Following an extensive nomination process, Asia Business Law Journal unveils the top performers of Vietnam’s legal profession, Lim Miran and Nguyen Yen report

Amid the global slowdown and recession, Vietnam’s upbeat economy is heading down a different path. The International Monetary Fund has raised its growth forecast for the country to 7% this year, well above the average of 4% in the Asia-Pacific region.

With strong economic fundamentals and a faster than expected bounce back of the manufacturing and service sectors, Vietnam’s impressive economic recovery can be traced back to the government’s efforts to maintain the country’s comparative advantages while easing inflationary pain. Low interest rates and responsive monetary policies have encouraged businesses to resume operations when the world reopens. Tax cuts have also contributed to keeping inflation under control amid the global surge in food and petrol prices.

On the legal front, the Vietnamese government has amended the Intellectual Property Law, which took effect on 1 January 2023, to put the law closer in line with international best practices in industrial property, copyright and intellectual property (IP) enforcement. Anticipating the rise of cross-border disputes, the country allowed the Hague-headquartered Permanent Court of Arbitration to open its second Asian office in Hanoi this year, after launching one in Singapore in 2017.

Despite the optimistic outlook on the country’s growth, headwinds from supply chain disruptions due to the global crisis and economic slowdown could impede Vietnam’s recovery. This makes the implementation of the policy package to support economic recovery and development, while pushing economic reforms to unleash Vietnam’s considerable growth potential, the focus for next year.

Against this promising and challenging backdrop, Asia Business Law Journal presents the A-List of the 100 best practising lawyers in Vietnam.

The A-List is based on extensive research, nominations received from in-house counsel based in Vietnam and elsewhere, as well as Vietnam-focused partners at international law firms. Nearly all the A-List lawyers are strategically located in Hanoi, the capital, and Ho Chi Minh City, the economic hub, where most of the companies and government offices are based.

Comments submitted to Asia Business Law Journal by clients suggest they are looking for lawyers who not only have wide experience in legal practice areas, but who can also provide tailored solutions to meet client needs during uncertain times.

M&A boom

Vietnam’s mergers and acquisitions market has reset to pre-pandemic levels. Many foreign investors have their eyes on M&A across various sectors, with a focus on wind and solar power projects, as the country makes a big push into the renewable energy sector. As investment has poured into the country, demand for legal services has risen.

Tran Anh Hung, a Hanoi-based managing partner at Bross & Partners, is an outstanding lawyer who is very sought after by his clients. Tran Thang, legal manager at telecom and IT company ZTE Corporation in Ho Chi Minh City, says Tran Anh Hung is his go-to lawyer on a number of matters.

“He has more than 20 years of experience in advising and practising law in Vietnam,” Tran Thang says. “We highly appreciate his advice on procedures of investment, contracts, commerce and dispute resolution during our business [operations].”

Le Hong Phong, a partner at Bizconsult in Hanoi, is considered “one of the best lawyers in Vietnam” on M&A and corporate matters by Julia Ma, general counsel for Asia-Pacific at Techtronic Industries, a Hong Kong-based power tools and outdoor power-equipment maker.

“He has very good communication skills. He is also very well connected and a good listener, which is very important,” says Ma.

Huynh Hoang Sang, a Hanoi-based counsel at GE Healthcare Vietnam, a subsidiary of General Electric that sells diagnostic imaging agents and radiopharmaceuticals, also has high praise for Le.

“He [Le] has advised and supported GE to complete a number of key jobs regarding licensing, antitrust and M&A approval in Vietnam through the years, and is continuing to advise and keep us on track about operating in Vietnam,” says Huynh.

A director at global IP firm AAA IPRIGHT in Singapore who did not wish to disclose his name, has trusted Pham Duy Khuong, founder and managing director at ASL Law in Hanoi, for outstanding legal advice over many years.

“He has been well known in Vietnam as a top-tier lawyer in the fields of M&A, anti-dumping and trade remedies,” says the director. “We always refer our friends and connections to work with Pham, and they are happy and satisfied with the reference.”

Richard Stapley-Oh, a Ho Chi Minh City-based partner at KPMG Law Vietnam, is another prominent lawyer in the M&A area, and is recommended by Chan Lai-Foong, counsel at K&L Gates Straits Law in Singapore.

“I highly appreciate his skill set and capabilities as an M&A lawyer, and his high standards of fair play and integrity,” says Chan. “While there are many good M&A lawyers, not many will be able to say that at the same time they are able to run and manage law offices in developing jurisdictions.”

David McDonald, director of consultancy services for capital projects and premises management at WT Partnership in Ho Chi Minh City, also praises Stapley-Oh for his expertise in debt recovery. “Richard has always provided timely, accurate, efficient and friendly counsel on the strength and validity of all our debts prior to incurring any costs,” says McDonald.

“He provided advice on the best options to recover the debts by devising a strategy and structuring communication to encourage the debtor to pay while having a great ability to look at all angles of the argument and put forward the best point of view for recovering all debts.”

