Non-Financial Incentives for Lawyers

As the economy continues to struggle through the pandemic, law firms and companies are increasingly competing to acquire and retain top talent. Competitive compensation levels can be  important, but truly effective motivation requires a more in-depth approach and a real commitment to people. In many cases, other motivational non-monetary tools can be much more powerful and, self-evidently, less costly. With the continuing uncertain economy, many companies are working hard to balance their budgets; here are 5 top incentives to attain and retain talent without any wage wars.

1). Incentive Schemes

Incentives drive behavior. Recognizing lawyers’ achievements when they do a good job, reach a professional milestone, or work hard on one of your company’s initiatives is critical. Incentive schemes are an effective way to encourage lawyers to positively impact the business by achieving a set of targets that cover all the key elements of the individual’s role. However, imposing targets alone rarely works well. Instead, lawyers should be involved in discussing and agreeing on objectives that they can expect to achieve. Thus, a good incentive scheme should be a transparent and fair system. Publishing appropriate and accurate information against which performance is measured is vital to create a healthy work ethic culture.

2). Feedback

Lawyers would love to receive structured feedback before being told that their performance wasn’t good enough at an annual appraisal. Constructive, timely feedback does help lawyers be aware of deficient areas in which they can improve and also helps mentors mold their employees to perform in the way you envision.

3). Learning

Having opportunities to learn and develop is key to performance.  Firms and organizations should enable individuals to identify their learning needs, engage in suitable programmes, and then apply this knowledge to their daily work.

Technology is shaping the practice of law and changing how legal services are being delivered. Technological skills required in the legal industry are fast evolving. Training in emerging areas such as cybersecurity, data protection and privacy, AI, and blockchain should now be mandatory.

4). Corporate Culture

Successful organizations adopt a positive corporate culture and communicate it well to their employees, and they are more likely to retain their employees and encourage them to excel by lifting morale, motivation, and engagement, ultimately leading to higher productivity.

Also, millennials are drawn to companies with brands and corporate values they respect. Millennials balance social impacts with financial incentives and prefer working with socially responsible organizations. They believe business priorities should enhance employees’ lives and careers and positively impact the environment. Millennials tend to be happier working in a place where they feel they can make a difference to the world. Firms and companies need to re-shape their corporate culture to meet the demands of millennial lawyers.

5). Wellness

To better address the massive changes caused by Covid-19, employers today ought to provide a safer and healthier working environment for their employees who now expect and demand more flexibility from their jobs and support for a healthy work-life balance. With technological advancements, working remotely and alternative hours has been made simple.

Although the legal profession has struggled for years to address well-being issues, law firms nowadays can no longer ignore  these and are implementing holistic wellness initiatives, including fitness programmes, stress management and mental health support. A good wellness programme demonstrates that employers are willing to look after their teams, inspiring them to feel included and part of a greater goal and purpose.

We all know that the most important element of any business is its people. Success in retaining and developing talent will help the business through challenging times ahead and beyond.

Editor: Sam Kenworthy (Director – Head of Private Practice, Hughes-Castell)

Contributor: Fai Choi (Marketing Manager, Hughes-Castell)

Consultant Spotlight: Sherry Xu

Consultant Spotlight: Sherry Xu

Hughes-Castell is heavily focused on international legal recruitment and has a diverse cultural mix, possessing strong roots in China. Sherry is a Director at Hughes-Castell, based in our Shanghai office, and has eight years’ legal compliance recruitment experience partnering with in-house departments at Fortune 500, major Chinese multinational corporations, and top-tier international law firms across Greater China and the Asia Pacific region. A law graduate, Sherry obtained a first-class LLB degree from a top-tier PRC university and then completed her LLM degree at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

What is your favourite part about working for Hughes-Castell?  

I have a strong connection with Hughes-Castell, even from before I joined. In my first year of work, I was interviewed by Hughes-Castell and got an offer from Doreen. Although I didn’t join at that time, the name “Hughes-Castell” always swung through my mind because at that time I was trained by two Hughes-Castell alumni, Elaine and Eric at another recruitment firm. They both helped me a lot and they were my initial mentors. 

Before joining Hughes-Castell, I was the one building something from scratch with other firms. I was the only one responsible for each desk. In that setting, when I have a lot of mandates on the go, I always contradictorily felt happy and worried – happy about prosperous business and grateful for my clients’ trust but on the other hand concerned about my delivery because I was short-staffed. 

At Hughes-Castell, the environment is different. Whenever I need a hand, I can reach out. We work together as a team from the beginning till the closing of a placement. Regardless of seniority, we are here to work together. We are diligent enough to work on colleagues’ mandates as hard as our own.  Even like recently, when my colleague Paul was already serving his notice, he worked so hard on the mandates I passed to him and lined up three strong candidates for me in his final week, I was very much impressed!

