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China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”: What’s in it for Law Firms and Lawyers?

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Abstract

The Belt and Road Initiative, as a centrepiece of China’s limitless economic rise, offers ample room for lawyers and law firms to generate new work and capitalize on new opportunities. Utilizing survey method, this study offers a new insight into what are the expectations within the legal services industry in PRC, and what are some of the peculiarities stretching lawyers beyond their traditional roles. Addressing short-term and long-term expectations of lawyers, and approaches utilized by law firms to authentically connect with potential clients, this study offers further insight into practice areas of current and future demand, and law firms’ outreach activities and strategies. The relationship between PRC government and the legal services industry in the context of the One Belt, One Road initiative, and the special role Hong Kong (SAR) has to play within the initiative are giving a completion to this survey-based study, that covers geographically the Mainland and Hong Kong (SAR).

The chapter was published in The Chinese Journal of Comparative Law (2017, Vol. 5, Issue 1) by Oxford University Press.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Originally, the Central People’s Government announced its initiative to foster closer cooperation between places lying on two ancient economic routes, namely the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”. For practicality and consistency purposes, this chapter will adopt the concise version referred as One Road, One Belt.

  2. 2.

    Kennedy (2015).

  3. 3.

    Wade (2016).

  4. 4.

    This is how China’s reform and open policies are termed in short.

  5. 5.

    Zhonghua Quanguo Lushi Xiehui (All China Lawyers Association—ACLA) (2016).

  6. 6.

    Taddia (2013).

  7. 7.

    Ibid.

  8. 8.

    The Author (18 April 2016). Personal interview.

  9. 9.

    The Author (11 August 2016). Personal interview.

  10. 10.

    There are regional specifics, pertinent to each FTZ, and until the approval by Ministry of Justice from August 31, 2016, the four FTZs were Shanghai, Guangdong, Fujian and Tianjin respectively.

  11. 11.

    The Author (10 September 2016). Personal interview.

  12. 12.

    China Daily (2015).

  13. 13.

    Zhang (2016).

  14. 14.

    Statistics on Chinese Investment Abroad (2015).

  15. 15.

    Zhang (2016).

  16. 16.

    Guanyu fazhan shewai falu fuwu ye de yijian (Opinions on the development of foreign-related legal services) (2017).

  17. 17.

    Opinions on Developing the Sector of Legal Services for Foreign Affairs Issued (2017).

  18. 18.

    LexisNexis (2017).

  19. 19.

    Janzek and Ziherl (2012).

  20. 20.

    Keynes (2008).

  21. 21.

    Janzek and Ziherl (2012).

  22. 22.

    Sample of the questions, that have been addressed in the form of questionnaire are included in Appendix 3.

  23. 23.

    List of Mainland and Hong Kong SAR law firms is included in Appendix 2. List of senior partners, partners, etc. is available upon request by contacting the author.

  24. 24.

    Taddia (2013).

  25. 25.

    The Author (8 April 2016). Personal interview.

  26. 26.

    Roedl & Partner Law Firm (2016).

  27. 27.

    The Author (16 November 2016). Personal interview.

  28. 28.

    Aimed at supporting the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region, and following its Articles of Agreement entering into force in December, 2015, the Bank has 57 member states and it started operation in January, 2016.

  29. 29.

    Among the law firms, contacted for the purpose of this study, Dentons, King & Wood Mallesons, Shearman & Sterling, Yingke law firm, Zhongyin Law Firm, Fangda Law Firm, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP have increased their presence in countries from Central Asia and Middle East, or are in the process of establishing local partnerships. Compiling a guidebook and listing law firms and law offices along the New Silk Road is currently undertaken by the ACLA, as well as the SME Bureau of Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the PR China.

  30. 30.

    Zhang (2016).

  31. 31.

    Zhonghua Quanguo Lushi Xiehui (All China Lawyers Association—ACLA) (2016).

  32. 32.

    Xinhua (2016).

  33. 33.

    Boss & Young launched OBOR alliance to target Chinese development strategy. See e.g. Kriegler (2015).

  34. 34.

    The Author (19 April 2016). Personal interview.

  35. 35.

    The Author (22 November 2016). Personal interview.

  36. 36.

    Challenging the traditional law firm model, Allen & Overy has launched recently the Peerpoint, which will allow the firm to augment its permanent workforce at times of high demand or when there is a need for particular specialist skills, while offering Peerpoint lawyers greater choice over when, where and how they work and the type of work they do. See Allen & Overy (2013).

  37. 37.

    Michelmores Law Firm (2016).

  38. 38.

    Along with the Prolegis law firm, this was a Silk Road Fund’s 1.2 billion Russian LNG project, to which both Herbert Smith Freehills and Baker Botts took the lead.

  39. 39.

    China Law & Practice Ceremony, attended on September 21, 2016 at the Park Hyatt, Beijing.

  40. 40.

    Roedl & Partner Law Firm (2016).

  41. 41.

    Zhonglun Law Firm (2017).

  42. 42.

