ALB Conversations: Li Dajin, Director of East & Concord
Li Dajin, Director of East & Concord, started practicing law in 1982. Since then, Li has worked with hundreds of enterprises, institutions and government agencies as legal adviser, and handled tens of thousands of various cases, and therefore has accumulated a wealth of practicing experience. As a senior lawyer, Li enjoys a good reputation among peers and in all related industries. Li specializes in litigation and arbitration involving intellectual property rights, reputation rights, international trade, civil and commercial legal disputes, and legal matters of investment projects, and serves as legal adviser of and provides specialized legal services for large State-owned enterprises, State organs, and large multinational companies.
ALB：What made you choose to work as a lawyer and persistent about it for decades？
Li Dajin: First of all, it's because I've been personally very interested in the legal profession. Even now, after years of practice, I'm still keen on this field. Secondly, my personality is very suitable for being a lawyer. I'm a people person and good at interacting with others, which, I believe, is the right personality for this job. As a lawyer, you need to interact or deal with all kinds of people from all walks of life. If a lawyer does not have the ability in this respect, I think it is going to be difficult to continue with this job. Thirdly, my family background and my experience enable me to achieve satisfactory results in my work. And finally, I firmly believe in what I am doing – as a legal professional. I think that only with a strong belief can one be persistent in what they do, and remain committed to it for years.
ALB：What are your principles at work and in life？
Li: First of all, to be a lawyer in China, you must have a profound and in-depth understanding of the national situations, in addition to the knowledge of laws and the society. Secondly, if you want to be an excellent and respected lawyer, you must show respect for people and the truth. Thirdly, I would say, never give in to lust and never be obsequious or sycophantic. At this point, I'm very satisfied with myself since I've been sticking to this rule for years; and I take pride in that. And finally, I believe that lawyers should take pleasure from helping others – helping others to solve problems, helping them to get out of troubles – that makes me happy.
ALB：What is your management philosophy？
Li: Lawyers are a special group of professionals, and my management philosophy is: giving full play to their potentials, setting up boundaries and limits, carrying out management functions in light of circumstances, and implementing the bottom-line principle.
An excellent manager of a law firm needs to establish trust and confidence and meanwhile is able to guide others to make continuous progress. There are a few things that are crucial: first, he must be a person with strong self-discipline. Lawyers use laws as a tool to provide services for people. Without self-discipline, he would not be a qualified manager since he cannot build trust or confidence, let alone be respected. Secondly, as managers, we also need to make sure that the instructions given or requirements put forward not only set up rules for the staff to follow, but also help them to complete their jobs. The effective management should yield beneficial results directly; otherwise, I think it is a failure in management. And last, as a manager, you should clearly tell others where your bottom line is. It is a very important quality. Having served as the managing partner for nearly 40 years, I have always clearly let my colleagues know my likes and dislikes and where my bottom line is, which helps with the effective management greatly.
ALB：In particular, what is your strategy for expanding your law firm？
Li: I think that the law firm must achieve four basic conditions for expansion: the purpose of expansion must be clear, the firm must have the capacity corresponding to the intended expansion, the genes for the expansion can be transmitted, and the results of expansion should be that people in the areas to which we expand and those who are involved in the expansion all benefit from that.
ALB：What are some of the big challenges facing the firm over the past few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic? How are you going to tackle them？
Li: COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult and stressful for the whole world, causing fear and anxiety. It is an unprecedented public health emergency affecting every industry, a special experience with no previous experience to learn from. And it is a challenge facing all mankind.
Like many other industries, law firms were once in a state of suspension of business due to the national lockdown. Now that we are gradually going back to normal, to overcome the challenges brought by the pandemic, the first thing is to cope with stress. Meanwhile, a well-established firm's mechanism is also very important, which can help the firm to pass the test of the pandemic. Furthermore, the firm's humanistic oriented culture also plays a very important role, which supports staff to work together in an orderly manner during the pandemic.
East & Concord withstood the "big test" of COVID-19 pandemic. Our integrated management mechanism and our humanistic oriented culture played a significant role. Everyone in the firm was cared for during the outbreak, whether they are in Beijing office or other six offices. The staff reported their situations daily, so we all clearly knew what was going on with one another every day. All these have enabled us to work together and stay together during the pandemic.
ALB：In your opinion, how important is a law firm's culture？
Li: I think that a firm should build a culture from three aspects: first, it must have a professional culture characterized by its specialized areas of practice. The culture of professionalism is like the skin of a person, which determines whether the person has a healthy look or good image, thus making him or her stand out; secondly, for a law firm, the good management culture, which is like the human skeletal system, plays a very important support and protective role; and thirdly, a law firm also needs a humanistic oriented culture, which is like the blood of human body -- playing the lubricant and dredging role -- determines whether the day-to-day work and business activities of the firm can be carried out effectively and smoothly.
ALB Conversations is a weekly series of in-depth Q&As with leaders of law firms and in-house legal departments across Asia. If you are a managing partner or general counsel based in the region who is interested in being a part of this series, please send an email to email@example.com.