Last but not least, having a chance to work with Doreen, a legend in legal recruitment, is a privilege. Doreen has an excellent reputation among clients and lawyers. It seems everyone in the legal industry would have known her at some point. Previously when I got meetings with senior lawyers, all that I had prepared was, “what can I do for you?” After I joined Hughes-Castell, I realised this is not sufficient. Most senior lawyers I met told me what Doreen had done for them and expect the same service quality level from me.  I got endorsements from Doreen’s name under the Hughes-Castell umbrella even though we work out of different offices. Doreen is an encyclopedia of the industry that I can learn from.

How do you prefer to start your day?

When I was in Hong Kong, I love to start the day with a “bus tour.” Taking a bus sitting on the upper deck, a little sightseeing on the way to the office gives me a happy start to a day.

During workdays, I prefer to start my day off in an organized way. I send my to-do list to my email box at the end of the previous day, so when I come back to the office in the morning, I’ve got my to-do list and priorities ready on the desk.

Keeping a productive routine becomes vital, especially when I am now working with quite a few junior consultants, as they need my feedback and instructions on how to approach their day as well so I have to put them on my priority list too. I share with them my client’s feedback and new search directions, and help them when they have difficult cases or emergencies, making sure they are clear about what to do next.

1298082221After a busy day, in Hong Kong I would take a “bus tour” back home, different from the morning view, as there was no blue sky or cloud in the evening but there are amazing lights like stars across the Victoria Harbour. I miss that. Here I take a bike back home, riding through all the streets in Shanghai with Platanus; it’s a different view, but still, quite recharging.

While I don’t have a morning routine for weekends, I usually sleep to noontime to recharge myself unless I have an appointment.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I miss the days in Hong Kong when I could go out for boat trips, hiking, waterfall jumping, canoeing, all kinds of outdoor activities. Every activity is convenient and accessible in Hong Kong, a blessed city. Now I am in Shanghai, there are fewer outdoor options to be honest. I still keep my hobby of seeing exhibitions, and I have more space and time for yoga training. And one more thing, I’m picking my piano back up! I could play pieces easily 20 years ago, but now it takes so much time. But still, I enjoy it!

I also like traveling as I love to learn people’s ideas of their religions, happiness, and world perspectives. I love meeting people to share their joy and listen to their stories.


Tell us your most memorable overseas trip?

I took a real old-fashioned train trip in north India and took a train from Beijing to Lake Baikal through Mongolia, which seems rare for ladies. Besides the spectacular views I experienced during the trips, I found it is interesting to realize that the world is small and connected.

For example the people we met in Lake Baikal are of the same race as the Buryats we met in Hulunbeir, Inner-Mongolia (China). They indeed share the same culture and dietary habits, even though they are far apart now geographically.

And some of the people we met in India are descendants of Genghis Khan’s as well, and these people also had a connection with the Persian people. And then the Indian culture is also connected with the historical site you can see in Angkor Wat (Cambodia). I like “Eurasian” connections, for example it’s surprising to discover the packaging paper for Ukiyoe paintings from Japan had such a big impact on impressionism painting in Europe, all the way across the continents. The more you travel, the more you feel that the world is one small globe. Despite the current international political rivalries and the economic interest alliances, it is connected historically.

The most memorable trip? – I traveled to Israel once on my own for the Christmas holiday. It was not planned, I went because the flight to Israel was the cheapest at that time. Before the trip, I spent quite a lot of time reading the Bible stories, the histories and stories of Jews and Christians, as well as Islam. So when I got there, I quite “felt” the atmosphere when I listened to the guides in those walking tours. One night I wandered in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for a little bit, and there was a guy who started talking to me, introducing interesting and detailed Christian stories to me. I was amazed and followed him for a few more visits. I was impressed by how much he knew and how he was able to talk about these religious stories without bias, rancor or judgement. It turns out that guy was quite influential, in fact he was someone who worked for somebody who reported to the Pope directly! That’s probably the most prestigious guy I’ve spoken to in my life, haha…

TurkeySouth Africa Safari with lionVaranasi, India

Hughes-Castell Internship Program 2021

Grow with Hughes-Castell

Hughes-Castell, multi-award-winning legal recruitment and executive search firm, was established in London in 1985 and Hong Kong in 1986. We were the first legal recruitment consultancy in Asia, providing in-depth coverage of the Asia-Pacific region. Hughes-Castell has pioneered legal and compliance recruitment in Greater China, ASEAN and in developing markets and was the among first specialist firms to recruit lawyers in places such as Vietnam, India, Korea, and Thailand.

