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Asia Business Law Journal reveals the leading talent in Vietnam’s legal profession. Lim Miran and Nguyen Yen report.

Vietnam’s once strong economic growth hit a speed bump in 2023, slowing down to 5.05% from a robust 8.02% the previous year.

The economic downturn has been attributed to weakened global demand and reduced public investment during an intensified anti-graft crackdown.

As a vital regional manufacturing hub heavily dependent on trade, Vietnam faced a 4.4% decline in exports this year from 2022, dropping to USD355.5 billion, according to a report from the government’s General Statistics Office (GSO). As an example of this decline, the GSO observed that smartphone shipments, a major foreign currency source, had been scaled back by 8.3%.

Despite these challenges, the outlook remains positive. The GSO reported that industrial production increased by 1.5% in 2023 from 2022, and retail sales rose 9.6% in the same period. In efforts to boost economic growth, Vietnam’s central bank cut policy rates, while the government introduced economic measures such as extended value-added tax cuts to stimulate domestic consumption and assist public infrastructure investment.

In June 2023, Vietnam passed the Law on Protection of Consumers’ Rights, which is due to come into effect on 1 July this year. This is noteworthy because the new legislation carries significant ramifications for both onshore and offshore businesses that engage in transactions with Vietnamese consumers.

At the same time, Telecommunications Law revisions have particularly impacted foreign enterprises involved in novel telecoms services such as basic internet telecoms, cloud computing and data centres. The amendments underscore a commitment to elevate service quality, protect consumer rights and bolster security measures.

The Vietnamese government also rolled out Decree No. 65 on 23 August 2023, with guidelines for establishing and safeguarding industrial property rights and reinforcing Vietnam’s commitment to creating a business environment that encourages international collaboration and innovation.

Under this dynamic legal landscape, businesses that wish to seize new opportunities will need to have strategies in place to ensure they fully adhere to ever-evolving regulations.

Against this backdrop, Asia Business Law Journal presents its A-List of 100 lawyers notable for their adherence to best practices in Vietnam. The A-List is the result of extensive research and nominations from in-house counsel primarily in Vietnam, but also Vietnam-focused partners with international law firms. Nearly all A-List lawyers are strategically based in the capital, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City, two major centres driving the country’s political and commercial activities. Comments submitted to Asia Business Law Journal by clients underscore their preference for seasoned lawyers who consistently uphold the highest ethical standards and maintain professionalism and enthusiasm in their interactions.

Cross-border navigators

With their intricate knowledge of local laws and regulations, legal professionals play a pivotal role in aiding foreign investment and streamlining cross-border transactions. Numerous A-List lawyers possess exceptional skills in collaborating with foreign investors and professional service firms, and can ensure the seamless execution of transactions while meeting the necessary legal requirements. Among these experts, Tran Ngoc Hoang Phuong, a partner at Allen & Gledhill Vietnam, stands out. Tran was nominated by Ngo Duc, South Asia legal counsel at Archer Daniels Midland, an American multinational food processing and commodities trading corporation based in Ho Chi Minh City.Ngo Duc

“Phuong is an exemplary commercial lawyer. He not only possesses in-depth knowledge of the Vietnamese legal system but also demonstrates excellent commercial sense and understands his clients’ needs,” says Ngo. “This enables him to deliver precisely what they want.

“Instead of spending time reviewing lengthy timesheets to justify an expensive legal bill, his clients are usually happy to pay for his services because they receive what they pay for. He is worth every penny.” Ho Chi Minh City’s Raffles Medical Group general manager Wilson Lai also commends Tran for “providing clear means and explanations on how to address legal risks while maintaining the commercial intent of parties. He offers good turnaround and is always available to put out fires”. Dang Chi Lieu, chairman at DNA Vietnam in Hanoi, has earned the title of “one of the best M&A lawyers in Vietnam” from his client, Tran Trang, vice president at PYI Capital in Ho Chi Minh City. The pair have collaborated closely in the past five years, and in that time have successfully closed five deals together.Trang Tran

“Without him, I don’t think we could have completed the deal,” says Tran Trang. “I was impressed by his hard work, knowledge and soft skills in bringing the best value to his clients. It can be said that Lieu is one of the best M&A lawyers in Vietnam. I have recommended Lieu to a few clients, and I consistently receive positive feedback for his work.” Le Hong Phong, an equity partner at BizConsult law firm in Ho Chi Minh City, receives a commendation from his client, Dinh Tu, head of legal, Indochina, at global healthcare and pharmaceutical company Sanofi.