Stapley-Oh’s colleague, KPMG Law Vietnam partner Bui Thi Thanh Ngoc, is applauded for being “notable professional spirit” by Iris Lee, deputy general director at consultancy and construction firm Mace Vietnam in Hanoi.

“She dedicates her time to the case and ensures that the client is well-represented,” she says.

On IPO matters, Dang Khai Minh, a Singapore-based senior partner at YKVN, has earned a good name for his top-class legal advice. He has 40 years of experience in a wide variety of international matters, focusing on Vietnam investments and disputes.

Ngo Tuu Duc, legal counsel at American multinational food processing and commodities trading corporation Archer Daniels Midland in Ho Chi Minh City, recommends Dang for his in-depth experience on legal practices.

“Minh is also a prominent international arbitration lawyer,” says Ngo. “He acted for various state-owned and private entities in international disputes from oil and gas, energy and construction to pharmaceutical.”

Ngo also commends Dang’s colleague, managing partner Truong Nhat Quang in Hanoi, as “a leading banking and corporate lawyer in Vietnam and author of many legal treatises. Truong has made tremendous contributions to the Vietnam legal practice by authoring various excellent treatises on Vietnamese civil law and corporate law,” says Ngo.

Focal points

Navigating the country’s regulatory framework is never a simple matter. Many lawyers on the A-List are recognised as trusted advisers by their clients for providing results-driven counselling and dedicated representation on various matters.

Truong Thien Thanh, a partner at Thang & Associates in Ho Chi Minh City, is described as “an experienced, hard-working, intelligent and solution-oriented lawyer” by Stefan Kratz, managing director at Phoenix Clean Power, a company specialising in building, investing and operating rooftop solar power in Ho Chi Minh City.

Kratz also recommends Dang Chi Lieu, founder and chairman at DNA Vietnam in Hanoi, for his “excellent knowledge of the market” and for being “fast, professional, highly competent and solution-oriented”.

Vinash Gopalakrishnan, vice president of business development at the power generation company JERA in Tokyo, agrees with that assessment. “Dang Chi Lieu is a very co-operative, customer-centric counsel, and has extensive experience in supporting transactions, specifically in renewables,” says Gopalakrishnan.

“He is constantly updating the latest legal requirements and is able to translate these changes to clients to meet business transaction requirements effectively and efficiently. He is capable of bringing several perspectives in deals and can help the client in navigating the transaction process, especially for international clients.”

Doan Thi Luu Thu, chief accountant at property developer Renaissance Viet Nam in Ho Chi Minh City, says Vina Legal’s managing partner and founder, Duong Quang Long in Hanoi, is her trusted lawyer. “Long is a professional, enthusiastic lawyer,” says Doan. “The company and I always feel assurance when receiving his advice.”

Another outstanding name from Vina Legal is partner Nguyen Bao Huy, as recommended by Nguyen Hue, senior human resources manager at Hanoi-based rail and guided transport infrastructure company Colas Rail Vietnam, for “always showing responsibility and high competency in his consulting service”.

Tran Ngoc Hoang Phuong, a partner at Allen & Gledhill in Ho Chi Minh City, receives the thumbs up from his client, Kamal Sidhu, a Singapore-based senior counsel at American multinational energy corporation Chevron. “Allen & Gledhill Vietnam is a high-quality one-stop shop for advice on Vietnamese law issues and this is largely due to Phuong’s wide-ranging knowledge of Vietnamese law, experience with the expectations of large international clients, and great client responsiveness,” says Sidhu.

Nguyen Linh, a Singapore-based associate director at global risk and strategic consulting firm Control Risks Group, agrees. “Phuong is an exceptional young lawyer who is not only very knowledgeable, but also very experienced and a great listener who always wants to help clients,” says Nguyen.

“His experience in many different sectors in Vietnam, from banking and finance to consumer issues to property, truly makes him stand out from the crowd. Apart from Vietnam, Phuong also has extensive experience working in other countries in Southeast Asia.”

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. Nominations were made by professionals at a wide range of Vietnamese and global companies, financial institutions and law firms including AAA IPRIGHT, Archer Daniels Midland, Chevron, CMC Global, Colas Rail Vietnam, Control Risks Group, GE Healthcare Vietnam, JERA, Joseph Liow Chambers, K&L Gates Straits Law, Linea Aqua Vietnam, Mace Vietnam, Mainstream Phu Cuong, Phoenix Clean Power, Piaggio Vietnam, Renaissance Viet Nam, RMIT Vietnam, Sunshine Group, Techtronic Industries, The Arbitration Chambers, Tilleke & Gibbins, TSMP Law Corporation, Uscomtech, VCCorp, WT Partnership, ZICO Law, ZTE Corporation, and many more. The nomination process was backed up by thorough editorial research.

The final list reflects the nominations received, combined with the 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 here. 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 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.