We have spent more than 35 years advising clients and lawyers on leadership succession, recruitment and professional development across Asia Pacific and built a strong reputation with top Fortune/Fortune Global corporations, financial services institutions and international/Chinese law firms across the region.

For Hughes-Castell, diversity is one of the essential keys to business success and our employees’ well-being. We have a diverse cultural mix of Australian, British, Chinese, European and Indian colleagues who provide a culturally robust workplace to boost our interns’ creativity and motivation to achieve exceptional results.

Hughes-Castell’s Industry recognition:

  • Best International Recruitment Agency – Human Resources Asia Recruitment Awards, 2020
  • Best Professional Services Recruitment Agency – Silver Award – Human Resources Asia Recruitment Awards, 2020
  • Best Client Service – Silver Award – Human Resources Asia Recruitment Awards, 2020
  • Best Candidate Experience-Agencies – Silver Award – Human Resources Asia Recruitment Awards, 2020
  • Best Executive Search Agency – Bronze Award – Human Resources Asia Recruitment Awards, 2020
  • Recruitment Consultancy of the Year, Hong Kong – Acquisition International 2019 Leading Adviser Awards
  • Best Legal and Compliance Recruitment Consultancy – CV Recruitment Awards 2016
  • Best in Sector: Legal Recruitment – Acquisition International Sector Performance Awards, 2015
  • Best Legal Recruitment Consultancy, Asia 2013 – Award



What you will be doing in internship

Hughes-Castell interns work on a wide range of recruitment projects that accelerate career growth and put them in direct contact with our clients and candidates. Our interns will be involved in projects like client relationship management, business development, candidate screening, interviews and market research.

  • Projects

During the duration of an internship, interns can own their projects from start to finish, often seeing these projects to a satisfactory conclusion. At the appropriate time, our consultants provide feedback on the intern’s overall performance, deliverables and skills related to the role and the project expectations.

  • Mentorship

We provide interns with suitable opportunities to take part in substantial projects. These can be demanding. Because of this, we provide 1-to-1 mentorship and “hands-on” coaching for our interns from experienced consultants who will work to enable their success and help facilitate their career growth. Our consultants will provide guidance on projects, give feedback on key deliverables and work to remove barriers.

  • Training

Hughes-Castell internship aims to help our interns meet their career goals and learn from our experienced recruitment experts.  During an internship, we will provide our interns with a state-of-the-art training program that will put them ahead of the curve as modern, technology-centric recruiting and talent acquisition professionals. Our interns will have access to one of the world-leading recruitment CRM, training videos, articles and other resources to help them along the way.

Who we’re looking for

We have great clients and exciting work. Life is never boring. We are looking for motivated interns to join a team that helps shape people’s lives and make a difference. Activities will include:

  • Assisting consultants with market research and talent search
  • Gathering the latest industry and market news
  • Executing independent research on given positions or industry
  • Helping to organize internal/external events and interviews when necessary


Who you are

  • Students or recent graduates attaining Bachelor’s Degree in Law, Business, Commerce or HR
  • Keen interest in the recruitment/executive search industry
  • Able to commit to a minimum of 2 months internship
  • Proficient in oral and written English, Cantonese and Mandarin would be a bonus
  • A good team player with high level of maturity and independence
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills to collaborate with colleagues from diverse cultural backgrounds
  • Proficient in online search skills and MS Office applications such as Excel and PowerPoint


What we offer

Hughes-Castell’s most significant value is its people. Our goal is to form the best team by providing our employees with the most appropriate training and career development opportunities. We also embrace the talents and abilities of all kinds.

At Hughes-Castell, the benefits of working with us go beyond the salary. Our internship includes a wide range of elements you need to advance your career development:

  • a chance to develop personal relationships with top-tier clients and work on challenging projects
  • pivotal learning experience & career development opportunities
  • an opportunity to widen your professional network
  • a collaborative, reliable and safe work environment
  • a reference from MD upon completion of the internship

Contact Vicky Liu at to learn more about our intern opportunities. 

Let’s Link Up – Part 1

Compare the following two sample texts*. Which paragraph do you think reads more clearly? Why do you think this is so?


This case is not so much a contest between the United States Department of Justice and two defendant companies as a skirmish in a broader battle over the direction American economic life will take in the coming years. The concept of the conglomerate corporation – not a particularly new idea, but one which lately has gained great momentum – is at the centre of this struggle. The attempt of companies to expand through acquisition of other firms, while avoiding the antitrust problems of vertical or horizontal mergers, is one reason for the recent popularity of this concept. The resulting corporations have none of the earmarks of the traditional trust situation, but they have presented new problems of their own.


