Following an extensive nominations process, Asia Business Law Journal reveals the top lawyers in the country. Lim Miran and Nguyen Yen report

Vietnam’s economy is back on course after being hit hard by the covid-19 delta wave in the third quarter of 2021. The pace of economic growth is expected to moderate to 2.3% overall this year, slightly lower than 2.9% in 2020. However, rapid vaccine rollouts have contributed to an optimistic forecast of 6.5% for 2022, the highest expected growth rate in Southeast Asia, according to the Asian Development Bank.

Several key drivers can help Vietnam remain one of the fastest-growing emerging markets in the region. The country is set to benefit from its network of free trade agreements (FTAs), including the multilateral Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP), which will come into effect in January 2022. Rising flows of foreign direct investment (FDI) and exports, along with the impetus towards digitalisation are seen as other major economic contributors in the long term.

This year saw several legislative amendments and regulatory changes aimed at improving the business climate. Decree 35 and 28, which came into effect in March, provide further guidance for general and financial matters set out on public-private partnerships (PPPs). In response to the rapid growth of e-commerce, Decree 85, which will take effect in January 2022, is considered a new legal tool to combat online trademark infringement and promote transparency in business transactions.

As green energy projects gain traction across the region, a range of renewable energy regulatory changes is also in the pipeline for finalisation and implementation. Nevertheless, economists have warned of high inflation, and the covid-19 outbreak due to the new variant may hinder recovery.

Against this backdrop, Asia Business Law Journal presents its A-List of the top 100 lawyers practising in Vietnam (see the list of all 100 lawyers and the key practice areas for which they are endorsed following this article). The list is based on extensive research conducted and nominations received from in-house counsel in the country and elsewhere, as well as Vietnam-focused partners at international law firms based outside the jurisdiction.

Nearly all of the A-List lawyers are located in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s two economic epicentres that have higher concentrations of businesses and organisations in need of legal assistance, and are well placed for hearing the latest legislative and regulatory developments.

Comments submitted to Asia Business Law Journal suggest that clients not only look for lawyers who have a robust legal knowledge, but who also can act in a timely manner in response to rapid changes in Vietnam’s legal framework.

Capital market specialists

Despite the pandemic, Vietnam’s M&A market recorded a surge of 18% during the first 10 months of 2021 compared to the previous year, driven by domestic companies. This trend is expected to continue next year, with big deals in logistics and e-commerce. Many renowned lawyers in the A-List are nominated for their expertise in assisting such transactions.

Dang Chi Lieu, founder and partner at DNA Vietnam, receives praise from his clients in this area. Tran Trang, vice president at consulting company PYI Capital in Ho Chi Minh City, who has worked with Dang on five M&A deals, is impressed by Dang’s working style and hard work.

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“Lieu has a good technique and a good business sense to get the deal done,” says Tran. “Lieu provided outstanding services with in-depth knowledge and, combined with his business mindset, he not only protects the client’s benefit but also thinks out of the box to reach compromise from both parties to bridge the gap.”

Ngo Tuan Viet, assistant general director at Ha Tay Pharmaceutical in Hanoi, recommends Dang for being “an experienced lawyer who is specialised in engineering, procurement and construction projects”.

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Another lawyer applauded for her work in M&A is Vu Thi Que, co-founder and partner at Rajah & Tann LCT Lawyer. Wan Kwong Weng, group general counsel at Singapore-based real estate company Mapletree Investments, says Vu is “articulate and thorough”.

“She has shown dedication to the assignments that we entrusted to her,” says Wan. “She is winsome and has a deep knowledge of the Vietnam M&A landscape.”

Strong suits

There is a persistent need to keep companies up to date with Vietnam’s fast-changing legal mechanism, and that requires lawyers to be alert to regulatory changes, especially in key areas for which many A-List lawyers are nominated.

Han Won Dong, chairman of investment company Mirae Asset Capital in Ho Chi Minh City, compliments Han Youn Joon, a partner at Lee & Ko, for his “various experiences that span many industries”, and for representing many multinational companies in Vietnam.

