When helping clients navigate a complex legal landscape, young elite lawyers have brought fresh ideas and innovative approaches to the table. After unprecedented market feedback, China Business Law Journal presents this year’s young elite lawyers in China’s legal sector. Pan Xinyi reports
More than ever, skilled external lawyers are in high demand amid growing global economic uncertainty. They assist companies to stay up to date with the latest trends and regulations, and shield them from potential risks. China Business Law Journal has seen from past transactions and cases that young lawyers are taking on enterprises’ expectations, and are living up to them.
Based on our continual observation of and reporting on the country’s legal market, we present the Rising Stars awards for this year to recognise China’s up-and-coming legal achievers.
We chose 100 young elite lawyers under the age of 40 from thousands of nominations made by business leaders, senior in-house counsel and the wider legal community. The editorial team conducted independent research by reviewing external nominations and supporting material submitted by candidates.
This group includes 80 practitioners of Chinese law and 20 international lawyers committed to China-related business. These lawyers have demonstrated exceptional dedication and professionalism in their practice areas, successfully transitioning from associates to partners and deepening and expanding their practices.
Our Rising Stars have a long list of notable accomplishments, of which only a small portion can be displayed in this article due to space limitations. The full line-up is published at the end of the article.
We are confident that the new generation of lawyers such as these will bring about a seismic shift in China’s legal profession in the near future. We applaud their accomplishments, and congratulate them on their accolades and the bright future they will bring to the industry.
The greatest players
Young lawyers who distinguish themselves from the competition and gain the favour of business leaders and internal legal counsel commonly have a strong focus on specific practice fields, and can provide a full range of quality services.
Huang Xingchao, a partner in the Beijing office of AnJie Broad Law Firm, has excellent professionalism and extensive practical experience in the field of commercial dispute resolution, with an outstanding track record of more than 50 successful cases in the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) during his 10 years of practice.
“He has the keen observation and insight that good dispute resolution lawyers have to see through the core essence of complex cases,” says Zhang Liming, senior vice president of Soyoung, the first listed online medical beauty service platform in China.
“What’s even more valuable is that cases handled by Huang have set ground-breaking rules in the relevant fields, and become a reference for similar cases thereafter, which is of special value.”
Huo Chao, a partner in the Beijing office of Haiwen & Partners with a distinguished career in capital markets, has been widely recognised for his outstanding business skills, dedicated attitude and precise grasp of dynamic business developments.
“Huo’s feedback on our various issues and needs was very timely, and his legal advice based on insight into the business model, combined with judicial practice, effectively solved many of the project’s problems,” says Zheng Cheng, legal director of residential property developer Yincheng International Holdings.
Joey Zhou, a partner in Zhong Lun Law Firm’s Shanghai office, focuses on providing full-stage legal services to private equity institutions and has participated in hundreds of renminbi and US-dollar investments and M&A transactions. Many companies she worked with appreciated her efficient and high-quality services, as well as her enthusiasm and dedication.
“Through our long-term project co-operation, we found that Zhou had foresight and a timely grasp of the latest trends and practices of legal policies, and was also good at providing comprehensive and effective solutions to clients in complex transactions,” says Dai Xiaozheng, a legal counsel of investment holding company Suzhou Oriza Holdings.
With extensive experience in domestic and international capital markets, private equity and venture capital, Zhang Ying, a consultant in King & Wood Mallesons’ Beijing office, is highly recommended by Huang Yiyu, group general counsel and chief compliance officer of Vanke Group, one of the largest listed real estate development and services companies in China.
“Zhang has deep insights into cross-market investment, and financing and multi-listing, with the ability to respond to complex and difficult issues and propose comprehensive and appropriate solutions,” he says.
With the rise of emerging technologies such as smart mobility and the internet of vehicles, car manufacturers, communication and internet companies are co-operating more than ever. This new cross-industry collaboration also creates the potential for new intellectual property issues and disputes.