This case is not so much a contest between the United States Department of Justice and two defendant companies as a skirmish in a broader battle over the direction American economic life will take in the coming years. At the centre of this struggle is the concept of the conglomerate corporation – not a particularly new idea, but one which lately has gained great momentum. One reason for its recent popularity is the attempt of companies to expand through acquisition of other firms, while avoiding the antitrust problems of vertical or horizontal mergers. The resulting corporations have none of the earmarks of the traditional trust situation, but they have presented new problems of their own.

In my past training sessions, virtually everyone agreed that Version B reads better. But I’ve only had a single trainee who put his finger on the “why”. The simple answer is that the themes in Version B – battle over the American economy, conglomerate corporations, acquisition of other corporations – link well from sentence to sentence while in Version A they are all over the place. Creating strong links is one of the best ways to make your writing more coherent and comprehensible.

In a seminar I’d use slides to show you this linkage, but here I must repeat each paragraph. There are three principal themes, which I’ll designate with underlined italics, bold type and ALL CAPITALS.


This case is not so much a contest between the United States Department of Justice and two defendant companies as a skirmish in a broader battle over the direction American economic life will take in the coming years. The concept of the conglomerate corporation – not a particularly new idea, but one which lately has gained great momentum – is at the centre of this struggle. The attempt of companies to expand through ACQUISITION OF OTHER FIRMS, while avoiding the antitrust problems of vertical or horizontal mergers, is one reason for the recent popularity of this concept. The RESULTING CORPORATIONS have none of the earmarks of the traditional trust situation, but they have presented new problems of their own.


This case is not so much a contest between the United States Department of Justice and two defendant companies as a skirmish in a broader battle over the direction American economic life will take in the coming years. At the centre of this struggle is the concept of the conglomerate corporation – not a particularly new idea, but one which lately has gained great momentum. One reason for its recent popularity is the attempt of companies to expand through ACQUISITION OF OTHER FIRMS, while avoiding the antitrust problems of vertical or horizontal mergers. The RESULTING CORPORATIONS have none of the earmarks of the traditional trust situation, but they have presented new problems of their own.

The linking in Version B illustrates an underlying principle of good writing: start with the familiar and then move to the new. In other words, once you’ve introduced a theme, continue with any elaboration before you move on to the next theme. Moving from familiar to new is not only a matter of common sense, but many studies of effective writing have demonstrated that this approach improves comprehension.

In Version B the writers created the links using similar nouns twice and a pronoun once. Can you think of any other ways to link a theme in one sentence to the same theme in the next? There are several, and we’ll examine them in a future edition of The Wednesday Writer.

In the meantime, happy linking and see you next time!

* This extraordinary example comes from Stephen V. Armstrong and Timothy P. Terrell, Thinking Like a Writer : A Lawyer’s Guide to Effective Writing and Editing, 2nd Ed.2003 Practising Law Institute



Bill Lawrence worked in US law firms and multinational companies until 2001. For the past 15 years Bill has been a writing coach at the Polytechnic University’s Centre for Business and Professional English. He has also presented seminars to law firms on coaching lawyers on effective writing.

Law firms & companies continued to hire despite the recurrence of Covid-19

We saw a good level of hiring activity in July despite the 3rd wave Covid-19 slowing lateral hiring in Asia, especially Hong Kong. As many reports stated that China is winning the Covid-19 economy recovery race, including the legal market, Chinese firms dominate the Asian legal recruitment market since Q2. Since Q3, Australia overtook Singapore to pick up in legal lateral hire markets.  Our quarterly review provides an overview of the key appointments in Asia Pacific:




  • We see a 26% growth in key appointments in Q3 compared to Q2 and 94% compared to Q1.
  • The APAC lateral market was very active in July when the pandemic showed easing in Asia.
  • The outbreak of the 3rd wave of Covid-19 in Hong Kong in August deeply affected the recruiting activities in the region.




  • China led the hiring spree with 54 significant hires in Q3 followed by Australia (28) and Hong Kong (23).
  • Australia and Hong Kong remain stable overall compared to other countries in the region.
  • The recurrence of Covid-19 in Singapore from the middle of July to August has a strong impact on their economic activities. As a result, Singapore saw the record lowest lateral hires in August.
  • India observed a substantial drop in lateral hires in July.





