Interview with Chris Zhao, chief regional counsel for APAC of DuPont

The interview is in Chinese

Managing a legal team is a test of a general counsel’s wisdom, especially in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic crisis such as the one the world faces. Chris Zhao, chief regional counsel for APAC, safety and construction of DuPont shared her insight with us on team management

“The situations of the industry and the company are changing over time, and being an in-house counsel means proactively embracing those changes. I think legal team management starts with finding the precise position of your department within the company. To achieve this, you need to know the business, the entire company and its organizational structure, and then find out the position of the legal department that fits the company.

Once the position is identified, it is time to figure the situation within the team – does the in-house counsel team match with this position? It is best if they match with each other, but it is usually not the case. That is when the whole team needs to adjust themselves to fit in that position.

This position is definitely not located in your comfort zone. Using myself as an example, I find myself needing to learn more about new trends in business than before, including communicating with business colleagues in a way that we both understand each other. These are things I learned from the business department.

Having understood their business model, the next step is to figure out what their pain points are. Those pain points in the business department will turn out to be good entries where the legal department can help them and create value for the company. Personally, I still need to keep learning and equip myself so that I can find my position precisely. If every member of our team has initiative and is able to do the above, then our entire team will be in line with the precise position of the legal department in the company at the moment.

There are two words in English – responsibility and accountability. Responsibility refers to the basic duties that you should take on at work, while accountability refers to the duties in your self-perception that showcase your professionalism. The latter is a spontaneous one from the inside out, therefore, our work should focus more on finding our own accountability.

Speaking of the COVID-19 outbreak, the pandemic has had a profound impact on the global economy and many industries, including the legal profession. I think it presents both a challenge and an opportunity for us legal professionals. During this period, we have all experienced and dealt with many “new” legal issues. Though with varying degrees of effectiveness and results, it doesn’t affect our accumulation of experience in dealing with such crises.

Some of our peers may be worried about their career prospects because of the pandemic. I think if we can focus on developing our core competencies, we can still find a new position for ourselves in this field, or start a new career path after the pandemic.

This interview was conducted during the CBLJ Forum at Grand Hyatt Hotel, Shanghai, on 12 November, with the theme “Seizing Cross-Border Opportunities – Managing Global Risks”. For more information about the conference and videos of the forum sessions, please visit our CBLJ Forum 2019 webpage here.