'Listen and Engage'
Recently elected as Baker McKenzie’s ﬁrst Asian global chair, Milton Cheng has ambitious plans to grow the ﬁrm’s Mainland China presence. Here, he outlines his strategy for the immediate future.
ALB: You’ve received a lot of recognition in the media for being the firm’s first Asia-based chair, do you think your election signals an effort to focus on Asia going forward?
CHENG: Baker McKenzie has always been a truly global ﬁrm with no one region dominating our management or our culture. I like to see myself as the latest in a series of ﬁrsts that we have led the legal sector on: First female chair with Christine Lagarde in 1999, ﬁrst Latin American chair in 2010 with Eduardo Leite and now with myself as our ﬁrst Asian chair. I think it is a big tribute to the region and recognition of the growth and the growing importance of Asia, but also an example of how, in Baker McKenzie, everyone has the opportunity to be successful and to lead, regardless of background.
ALB: What are your plans for China heading into 2020?
CHENG: 2020 will be a year of some significance to our ﬁrm in China and glob-ally, as it marks the ﬁfth anniversary of the establishment of our joint operation ofﬁce with FenXun Partners in the Shanghai FTZ. Over the years, the team has grown six-fold in size, serving an expanding suite of domestic and multinational clients. We have recently conﬁrmed that we are exploring plans to take this co-operation a stage further by expanding our presence in the Greater Bay Area, including potentially applying or ofﬁces in the southern Chinese technology hub of Shenzhen.
ALB: What are your plans for the immediate future?
CHENG: The complexity of any organisation like this is a challenge. I have found the enthusiasm and helpfulness of so many people has helped me as I take on the role, so I feel well prepared. My top three priorities for the next few months coming into this new role are to listen and engage, work with the global board to agree and communicate short, medium and long term goals and chart a clear implementation plan for the next 12 months and beyond, and articulate and attain buy-in of the plan as I visit ofﬁces around the world and talk to our partners and our people.
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