  • Corporate/M&A/Capital Markets practices dominated the lateral hires in Q1, Q2 & Q3. In August, the practices saw record-high hiring numbers (26).
  • Resolutions/Arbitration/Investigations practices saw steady growth from Q1 (17) to Q2 (23) and Q3 (25).
  • Restructuring & Insolvency saw a record-high hiring spree in July.

Contributor: Fai Choi (Marketing Manager, Hughes-Castell)

Editor: Sam Kenworthy (Director – Head of Private Practice, Hughes-Castell)

Leaders in Law: Interview with Joseph Chan

Joseph Chan, Group Chief Legal Officer at Yum China, was the founding partner of the Shanghai office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and previously a partner of Sidley Austin, based in its Shanghai office. In June 2019, with an impressive law firm background, Joseph took up the top legal role at Yum China, a US Fortune 500 multinational listed on the NYSE and the largest restaurant group in China. In 2020 “Fast Company” recognized Yum China as among the world’s 50 most innovative companies and China’s 10 most innovative companies. Sherry recently sat down with Joseph and had a chat on the evolving role of Chief Legal Officer / General Counsel, the difference between external and in-house counsel, and the value-add of in-house legal teams. (Following this interview, in September 2020, Joseph co-led the company team that achieved a historic secondary listing of Yum China on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, as an innovative company under the newly introduced Chapter 19C of the HKEx listing rules. This listing, the first of its kind, broke many new grounds in the global capital markets.)

SherrySherry Xu (Director, Hughes-Castell)

JosephJoseph Chan (Group Chief Legal Officer, Yum China)

Sherry: Joseph, you have remarkable experience in the private practice and in-house sectors. Can you tell us more about your observations on the evolving role and position of General Counsel around the world, including China?

Joseph: The legal market in China has been rapidly developing. Still, the recognition of in-house legal function in domestic Chinese companies, even among European or US companies operating in China, and the understanding of the role of general counsel, is behind that of the Common Law jurisdictions such as the US, the UK, and Australia. I think that is due, at least in part, to the relatively recent development of in-house legal culture and market here. Comparatively speaking, the legal industry in the US and Europe has gone through an evolution, especially in the past 10 to 20 years, during which period significant changes transpired. (I might add, however, that in spite of the relatively longer history, even in the US, not all general counsels sit in the C-Suite. The very title of “general counsel” speaks volumes. It is quite prevalent that on top of the GC title, one would have an additional title that represents the executive position of the GC, such as Executive Vice President (EVP) or Senior Vice President (SVP). In truth, if a GC is already in the C-suite, one title suffices: chief legal officer. I know that a CLO title is still not that common in the US.) Furthermore, more than a few legal heads in small and medium-sized companies in the US still report to someone other than the CEO, be it the CAO, CFO or COO.

The public perception of the role of GC and in-house legal function varies. However, after the global financial crisis, the role of GCs in the US has been comparatively elevated. Due to the financial tsunami, a myriad of challenging regulatory and legal issues emerged. The gravity of the situation called for speedy response and creative solutions from GCs and their in-house legal teams. That contributed to the change of perception in the mind of CEOs with respect to the value and role of GCs and the legal departments. In the last decade, even in terms of reporting line, we can see that GCs have moved more into the limelight. In contrast, the legal industry in China is still developing. It is great that we can play a role contributing to the GC and in-house value ​​proposition in this “developing market.”

Sherry: Joseph, you have held high positions in both your private practice and in-house career tracks. Who better than you to tell us what core skills are necessary to be a successful partner and what credentials are needed to be a good General Counsel?

Joseph:  Law firm partner and general counsel roles call for different skill-sets, although sound technical legal skills are the foundation for both. In private practice, you must be a good lawyer first, and then you can potentially be a successful partner. There was a time when a law firm partner only needed to be a “rainmaker.” Those days may be long gone. Nowadays, besides serving clients with excellent legal skills, being a partner also entails doing a good job in marketing, team management, budgetary control, and debt collection! All in all, it can be summed up as delivering superior client services.

When I arrived at the in-house legal scene, I knew that just being a lawyer, even a good lawyer, would not enough to make contributions to the company. A while back, my former firm Sidley interviewed me and asked what the most significant differences are between being a law firm partner and a general counsel. I said I was a little surprised how little I advise on the law per se in my daily work these days. I found myself mostly participating in discussions related to corporate strategy, talent management, and operations including business development and new initiatives.

In the in-house arena, you only have one client. Although there are different business units, we all collaborate. I am still relatively new to my role, but I know that if I want to thrive in this position and make contributions, I need to understand the business well. What we want to achieve cannot be seen only through the legal lens, let alone merely abiding by the law; one must go beyond basic legal skills to serve this (only) client well. A number of international legal articles and reports, including a recent GC survey, have said that general counsel nowadays should not merely be the head of legal but also a strategic business partner. Today marks my 13th month at Yum China. I have learned a lot about management.

