, it means, regardless of your gender, the firm sends a very clear message to go with your ambition and the firm will support you at every step of the way. The global office sends this very clear message to the young people in the office as well.
Q: Baker McKenzie has been in Vietnam for 30 years, and you’ve witnessed its evolution. What are your strategic priorities for the firm’s future growth in the Vietnamese market, and how do you plan to build on its existing reputation?
A: At the Vietnam office, we have a lot of young, talented associates and we also have a group of leaders for our industry groups. So together with the support from the global firm and with the support from my partners in the Vietnam offices, we will capture hopefully the next wave of growth for Vietnam offices. We remain focused on giving our best service to our clients by creating significant value back to our clients. We also hope to create very good experiences for our young people and associates.
I can see that 2024 is still a very challenging year for Vietnam because we are affected by the global economy. In the last quarter of 2023, we see a little pickup in terms of the economy, but I still see a lot of challenges. For example, the deposit interest rate in Vietnam had a significant drop during covid and we see very little room for a further reduction.
The increase in terms of bad debt and non-performing loans has slowed down in the last quarter of 2023 and we see these days the coming back of the bond, the investment in the bond and insurance sector. We hope that the first quarter of 2024 will be a little bit better, but it cannot be as strong as the boom times in 2019 and 2021. Even though we see it as a bit challenging, we also see it as a little bit better compared to 2023 in Vietnam.
Q: Given the evolving nature of legal services and technology, how do you plan to integrate advancements in legaltech or innovative practices within Baker McKenzie’s service offerings in Vietnam?
A: Baker McKenzie has been piloting OpenAI’s GPT series well before other law firms. We now have a global machine learning practice that focuses on combining machine learning with other things like prompt engineering, enterprise data, web data mining and expert validation and joining all these things up in a workflow focused on generating solutions for clients. We are very excited to leverage our new capability to develop modern solutions for clients in Vietnam.
Q: Are there specific industries or sectors where you see heightened demand for legal services, and how does Baker McKenzie plan to address these sector-specific needs?
A: 2024 continues to be a challenging year because it is affected by the global economic slowdown. Even so, I see that there are a few sectors picking up. I mean, the increase will be a little bit better in 2024, especially in the financing sector. I can see there are still a lot of financing and refinancing deals coming from the recovering businesses in Vietnam.
I also see a lot of interest in terms of the e-wallet and fintech. Those are from the financial services sector. I also see that there might be a lot of inquiries from the clients in terms of tax, especially the Pillar Two.
There are also a lot of concerns from international investors when they have a lot of investments in some other countries and in Vietnam where Pillar Two tax has been introduced, which will affect their restructuring operations. We also see quite a lot of work in terms of dispute resolutions, especially in the sectors of construction and debt restructuring. There’s also a lot of work for that. I also see in the M&A sector that there will be a few areas where the foreign investors will be focused. For example, in the hospital, education or energy sectors. I think those sectors will continue to be of interest to foreign investors. Baker McKenzie has been in Vietnam for more than 30 years. We are a full-service law firm with a deep legal knowledge of Vietnamese law. So, we are in a good position to serve our clients when there is a need.