    Chenyi Law Firm (2016).

  43. 43.

    Duan & Duan Law Firm (2017).

  44. 44.

    Tahota Lawyers (2017).

  45. 45.

    Tianhe Law Firm (2017).

  46. 46.

    Hiway Law Firm (2017).

  47. 47.

    Jingshi Law Firm (2017).

  48. 48.

    The Author (6 November 2016). Personal interview.

  49. 49.

    The World Economic Forum (2016).

  50. 50.

    The Author (20 April 2016). Personal interview.

  51. 51.

    The Author (5 June 2016). Personal interview.

  52. 52.

    Xinhua News (2016).

  53. 53.

    The Author (5 June 2016). Personal interview.

  54. 54.

    The Author (19 April 2016). Personal interview.

  55. 55.

    Hung (2016).

  56. 56.

    The Author (9 September 2016). Personal interview.

  57. 57.

    HKTDC Research (2016).

  58. 58.

    Third party interview with Elsie Leung, Deputy Director of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee.

  59. 59.

    Ibid.

  60. 60.

    HKTDC Research (2016).

  61. 61.

    Department of Justice, Hong Kong SAR (2015).

  62. 62.

    Ibid.

  63. 63.

    Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (2016).

  64. 64.

    Forbes (2016).

  65. 65.

    Hong Kong Trade Development Council (2016).

References

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Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Professor Mingyuan Wang, Director of The Center for Environmental, Natural Resources & Energy Law, Tsinghua University (THCEREL), for the advice, support and guidance throughout this research. The author is much appreciative to his colleagues Roger Jiang and Yueling Liu from the Legal & Risk Control Department of Country Garden Overseas Division, who offered extraordinarily helpful criticism. The author is especially grateful to the Fortum Foundation, Finland for its continuous support and patronage.

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Correspondence to Tommi Yu .

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Appendices

Appendix 1

List of all 65 counties (following geographical principle), involved in the BRI:

  • East Asia: Mongolia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei, Philippines

  • West Asia: Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt

  • South Asia: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan

  • Middle Asia: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan

  • CIS: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova

  • Mid-East Europe: Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia

Appendix 2

List of Law firms, from which lawyers were interviewed, or questionnaire responses were received:

(Three of the largest foreign law firms with presence in China)

  • Dentons (For the purpose of the survey, Dentons has been considered as one of the largest foreign law firms with presence in China, although in 2015, Dacheng, one of the largest Chinese law firms merged with Dentons.)

  • King & Wood Mallesons

  • Shearman & Sterling

(Three of the largest domestic law firms)

  • Yingke Law Firm

  • Zhong Yin Law Firm

  • Fangda Law Firm

(Three of the relatively small foreign law firms with presence in China)

  • Sidley Austin LLP

  • Proskauer Rose LLP

  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

(Three small domestic law firms)

  • Guantao Law Firm

  • Hou & Cheng Law Firm

  • Beijing Ruizhong Law Firm

(Hong Kong SAR based firms)

  • Latham & Watkins LLP

  • White & Case

  • Woo Kwan Lee & Lo

Appendix 3

Excerpt of sample questions, which were part of the survey questionnaire, or asked during in-person interviews with lawyers, for the purpose of current study:

  • In your opinion, what exactly is One Belt, One Road?

  • Have your legal professionals/colleagues underwent OBOR specific training?

  • In your opinion, how a domestic law firm could ensure it has the multijurisdictional capacity to provide clients with the legal services they need in each jurisdiction all along the New Silk Road?

  • Funding and financing are among the big challenges, associated with the OBOR. Have you provided/Are you providing legal services to any client of The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), or in relation to the AIIB?

  • Investing in emerging markets carries certain risks. Have you provided/Are you providing legal services to any client who is investing in infrastructure within any of the OBOR countries? (if yes, can you talk about the scale)

  • In your opinion, is there a role for your law firm to play within the OBOR Initiative? And what is the scale of projects you aim to be involved at? (addressed exclusively to small international and domestic law firms in China)

  • The Silk Road Fund has already came into being. Have you provided/Are you providing legal services to any client of the Fund, or in relation to the Fund? (addressed exclusively to large international and domestic law firms in China)

  • Within the context of the OBOR Initiative, what do you think are the advantages that your firm could enjoy, and what do you think the opportunities are for your firm and colleagues?

  • Have you conducted any marketing event/info session/client briefing on OBOR Initiative related subject? How often?

  • In your opinion, what is the role Hong Kong has to play within the OBOR initiative?

  • Is there anything different you do for Chinese clients, that you do not do so often for non-Chinese clients?

  • What do you consider was your OBOR related client(s) selection criteria for choosing you as their counsel?

  • What are the practice areas, which are/would be of highest demand by clients, with regard to the OBOR Initiative and related projects?

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Yu, T. (2018). China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”: What’s in it for Law Firms and Lawyers?. In: Shan, W., Nuotio, K., Zhang, K. (eds) Normative Readings of the Belt and Road Initiative. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78018-4_11

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