Swings and roundabouts

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History progresses, perhaps not in a linear but a spiral motion. While China opens up its financial market to global contenders, it is also tightening its grip on businesses as the country speeds up legislation on all fronts, reshaping the way we do business.

Enticing as access to the world’s second-largest asset management market is, regulatory uncertainties are not to be ignored. Our cover story, Open sesame, talks to leading lawyers in the industry to explore the important issues awaiting international asset managers. We also offer a preview of the much-anticipated mutual access between the financial markets of mainland China and Hong Kong.

Zooming out to the overall legal sphere, this issue of China Business Law Journal features our annual review of China’s legal market, containing a series of four articles of in-depth analysis on key regulatory trends, law firm development and revenues, and the key concerns of in-house counsel.

The whole world is heading in the same regulatory direction – towards greater government control or intervention – and China is no exception. For the past year, a sea of legislation and regulatory updates have addressed issues brought by technology, ever more complicated financial instruments, and the pandemic. Testing the wind highlights the crucial ones that will fundamentally transform business operations and bring unprecedented opportunities to some companies, with senior practitioners offering tips on how to adapt and grow going forward.

From an international perspective, By the numbers presents a global survey of in-house legal departments that maps out the continual evolution of chief legal officers and their corporate legal departments, with views from 493 legal departments in organisations spanning 24 industries and 30 countries. The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) executives Ian Robertson and Blake Garcia share the story behind these numbers to help guide department-level strategy and decision-making.

Back home, in-house counsel in China are busy with transitioning their companies to keep up with the array of tectonic shifts in the international and domestic legal landscape. Compliance anxiety gathers some reforming approaches to smooth the process from prominent in-house leaders who offer thoughts on their roles in the corporate structure and philosophy for nurturing talent.

To read the bigger financial picture for law firms, we spoke with 109 law firms to uncover how the countercyclical sector has swung back during the pandemic and subsequent global economic shutdown. Through charts and graphics, Ups and downs analyses the revenue performances and development strategies of Chinese law firms, with views on last year’s roller coaster of market trends from senior and managing partners.

And in a special read, amid the central government’s initiative of setting up compliance systems inside SOEs, Pan Zhuqing, general counsel of CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive, gives her insights, in Buckle up, on how an SOE should manage overseas operations and ensure compliance.