Even in the matter of advisory on the law, a law firm partner and a general counsel play different roles. As external counsel, one gives legal advice, primarily. It is good if your client accepts your advice, but it is also alright if your client does not take your advice. In any event, your client pays your legal fees. On the other hand, I am now part of the decision-making process.  I discuss many things with the CEO and CFO. We brainstorm, and we make decisions together. I have to bear the consequences of those decisions, for better or worse. These experiences have been entirely different for me after being external counsel in the last two decades.

The understanding of external counsel on legal issues that a company faces is almost always different from that of in-house counsel. I have heard this before but now I personally experience it. External counsel can give accurate legal analysis, but they do not have the same breadth and depth of understanding of the business background as we do.  It is not a question of technical competence. Rather, it is the natural outcome of sitting in management meetings every day, discussing business scenarios and operational risks arising therefrom. Of course, external counsel should endeavor to understand the client’s business; otherwise, their advice would be too “legal” (impractical) to apply. Let’s take a privacy lawyer, for example. If you are not well versed in privacy laws, you are not qualified to pitch for the work. But it is not enough to merely know the laws. Suppose we have an App that we want to cooperate with Tencent on. External counsel should take the initiative to understand: What kind of data exchange would this project entail? What is the business objective of this project? What are the KPIs of this project? How much interaction will there be between the two platforms? Is each interaction compliant with the relevant laws? Only after you understand these issues well can you offer legal support that matches the business reality and satisfies the commercial needs. Of course, it is important to maintain your team’s stability and delivery quality to give the client confidence.

I have the same requirements for my team – “understand your client.” As much as possible I assign them to attend business meetings. I don’t want them to be notified only after legal issues have surfaced. Instead, on Day One, when business folks are still in the process of formulating ideas, I’d like to see our in-house legal team involved. We can provide pragmatic and business-oriented legal advice only if we understand the business well. In order to facilitate my team’s early involvement in a given business initiative or project, I emphasize the necessity of understanding our business. With respect to these finer points, when I used to look inward from the outside, I had one perspective, but now that I look outward from the inside, my perspective is entirely different!

What is the attraction of an in-house role for young lawyers? I can tell you from my own experience: job satisfaction. When you work in-house, you get to know the enterprise. You can proactively participate in shaping the company’s strategies. External lawyers do not usually have the opportunity to do so. Moreover, as in-house counsel, you no longer need to worry about finding clients, billing, and collection. Your motivation is different. You seek to be a successful business partner.

Sherry: After comparing these differences, I think the value of external lawyers, as service provider, can be summarized in one sentence, “solving problems that the client’s in-house counsel can’t.” Of course, as you said, external lawyers need to be superior client service-oriented. Now, more than a year has passed. Based on your in-house experience, what do you think is the most significant value proposition of in-house counsel?

Joseph: We should, first and foremost, be Trusted Advisors. That’s foundational. There is often friction between the business and legal teams in many companies. The business teams may think that the lawyers restrict them. This is perhaps due to miscommunication between the two groups, or perhaps due to the fact that in-house counsel may not be commercially minded enough. If we, in-house lawyers, can put ourselves in the shoes of the business folks and gain their trust, they may be more willing to involve us as part of the working group at or near inception, and share their thoughts and concerns with us. It would then be easier for us to help mitigate risks early on, instead of jumping up and saying “no” at the eleventh hour, giving rise to the impression, whether fairly or unfairly, that lawyers are deal killers.

Secondly, we should be Problem Solvers. Of course, the easiest way without too much consideration is to simply tell the business team that they can’t do it. But in most cases, you can recommend a solution or, at least, explore an alternative. These options may not be perfect but may offer a higher degree of flexibility and feasibility. For example, a framework as currently proposed may cross a red line. Can we suggest a revised framework? Or can we change certain terms of an agreement with a third party to bring the agreement within the bounds of the laws? If so, we may have found a solution! After going through these scenarios and possibilities, our legally trained mind may come up with several options. The risk exposure of these options may be different, so we have to exercise judgment to help the business team choose a suitable option. There is a significant difference between an engineer’s mindset and a lawyer’s mindset. Engineers are trained to solve problems. Lawyers are not trained this way at the outset. Our traditional frame of mind is perhaps to work within a legal framework, but when we operate in an in-house environment, we have got to take on an engineer’s mindset!