“Phong is a talented, dedicated and highly reliable lawyer who consistently offers practical suggestions that make sense from both legal and commercial perspectives,” says Dinh. “Our company and in-house team have engaged with many external counsel and Phong stands out as the best, investing his own time to fully understand both the issues of concern and our business operations.

“After providing his initial advice, he often engages in discussions with our stakeholders to further explain and, as new data comes in, explores new options with our team. We truly appreciate Phong’s in-depth experience in investment and licensing areas, general corporate and commercial fields, M&A transactions and, especially, his business partnership attitude, which I have not seen when working with other external counsel in Vietnam.”

Motor vehicle manufacturer Dai Piaggio Vietnam’s legal manager, Kha Quynh, agrees with the assessment, adding she has worked with Le for more than 10 years, and has always been satisfied with his “excellent service”.

“He possesses rich experience and knowledge, not only in Vietnamese but also international laws and regulations, which is very helpful in supporting our various investment projects, corporate issues and cross-border commercial transactions,” says Kha.

“He consistently demonstrates high responsibility and prompt responses to support clients with qualified, practical and value-added advice and solutions. He is an attorney with good business sense, which makes him stand out from other lawyers I have worked with, and he deserves to be nominated in the list of the top practising lawyers in Vietnam.”

Compassionate champions

The business landscape is always dynamic and, as conditions evolve, companies may find the need for dependable and expert legal assistance. Clients often place their confidence in lawyers who exhibit genuine enthusiasm and passion for their profession.

With that in mind, Nguyen Giang, head of research at Ho Chi Minh City investment and research company Turicum Investment Management, praises Duong Minh, the managing partner at Asia Counsel Vietnam.Nguyen Giang

“Minh’s exceptional legal expertise, adept negotiation prowess and proactive approach have been invaluable to our organisation,” says Giang. “His steadfast dedication and unyielding commitment, coupled with his knack for offering pragmatic solutions to intricate issues, truly sets him apart. Recognising Minh is not just a choice; it’s a testament to his outstanding contributions to our transactions.”

For Thai Van Linh, CEO at Ho Chi Minh City training and development company Skills Bridge, Minh stands out for his “exceptional dedication, which not only benefits clients but also elevates the standard of legal practice in Vietnam”.

“Minh is more than our counsel, he is a valued partner for the business,” she says. “He articulates complex legal concepts in a manner that is easily understood. Minh’s creativity in resolving the company’s challenges is not only innovative but also highly effective, demonstrating a deep understanding of both legal theory and practical application.

“Beyond Minh’s professional acumen, he exhibits unwavering dedication to his work. This dedication was most notably evident when he took my calls even while on extended sick leave, showcasing a level of commitment that goes far beyond the ordinary expectations of the role.” Le Minh Phieu, founder and managing partner at LMP Lawyers in Ho Chi Minh City, is nominated by his longstanding business collaborator, Shinji Takeuchi, partner at the M&A advisory firm Japan Business Portal.

“He has demonstrated excellent deal-sourcing and execution skills, which have enabled our firms to successfully close multiple cross-border M&A deals for our Japanese clients,” says Takeuchi.

“He has also led his team in conducting regulatory research for a client in the aquaculture sector. The accuracy and speediness of his law firm’s service are second to none.”

LMP Lawyers also earns trust and praise from their client, Nguyen Duy Đoan, CEO at Fountainhead Design. “LMP Lawyers is a standout property law firm in Vietnam, providing tailored and top-notch legal services,” he says. “Whether navigating arrears recovery, property litigation or any property-related matter, LMP Lawyers’ expertise and experience make them an indispensable ally in the complex realm of property law.”

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