Following an extensive survey of market opinion and independent editorial research, China Business Law Journal announces the Growth Drivers in China’s legal market. Pan Xinyi reports
Due to the dual pressures of the pandemic and economic downturn, law firms have faced a decline in revenue-generating capacity. However, the number of lawyers in China has continued to grow at a rate exceeding 10% annually in recent years. At the same time, there are ongoing trends towards standardisation, specialisation and segmentation reshaping the legal services market.
To align with the evolving dynamics of the legal industry and respond to market feedback and suggestions, we have expanded The A-List awards this year by introducing three distinct categories: Visionaries; Growth Drivers; and Rising Stars. Each category recognises elite lawyers for their outstanding performance in the past year.
Growth Drivers represent the key players in law firms ‒ the stalwarts with rich practice experience and profound legal acumen. These seasoned lawyers are active at the forefront of the market, boasting outstanding reputations and robust revenue-generating capabilities.
With impressive track records, they excel in business development and drive intense market competition. Battle-tested and armed with acute insights, they can swiftly comprehend and master the dynamic changes in the legal landscape. Renowned for their exceptional professional capabilities, they not only create tangible value for clients but also contribute significantly to the sustained growth of their respective law firms.
This article focuses on the A-List’s Growth Drivers. China Business Law Journal has previously published the Visionaries list on our website and social media platforms. The final Rising Stars list will be announced in the coming months, so be sure to watch out for it.
In order to identify the most highly recommended lawyers in the market, we invited Chinese and global in-house counsel, executives, partners from Chinese and international law firms, and legal experts from various industries to nominate their lawyers of choice.
All lawyers engaged in private practice and involved in China-related matters were automatically eligible for the nomination process. As always, adhering to the principle of neutrality, lawyers were not allowed to nominate themselves or colleagues practising at the same firm.
After receiving nominations from the marketplace, we sent out invitations to nominated lawyers to submit further personal declarations. The declarations included basic information about the lawyer’s seniority, practice area and position, as well as major transactions and other groundbreaking achievements in the past 12 months.
The final list is the aggregate result of market nominations, candidates’ own submitted supportive information, and independent research conducted by the editorial team. As usual, there is no fee consideration for being nominated to be included in the A-List.
We would like to share our heartfelt appreciation to all who participated in our market survey, as well as our earnest congratulations to all winners.
As the business landscape undergoes rapid transformation, the expansion of industries and sectors adds complexity to legal risks and regulatory requirements. To navigate these challenges, businesses require legal professionals who not only have a deep understanding of industry trends, but also can provide robust operational strategies, possessing both offensive and defensive capabilities.
Rundo International Pharmaceutical Research & Development is a leading outsourcing company in the clinical research industry. Its Shanghai-based founder and chairman, Jiang Shixin, highly appreciates the professional expertise of Bai Yaohua, a senior partner at DHH Law Firm’s Beijing office and the company’s long-term legal adviser, particularly in the field of clinical trial law. “Bai’s profound understanding of the pharmaceutical industry and comprehensive grasp of Rundo’s business enable him to provide the best legal support to the company,” says Jiang.
Luo Yuan, the general counsel at Huisuanzhang in Beijing, has recommended the company’s long-term external legal counsel, Maggie Meng, a Beijing-based partner at Global Law Office. Luo says: “In cutting-edge, challenging and innovative areas of data compliance and cybersecurity, Meng and her team leverage their multifaceted advantage in understanding technology, regulations, supervision and business. This contributes to assisting clients in advancing their business while effectively addressing regulatory challenges to the maximum extent.”
Zhang Yaxing, a Beijing-based partner at Han Kun Law Offices, successfully resolved several intricate disputes for ChinaCache International Holdings, turning the tide in their favour. Fan Xiaoxi, the company’s legal director in Beijing, believes that Zhang’s years of courtroom experience allow him to precisely grasp key issues from a judicial perspective, resulting in a highly effective handling of cases.
“In our collaboration with numerous dispute resolution lawyers, Zhang’s performance stands out the most, leaving a lasting impression,” says Fan.
Gong Bo, the Beijing-based legal director at VNET Group, nominates Lyu Xin, a partner at Tian Yuan Law Firm’s Beijing headquarters. She says: “[Lyu] not only possesses legal professional expertise but, due to years of experience as an internal legal counsel, can fully comprehend the pain points of corporate clients and swiftly formulate highly pragmatic solutions.”
Qu Miao, a partner at King & Wood Mallesons’ Shanghai office, has garnered recommendations from numerous corporate legal departments for her experience and professional competence in the field of intellectual property (IP). “Extremely professional” is how Jin Gaoping, the legal director of Alibaba Group in Hangzhou, evaluates her.
“[Qu] not only possesses extensive experience in routine IP matters but also delves into cutting-edge issues related to IP in the field of internet technology, such as data ownership,” says Jin.
Deng Wei, a Beijing-based partner at Merits & Tree Law Offices’ IP department, has shown outstanding performance in the IP field. His meticulous research approach and diverse professional experience demonstrated while handling cases have left a profound impression on Huang Yiyun, the Shanghai-based general manager of Autoliv China’s legal department. Huang says: “Deng’s years of specialised research in the IP field, coupled with his experience as a patent examiner and judge, have provided us with practical and viable litigation strategies, ultimately leading us to success in these disputes.”
