2020 ALB China Top 15 Female Lawyers
As in other years, the 2020 ALB China Top 15 Female Lawyers list recognizes outstanding female practitioners for their exceptional achievement in the legal services industry. We speak to them to find out the keys to their success, and the challenges female lawyers still face these days.
In the past year, all 15 female lawyers have achieved great results. Zhu Haiyan, an equity partner and the managing partner of Shanghai office of Commerce & Finance, led her team dealing with multiple major projects including cross-border bond issuing of Evergrande Group, Export-Import Bank of China (EIBC), Shimao Property Holdings Ltd., as well as EIBC’s 30-billion-yuan ($4.5 billion) second-tier bond issuing in national inter-bank bond market. Evergrande group's $3 billion bond project in 2019 won the best high yield real estate deal of Chinese USD bond of that year.
“Commerce & Finance worked closely with other professional teams and completed all the work on time through efficient communication with the issuer, helping the issuer seize the good opportunity of bond issuance and completing the bond issuance in strict accordance with the schedule. The success of these projects also demonstrates once again our professionalism and commitment in handling large cross-border transactions and our ability to provide clients with efficient, high-quality and comprehensive legal services,”Zhu says.
Liu Fei, a senior partner from AllBright Law Offices, is an expert in PPP. Her achievements including many successful important PPP projects, such as PPP Project of Industrial New City of Ziyang Airport Economic Zone of Tianfu International Airport, the pilot project of the National Mixed-ownership reform and the PPP demonstration project of The Hangzhou-Wenzhou Railway, PPP Project of renovation and expansion project of Urumqi international airport north district, PPP project for upgrading the old urban area of Urumqi, and legal consulting projects of the reform of Wuxi Huishan Development Zone and Qianqiao Sub-district state-owned enterprise, as well as the financing platform companies’ market-oriented transformation.
In October 2019, on behalf of AllBright, Liu undertook the "Risk Management" sub-forum of the fifth China PPP Development (Financing) Forum hosted by the PPP Center of the Ministry of Finance. Her professional opinions during the discussion with scholars, financial institution executives, investor executives on the financing issues of PPP projects obtained high praise from industry peers. In addition, Liu was invited to draw up the PPP asset trading rules of the PPP asset trading platform and give legal advice on the trading rules. The PPP Asset trading platform is a platform jointly established by the PPP Center of the Ministry of Finance and Tianjin Financial Exchange, providing professional services for the transfer of assets and equity of PPP projects across the country. The PPP asset trading rules are also the first asset trading rules and guidance document tailored for PPP projects in China. Liu was responsible for drafting and revising the transaction documents and providing legal advice on the compliance of the transaction rules.
Beijing Dentons Law Offices’ senior partner Li Tao, on the other hand, has resolved many typical financial disputes, including a case derived from a financial loan dispute in which an outsider executes an objection, a case involving a trust loan and share usufruct repurchase dispute between a large trust company and the financier, a case of factoring contract dispute involving a large financial leasing company. The amount of these cases has reached over 100 million yuan. Li and her team have achieved satisfactory results and protected clients' legitimate rights and interests to the maximum.
“When dealing with a case, the most important thing is to dig into the facts of the case, to understand the case better than the parties. To resolve disputes, a thorough understanding of the case is the profound explanation theory foundation. Only by finding the key points of the facts and presenting them clearly in front of the judge can we persuade them to believe the theoretical path you have chosen. In terms of trial skills, visual presentation of the case, reasonable theoretical selection, scientific case retrieval, adequate pre-trial preparation, and rigorous trial expression are all essential components of a successful trial.” Li says.