Pan Junlin, a partner at the Beijing office of JunHe, has a wealth of knowledge in standard-essential patents (SEPs) and can propose effective solutions based on client needs.
“Pan has been actively and practically involved, and played an indelible role in, promoting the convergence of automotive and communications companies in the area of intellectual property,” says Xu Beiyi, head of product integrity and former head of IP at Audi China, a wholly owned Chinese subsidiary of one of the world’s leading producers of premium cars.
Li Wenqi, a Beijing-based partner at Grandall Law Firm, has spent years representing clients in civil and commercial disputes before provincial high courts and the SPC across China. Numerous recommendations have made special note of his high level of professionalism and dedication.
Wang Yueping, vice general manager of the legal department at Chinese state-owned telecoms operator China Unicom Group, says: “[Li] demonstrates the exceptional quality and experience of a litigator to effectively help clients resolve their problems.”
In order to maximise the interests of their clients through problem solving, young lawyers in the new era require a profound legal knowledge and up-to-date business thinking, as well as a deep insight into industries and sectors.
Liao Xueyong, a Shanghai-based partner at Commerce and Finance Law Offices, is an outstanding example of such a young lawyer.
According to Wang Liang, the legal director of financing and overseas business at autonomous driving technology company WeRide: “He is not only well-versed in the flexible application of the legal rules of the capital market, but also has a deep understanding and judgment of high-tech and AI industries, which allows him to use a combination of legal knowledge and business thinking to solve all kinds of difficult problems, and always gives the most reasonable advice for his clients.” Wang also praises Liao’s pro bono work, describing him as “an admirable lawyer”.
Sun Pinghui, a partner at the Shanghai office of Joint-Win Partners, comes highly recommended by a variety of import and export businesses, international logistics and freight companies for her unique insights, expertise and extensive experience in foreign trade, and international shipping and logistics.
“She can sort out the legal relationships in a complex business situation and make legal, reasonable and practical suggestions for business decisions and commercial disputes, acting in the interests of the business,” says Tong Jing, legal counsel at CJ Logistics, a Korea-based logistics company.
As a senior partner at DOCVIT Law Firm’s Beijing office, Qi Zhanyong has been engaged in the insurance asset management field for many years, representing a wide range of clients including many of China’s most prestigious insurance and insurance asset management companies.
His expertise in this field is widely acknowledged. According to Xu Xiaodong, executive general manager at Ping An Asset Management: “Qi has completed a number of the industry’s more representative asset management transactions by incorporating new legal service elements in response to the specific needs and characteristics of the industry and clients.”
Also receiving praise from the industry is Sean Wang, executive director of the legal research centre of Dentons China’s family office, who specialises in trust, tax and family wealth management.
A senior manager in the tax and legal services department of one of the world’s leading accounting firms, who wished to remain anonymous, says: “With his technical expertise and excellent industry reputation in the field of family wealth management and trust law, Wang is a reliable professional lawyer who can provide clients with customised legal service solutions for wealth management.”
Jane Zhang, Jingtian & Gongcheng’s first post ’90s partner in the firm’s Beijing office, not only has extensive experience in the healthcare and life sciences sectors, but has published dozens of articles on cutting-edge legal issues in the field that have garnered widespread attention.
Working with Zhang was beneficial, according to Li Longdi, investment and financing director at Huasky Medical, a provider of generic drugs. “[Jane Zhang]’s understanding of IPO legal issues is not limited to the analysis of general legal issues, but also includes insight into the pharmaceutical industry and an understanding of overall policy changes and developments.”
Cross-border co-operation and transactions are at the forefront of the age of globalisation, but as co-operation grows deeper, businesses prefer legal professionals with multicultural strengths and experience to effectively break down commercial and legal barriers.
Karen Fan, a Shanghai-based partner at Dorsey, has extensive practice experience in both the US and China, and excels in the M&A sector.