Then, finally, we should be Strategic Enablers. There may be new business models in the company. New business models introduce new risks. If you are to be an integral part of a new strategy and help the team achieve a business objective, you have to get involved in guiding the development of the strategy. In China, many innovative business models are not yet regulated by rules and regulations. Our role as in-house legal is to ascertain what the current legal or regulatory framework is and identify potential risks. Under the existing legal framework, we should think about how we can assist the business team develops the new business. When you look at the legal issues today, there may not yet be any relevant laws on the subjects. Pilot rules may soon be promulgated. However, even after the authorities issue pilot rules, such rules may not be sufficiently comprehensive. In that case, how do you guide and protect the business team?

To put these three points in order: Trusted Advisor -> Problem Solver -> Strategic Enabler.

After going in-house, every day is exciting! There are many unexpected things that happen every day. Before going into the office in the morning, I would wonder what new issues we might encounter today.  Long story short, I’m having a lot of fun! When I was in private practice, every day was pretty predictable. While I lived very well, it was not as fun as it is now. A lot of the things that I am dealing with now go beyond the law; I am getting grounded in business operations. Although I did my undergraduate degree at a prestigious business school, I found what I had learned is no longer adequate. I feel like I have embarked upon a brand new career, kind of as a lawyer, but probably not quite.

Lawyers Embrace The New Normal

As we near the end of what we can all agree has been a unique year, partners are being asked to sum up the challenges and lessons of 2020. Covid-19 has obviously had an effect globally, of varying degrees in different countries depending on the severity of the outbreaks and the levels of governmental interference in daily life to combat that. In Hong Kong this crisis came off the back of the anti-government protests which had rocked the SAR’s markets for almost a year before. While those had caused some temporary shutdowns around the Central Business District, these were more sporadic and did not lead to the seismic and near-universal shift to a working-from-home policy which came as a result of the virus. Maybe earlier events gave Hong Kong offices an advantage in adjusting to the new schemes and setting up remote working facilities effectively and efficiently, who knows? It certainly cannot have hurt.

Feedback from firm management has invariably focused on two things: a positive, can-do spirit and an embrace of technology. Lawyers are by nature conservative beings so having to fundamentally adjust working protocols that had been in place for decades almost instantaneously caused the biggest jolt the profession has seen since the emergence of the Internet and the universal introduction of email as a primary communication device. Email removed the inevitable time-delays incurred by unavoidable reliance on regular land/sea/air mail. The earlier introduction of the fax machine had enabled documents to be transferred instantly (or at least quickly, barring complications which seemed inherent to the system) but email made the world smaller, enabling swift and extensive communication across time zones. Working days could be extended beyond standard office hours. No longer would a fortnight in Tuscany mean a complete break from working life.

With the outbreak, remote working technology seems to have given rise to a new, altogether more altruistic culture. Firms have realised that being present in the office is not essential, so it’s increasingly possible, even encouraged, that lawyers to work from home for a portion of every week. With concerns mounting in the industry about the effects of stress and long working hours on mental health, this is a welcome development. Lawyers with families can make it easier to combine work and family life. The reduction on commuting saves time, energy, stress and is also a benefit to the environment. Office space could be reduced. In-person meetings can be supplanted by online video conferencing.

Nothing has really advanced technologically in the last year beyond normal levels, what we have seen is the increasing acceptance, embracing and utilisation of the tools available. A shift in attitude. Sometimes a crisis provides an opportunity for positive change.

Handy Interview Tips to Help You Succeed in a Job Interview

We have continued to see good levels of recruitment activity in Asia. Many companies and major law firms are actively hiring across the region. Early 2021 could be the right moment for you to plan your next career move and get prepared. It is essential to know what kinds of questions to expect so you can prepare for your interview. Law firms’ partners and legal team leaders ask questions to gauge your knowledge of specific fields of law, understand how you balance your caseload/tasks and learn about your processes for interacting with clients and co-workers. To increase your chances of getting a job offer you will need to leave a lasting positive impression on your interviewers, which means giving detailed and accurate answers to questions.

This article provides 17 questions and answers that hiring partners or managers may ask during the interviews. 

1. What can you tell me about yourself?”

This is a very open-ended generic question, so it’s up to you to tailor your response, highlighting your core professional strengths.

DO NOT focus on your personal life, other out of work activities, or career / journey education; you NEED TO tailor your responses to highlight specific accomplishments and be sure to keep your professional strengths at the forefront.

When you speak to the legal team members/team managers / senior stakeholders, talk about your experience and core strengths. What value add you can bring to this team? They want to understand how relevant your experience is to this. Also, highlight what your achievements have been. This is the best way to start this answer.