“He is one of the elite lawyers in Vietnam who advises on legal protection against the risks and adversity that companies and organisations may face today”, says Han. “We look to attorney Han as a trusted legal adviser on all matters and situations that our organisation may face.”

After working together for more than a decade, Cho Young Oh, president of textile company Welcron Global Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City, also nominates Han of Lee & Ko as “the best attorney ever”.

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“He always has my company’s best interests in mind,” says Cho. “He is a person with a gentle heart, caring for all his customers, and considering them as his own family.”

When it comes to banking and finance, YKVN’s managing partner, Truong Nhat Quang, stands out as recommended by Ethan Perry, a Singapore-based counsel at Ashurst. “Truong is by far the best capital markets lawyer in Vietnam,” says Perry. “He has an excellent reputation in the market and works on the highest-profile transactions.”

Ngo Duc, legal counsel at American multinational food processing company AMD in Ho Chi Minh City, also recommends Truong as an “outstanding transaction, banking and finance lawyer in Vietnam, and the only Vietnamese lawyer who can offer clients extensive Vietnamese legal knowledge and international practice.

“Not only outstanding in legal work, Quang is also an active author, with various treatises and articles in notable legal journals in Vietnam on civil and corporate law,” says Ngo. “Quang makes a league of his own.”

Ngo also recommends another YKVN partner, Luu Tien Dzung, for being a litigator with a business mindset. “Dzung does not only represent or defend his clients in lawsuits or arbitrations, but also offers solutions for his clients to improve or develop their business after a dispute,” says Ngo. “His client may lose a judgment, but will always win their war.”

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In tech space, Indochine Counsel’s managing partner, Dang The Duc, is commended by Bryan Tan, Singapore-based partner at Pinsent Masons MPillay, as the go-to lawyer. “Duc and his team are excellent in executing internet-speed tech deals that our clients need in Vietnam,” says Tan. “His team now has breadth and depth, and has been able to run multiple deals simultaneously without missing a heartbeat – a safe pair of very large hands.”

For IP matters, Domnern Somgiat & Boonma’s Bangkok-based partner, Apiwatt Kongsoowan, praises Doan Son, managing partner at IPMAX, for his vast experience. “Son has excellent responsiveness, precise and practical advice, and a result-oriented working attitude,” says Kongsoowan.

Compiling the A-List

The A-List is based on extensive research conducted by Asia Business Law Journal. To identify the top 100 lawyers in Vietnam, we turned to thousands of in-house counsel in Vietnam and around the world – as well as partners at international law firms – and asked them to tell us which lawyers should make the cut, and why.

Nominations were made by professionals at a wide range of Vietnamese and global companies, including Archer-Daniels-Midland, Ashurst, Credit Suisse, Dentons, Domnern Somgiat & Boonma, Drew & Napier, EQuest Education Group, Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes, Gunkul Engineering, Ha Tay Pharmaceutical, Kim & Chang, Mapletree Investments, Motion Picture Association, Oon & Bazul, Petrovietnam, Pinsent Masons MPillay, PricewaterhouseCoopers, RHTLaw Asia, SonKim Land, WilmerHale, and many more. Thorough editorial research followed the nomination process.

The final list reflects the nominations received, combined with Asia Business Law Journal editorial team’s more than 30 years of collective experience in documenting and analysing Vietnam’s legal market.

All Vietnamese private practice lawyers were automatically eligible for inclusion in the nominations process and, as always, there were no fees or any other requirements for entry.

The names and photographs of all 100 A-List lawyers are published following this article. In addition, each A-List lawyer was given the opportunity to include their biography and contact details, for which a publishing fee was charged.

It is important to note that while the compilation of the A-List was based solely on independent editorial research, the biographies and contact details that appear alongside many of the listings have been written by the participating lawyers, and the content has not been independently verified by Asia Business Law Journal.

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