Another winner, Liao Mingxia, a senior partner at DeHeng Law Offices, has extensive experience in legal affairs related to state-owned assets, and has achieved many breakthroughs in this area. She has completed many complex projects, including policy-backed debt-for-equity repurchase program: Shenzhen Investment Holdings' equity acquisition project on a group company held by Orient Assets, China Southern Power Grid's layout of new infrastructure and other large M&A restructuring projects, Shenzhen Tens of billions Angel Mother fund, listed company bailout fund, guide fund re-evaluation and other major and innovative financial projects, as well as Overseas investment projects of a number of well-known state-owned enterprises, and helping clients successfully apply for recognition and enforcement of Chinese arbitration awards abroad.
Talking about her successful experience, Liao says: "first, lawyers should have solid professional ability, hard drive and persistent professional spirit to deal with innovative and complicated projects. They should be both professional and dedicated. Secondly, besides understanding the law, I also need to understand the industry and have certain business thinking. Finally, innovative business requires multi-dimensional and multi-perspective questions and analysis to solve problems."
WHY FEMALE LAWYERS STAND OUT
Female legal professionals are praised as being careful, patient and diligent, which makes them an important asset for any firm. "Capital markets and M&A projects usually involve a large amount of paperwork," Zhu says. "Due diligence and the drafting and review of legal texts require lawyers to keep polishing them patiently for a long time, so as to pursue the accuracy and strict logic of the texts. Female lawyers tend to have a meticulous, patient and down-to-earth work style, and their commitment to a lot of basic work is usually outstanding."
In addition, Liu also points out that female lawyers' communication skills are more conducive to resolving conflicts and promoting the progress of projects. This point of view is echoed by Li, who says: “In terms of case handling, female lawyers' soft characteristics are more likely to have peaceful communication with clients and even with the other party so that they have a better chance to contribute to dispute resolution through mediation, reconciliation and other means. In terms of treating and maintaining customers, female lawyers are more sensitive, which enables them to facilitate smooth communication with customers, making it easier for them to think in others' shoes, and helping them get better service experience and develop higher customer loyalty.”
Additionally, Li also pointed out that when dealing with specific legal issues, female lawyers' mindset is more divergent compared with men's more linear way of thinking. This trait can help women to view issues from a broader perspective and from more perspectives. When dealing with marriage and family cases, women's sensitive characteristics are more likely to sense the real feelings and appeals of both parties, so that they can find solutions that are more easily accepted by all parties.
"In teamwork, women are the glue that holds the team together and makes it more cohesive. At the same time, female leaders are more likely to detect the ups and downs of team members' state and mood, which can help team members timely adjust their mentality and ensure that team members are in a better state of work and life. In a word, female legal practitioners' position in the team is indispensable. The collocation of both male and female lawyers helps to form a more harmonious, stable and loving team atmosphere, and helps to cultivate a diversified team temperament." Li adds.
REAL EQUALITY IS MUTUAL WIN-WIN
In recent years, gender bias has become a hot topic on the Internet. "No industry will directly admit gender bias, but the problem still exists objectively," Li says, "I think this bias is not mainly due to the law firm, but more from outside of the industry, influenced by the client's subjective will. Some clients will insist on working with male lawyers, but very few clients will do so for female lawyers. Such prejudice may also affect law firms on talent selection, and make female lawyers tend to choose legal work with less confrontations, thus reducing their business scope.”
Not just Li, Liu has also experienced such prejudice. So how to break the bias and realize equality? And what is the real gender equality? Liu gives us her answer: proving herself with professional capability and realizing mutual winning of both women and men.
"Demonstrate professionalism in all workplaces, and maintain disciplined. At the same time, we should give full play to our meticulous, patient and good communication skills as a female lawyer to do our jobs well. Both men and women should make use of their advantages and avoid their weaknesses, and respect each other so as to achieve a win-win situation." She says.
Such opinion is echoed by Liao. She says: “Females are careful, resilient, with strong affinity. At present, most of our team members are women, who play an indispensable role. I tend to think that everything in the world has its own division of labour. Although there are natural differences between male and female, they can give full play to their respective strengths and achieve complementary and win-win results in their work.”