The global economy’s intricate interconnections mean financial markets are increasingly convoluted. Economic, political and social factors in diverse countries and regions introduce more variables and uncertainties into transactions. Simultaneously, the rapid evolution of financial instruments and derivatives enriches the diversity of trading strategies, further intensifying the complexity of today’s trading environment.
Against this backdrop, businesses value the ability of external legal advisers to swiftly and efficiently resolve complex and challenging issues within limited timeframes.
“Our first-choice lawyer,” says Cai Dajian, the founder of Yuanchuang Capital in Shenzhen, introducing Zheng Dongdong, a Dalian-based partner at Grandall Law Firm. “[Zheng] excels in handling significant, complex and challenging business issues. He possesses excellent problem-solving abilities, strong leadership, professionalism and a practical approach.”
Through bankruptcy and settlement projects, Jiangsu Chengxing Phosph-Chemicals successfully escaped financial distress, becoming the first publicly listed company in China to complete debt settlement during an IPO. Zhang Jianjian, a partner at Haiwen & Partners in Beijing, served as legal adviser for the settlement procedure and earned praise from Jiangsu Chengxing’s CEO, Xu Haisheng, based in Wuxi.
“In complex and challenging projects, Zhang demonstrates strong resilience. He can co-ordinate and balance interests effectively, and find mutually beneficial solutions promptly, showcasing outstanding communication skills,” says Xu.
Zhou Kaichang, a senior partner at Hui Ye Law Firm’s Shanghai office, is commended by Brian Chen, the Shanghai-based senior vice president and general counsel of KONE in the Greater China region, for handling multiple employee placement projects and labour dispute cases. “Zhou’s ability to deal with complex matters is outstanding,” says Chen. “For major and challenging projects and events, he can oversee the big picture, strategise effectively and identify breakthrough points.”
Marvin Min, a partner at Zhong Lun Law Firm’s Beijing office, gains recognition for his excellent dispute resolution skills. “Min is exceptionally professional, with rich litigation experience and a diligent work ethic,” says Gao Huandong, the vice president and China general counsel at Lenovo Group in Beijing. “Each case he handled has achieved excellent results, some even surpassing our company’s expectations.”
Similarly acknowledged for outstanding performance in collaboration is Richard Wang, a partner at the Beijing office of Freshfields, recommended by Chen Yan, the Beijing-based general counsel at Ke Holdings. “Over my last 15 years in legal practice, Wang stands out as one of the most seasoned capital market lawyers,” says Chen.
Chen Wei, a partner at JunHe in Beijing, has been nominated by multiple in-house counsel for her strong expertise in the heavily regulated domain. Sa Sha, the senior legal counsel at Amazon Connect Technology Services (Beijing), refers to her as “one of the most experienced and reliable outside counsel I have worked with”.
She adds: “Chen has strong expertise in handling complex transactions and in-depth knowledge and insights in the dynastic and evolving regulatory requirements for these highly regulated industry sectors.”
In-house counsel from several enterprises engaged in cross-border transactions recommend Michael Zhang, a managing partner at Sheppard Mullin’s Shanghai office. Yu Yinyun, a chief legal officer at Huaqin Technology in Shanghai, says: “Zhang is very professional in cross-border transaction and IP disputes solutions.”
Yu further commends the business compliance system established by Zhang to help Huaqin Technology face challenges under the US export control regime. “This has created a benchmark in our industry, especially for all those local manufacturers who have little experience in this area but are involved in huge business activities related to US-China high-tech trade,” he says.
Lawyers, while deeply rooted in industry knowledge and enriched by extensive practical experience, find that their commitment to client needs, active communication, meticulous attention to detail and diligent responsibility are crucial elements in achieving differentiated legal services. These qualities are highly valued by in-house counsel.
Yue Baiting, an investment manager at Harvest Global Capital Investments, based in Shanghai, has collaborated multiple times with Charles Yao, a partner at Jingtian & Gongcheng’s Beijing office. Yue not only appreciates Yao’s solid professional expertise and a negotiation approach that seeks mutual benefits, but is also impressed by his service commitment. “In the midst of simultaneous projects and relentless work, Yao prioritises client interests. He consistently listens to client opinions, collaborates closely and tailors legal services to achieve the most favourable outcomes.”
In the realm of capital markets, Luan Jianhai, a Beijing-based partner at Commerce & Finance Law Offices, is highly esteemed for his professional knowledge and extensive experience. His service commitment has earned praise from in-house counsel and executives. Chen Yang, the legal director at Bloomage Biotech in Beijing, says: “In our long-term collaboration, Luan has always approached issues from the perspective of client interests, helping us find optimal solutions. He is an excellent partner.”
For Abel Zhao, CEO of Hong Kong SaaS provider FreeD Group, Hilda Chan, a partner at Dorsey in Hong Kong, is not just a lawyer but also a trustworthy friend and adviser. She has been with the company from its startup phase to expanding its operations to 11 countries. Zhao says: “In addition to outstanding legal knowledge, what’s impressed me the most was her commitment to excellence, level of integrity and supporting her clients always, those are some qualities that money can’t buy.”
Ann Chen, the Shanghai-based general counsel at Air Liquide China, recommends Fan Jiannian, the managing partner of Gide’s Shanghai office. “Fan consistently provides unique and commercially executable legal advice in the complex and ever-changing business and international environment.” Additionally, Fan is recognised for being “thoroughly responsible, highly efficient, and always prioritising client needs and interests”.
In the competitive legal landscape, these professionals stand out not only for their legal acumen, but for their unwavering commitment to client service, making them valued partners for businesses seeking legal expertise.