Su Yan, general legal counsel of mega multinational Coca-Cola Greater China & Mongolia, believes that to do well in large cross-border M&A in China and the US requires not only a profound understanding of the law, but also the business landscape and culture in both places. “[Fan] is client-minded, responsive and adaptive, always well up to formulating and structuring the highly complicated deal in an extremely limited timeframe, and delivering very pragmatic and sophisticated solutions,” says Su.
Dana Wu, a Shanghai-based partner at Han Kun Law Offices, has worked at top firms in the US and China, and her reputation for professionalism and dedication to excellence in capital markets has earned the praise of clients.
“We trust Wu to use her years of experience in foreign legal practice, to put herself in the client’s shoes and find creative solutions to our problems and maximise our interests,” says Li Shuheng, senior manager of patent at Inmagene Biopharmaceuticals, a global biotechnology company.
James Tao, CEO of Zenulla, a leading American brokerage firm, praises Zhang Shiwen, a partner in the Shanghai office of Hui Ye Law Firm, saying: “For many years, [Zhang] has provided our company with innovative and ground-breaking legal solutions in the company’s partnerships with top-tier artists from Europe and America. Additionally, she offers practical risk control advice that considers industry standards and business environments in China and beyond.”
Zhang Shiwen specialises in the domestic and international cultural entertainment industry, and has extensive experience and a high reputation in the field of Chinese and international entertainment law. She has also authored books that offer actionable guidance on legal practices in the Chinese cultural and entertainment industry, particularly in facilitating cross-border co-operation between overseas and Chinese cultural and entertainment entities.
Thomas Zhao, vice president of legal compliance at global bearing manufacturer SKF, recommends Nigel Zhu, a Shanghai-based partner at Llinks Law Offices. “Zhu has provided us with practical solutions in antitrust and data protection, with solid legal skills and excellent business sense.”
Zhu is licensed to practise law in China and New York state, and has years of experience helping multinational corporations meet regulatory requirements relating to data security, antitrust and other areas of compliance.
A long-term trust-based partnership between companies and young lawyers is invaluable. This is a crucial time for the growth of companies, and the development of the careers of young lawyers. Long-term partnerships put a lawyer’s stability and growth to the test, as they must consistently provide high-quality services while improving themselves, pursuing excellence and advancing alongside the company.
As a longstanding dispute resolution lawyer for Kempinski Hotels China, Jordan Chen, a Beijing-based consultant at FenXun Partners, was nominated by Viola Song, the company’s legal director, for his in-depth understanding of the hotel management company’s business model, and his ability to find alternative ways to resolve disputes swiftly.
“He has a big-picture view, and a strategy formulation ability that is valuable for a young dispute resolution lawyer,” says Song. “When the client’s business interests are at stake, he is able to sort out complex interest relationships and precisely meet their needs. In addition, Chen possesses excellent trial advocacy skills and proven experience.”
Huang Zhe, a partner at the Dalian office of SGLA Law Firm, has vast experience in dispute resolution and non-litigation legal services in construction and real estate, as well as general corporate and commercial matters. She represents an average of more than 100 cases a year in these fields, and has achieved favourable outcomes in almost every major litigation and arbitration case.
Xie Jiao, vice general manager of chemical building materials specialist Dalian Fuyu Group, says: “We all respect and admire Huang Zhe’s expertise, work ethic and work style.”
Zhai Xiaoli, head of investment at digital dentistry specialist 3D Diagnostic, recommends their long-time external legal counsel, Raymond Shi, a former partner in the Beijing office of Tian Yuan Law Firm, who currently serves as Han Kun Law Offices’ partner. “The most impressive thing about Shi has always been his great legal skills, broad perspective and deep understanding when it comes to resolving seemingly impossible issues in our company’s various complex investment and financing, restructuring, M&A transactions and other capital-related operations,” says Zhai.
“He always provides the ultimate pragmatic and feasible solutions based on an incisive analysis. You will never be wrong in calling on Shi when you need help.”