And such mutual success still needs the work from the whole industry.
"Gender equality is not about equality of outcomes, such as requiring the same amount of men and women working together in an industry, but more about equality of opportunity. In other words, equality is not about eliminating gender differences, it's about trying to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to make a free choice. Therefore, the most comfortable industry environment should try to ensure that people have equal opportunities to apply for jobs, and their working ability can have fair assessment." Li says.
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE
Despite the outstanding achievements, the winning lawyers are still keen to have more success in the future.
Zhu says: "my plan for the next few years is to continue to explore businesses in the areas of capital markets and investment and financing, especially focusing on Chinese red-chip companies considering multiple listings, as well as the various listing project opportunities brought by the reform of the domestic registration system. I hope to have the opportunity to participate in and complete some innovative projects. Secondly, I will cultivate more excellent lawyers who can integrate law and business, establish a reasonable structure for my team, and let them get better growth. Finally, I hope to lead my team to explore social services in the future."
Liu, on the other hand, will keep up their great work in the area of infrastructure financing and investment. “At present, we are involved in many investment projects, and we will expand into other aspects of this field in the future. For example, we will cooperate with some active platform companies to help local governments improve their investment capacity in infrastructure. In addition, as we take over some projects of transformation, upgrading and asset optimization of local governments and state-owned enterprises, we will continue to explore and try businesses in this direction, striving to provide more and better legal services.”
Meanwhile, with the accelerated pace of urbanization, the government are drawing more areas as new economic growth points, Liu and her team will also actively explore more productive city integration projects, from the level of development, secondary development to industrial investment, urban operation to provide a full range of legal services, and even provide some business planning.
In terms of talent training, Liu also has a clear plan: “the self-improvement and growth of the team will also be my focus in the future. We require each lawyer to study independently for at least 10 hours every week to deeply understand the knowledge and relevant laws of infrastructure, finance, government regulation, construction projects and other aspects and industries. The team also organizes internal training once a week to produce two or three professional articles per month and share them with industry peers or clients.”
Li also Shared her plans for the future: “First of all, I would like to devote more time and energy to the development of arbitration in China. At present, arbitration, with its own advantages and characteristics, has shown a powerful function in resolving social conflicts and disputes, and has become an important force in China's diversified dispute settlement mechanism. However, there is no denying that there are still many new problems in the development of arbitration in China. In particular, with the increasingly close international economic cooperation, the proposal of the strategic plan of "Belt Road" and the continuous emergence of China's international status and influence, China's leading power and voice in international commercial arbitration need to be enhanced.”
Arbitration is also one of the priorities of Liao's future work plans. She says that as an arbitrator, she should continue to do a good job in arbitration and solve more civil and commercial disputes. "The core value of arbitration lies in independence and justice, which is consistent with the pursuit of fairness in the heart of legal practitioners. In the process of serving as arbitrator, I can tell that the parties of each individual case can always feel such charm of arbitration. This is not only to promote the legal construction for our society, but also to contribute to the optimization of the business operating environment."
In addition, Liao will continue to develop businesses of corporate, finance and cross-border investment and finance.. She hopes to seize the innovation and strategic development points of the industry, provide clients with professional, high-quality and efficient legal services. Also, with her in-depth understanding of the industry, creative thinking and high-efficient working attitude, she hopes to gain even more professional accomplishment.
The rule of law is the best business environment, and Shenzhen is working hard to build a model city based on the rule of law. Therefore, Liao hopes to combine her pursuit of legal public welfare with the construction of rule of law, continue her "Gele Mountain Lectures" project, which is a Shenzhen’s civilian legal quality improvement project which she has participated in organizing and hosted for a long time, making it a high-level legal lecture hall with extensive influence in China. Furthermore, "Law is a highly practical subject, and legal education needs the input of practitioners. I will continue to participate in practical teaching in colleges and universities, looking forward to the growth of more legal talents." Liao says.
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