He’s China’s oldest practising lawyer. In most other (particularly Western) countries, such an honour would be accompanied by numerous highfalutin accolades on achievements, big courtroom victories, exalted followers and mentors, and various other thoughtfully lacquered layers of pomposity.
But in China, this title means so much more, and yet for the man attendant to the title, the opposite could not be more evident.
Ren Jisheng, 86 and still going strong, has witnessed the hibernation and awakening of an entire legal system, and contributed greatly to its development as its evolution has gained momentum in the past couple of decades.
The senior lawyer, honorary director and chief counsel at King & Capital turns up to greet China Business Law Journal in the firm’s plush office chambers in a plain blue windcheater, after teaching a class of juniors at the firm’s offices. There’s no stuffy suit and tie, and not a whiff of pomposity in the ready smile that regularly emanates from this piece of living history.
Don’t take it as read, ask the people he works with. He’s been with the firm for 10 years and Catherine Guo, a partner with expertise in Ren’s preferred field of international business, describes him as a mentor, friend and father figure.