2. Why do you want to move and work for us?

The interviewer wants to know that you want this specific job (and not just any job); that you have a can-do attitude; that you are high energy; that you can make a significant contribution; that you understand their mission and goals; and that you want to be part of that mission.

3. Tell me about your proudest or most significant accomplishments.

Resist the urge to talk about that time you won your office softball league playoffs or how you got a 4.0 in your most challenging class in college. To nail this question, you should share a story/ example that is as close as possible to the job you are interviewing for and that best showcases your strengths and approach to work.

Describe an instance where there was a problem, state the impact of that problem, and how you were able to solve it. Share the results beyond your immediate solution. For example, suppose you created a new onboarding system for new hires. In that case, you could share: why the company needed one, the impact of not having an onboarding system, how you went about creating one, and how, after a period of time, there is less churn, employees are more efficient, etc.

4. Tell me about a time you made a mistake.

One of the oldest tricks in the book is for candidates to respond to this answer by sharing a ‘mistake’ that’s a positive attribute, such as “I work too hard’ or “I care too much.” But be warned: recruiters can usually see right through that. At the same time, though, you should avoid talking about a colossal failure. The mistake most people make is that they either try to dodge the question, or they give an example that is detrimental to them; you are still there to sell yourself and prove yourself as a valuable asset, after all. Instead, try to think of something that happened a long time ago. More importantly, focus on the lessons you learned and how you carried these lessons forward to ensure you didn’t repeat the mistake.

5. Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.

When answering this question, make sure not to blame others for whatever predicament you ended up in. Even if others had a hand in it, you don’t want to sound like you’re not a team player or don’t take responsibility for yourself. Keep your focus on what you did and describe the circumstances in a neutral manner. Please stay away from examples of difficult bosses, clients, or coworkers. Although all of us have experienced something like that, an interviewer has no idea whether you are correct in your assessment or merely projecting your faults onto others. For example, you could talk about building a project with a fraction of your competitors’ budget and how you were able to use grassroots techniques to overcome that obstacle. For your story to make the biggest impact, make sure to describe vividly why it was so difficult: the bigger the problem you solved, the more significant your impact!

6. Describe a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.

Before you get caught up in sharing your accomplishments, take a step back. To convey to an interviewer how you went above and beyond, you need first to define “above and beyond”. Candidates often botch this question by failing to give a brief backstory. Before you can showcase how you went beyond the role, you have to set the parameters of the job. Try to describe the context of the task, the goals, and what was explicitly expected of you. It is best to pick a project that paid off for the company; perhaps you stayed for two extra hours on several occasions to make sure everything was completed well ahead of schedule and to high quality. Or maybe you volunteered to pick up the work leftover by a colleague who resigned. Whatever the example, it should demonstrate a can-do attitude and a willingness to get involved and go the extra mile for your company.

7. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.

Again, in this situation, blaming or bad-mouthing someone isn’t the right route to take. It will only make you look deflective or petty. Who knows? You may even be unknowingly disparaging about your boss to someone who knows him or her. Especially if you’re interviewing within your current industry: the world is tiny. The person you complain to might attend church services with or be married to your boss’s relation. Instead, the emphasis here is how disagreeing with your boss forced you to take the initiative and to put the company first, ahead of your frustration and disappointment. Ideally, you want to make it clear that you and your boss maintain a civil, respectful, maybe even close relationship. You want to demonstrate your empathy for your boss… and your belief in achieving the company’s mission statement.

8. Are there any problems/frustrations in your current role?

Not really.   My current role is busy, and I support many transactions…….  From time to time, as in any job, there are the normal challenges of multiple deadlines and overall workload; however, I am fine with that because …..

I like supporting my commercial colleagues on …..

I enjoy advising on ….  

9. “How would you describe yourself in one word?”

This one seeks to get down to your personality’s nitty-gritty and how it will fit into the company culture.

“They want to know about your personality type, how confident you are in your self-perception, and whether your work style is a good fit for the job,” career expert Lynn Taylor told Business Insider. Answer with a positive attribute that you think will make you successful in this particular role, and you’ll be in good shape.

10. “Why do you want to leave your current job?”

When discussing your current job or past positions in an interview, try to avoid dwelling on the negative. Sure, your boss might be a space cadet, and your company culture may be toxic… but those comments won’t endear you to this new company. Instead, focus on the desirable attributes offered by this new position. “Know that hiring managers don’t mind hearing that you’re particularly excited about the growth opportunity at their company,” Taylor explained to BI.


11. “What could your current company do to keep you?”

This slight spin on the “Why do you want to leave?” question feels particularly tricky, but the same principles should apply to your response. Emphasize what you’re looking for from your next position rather than what’s lacking in your current one, and you’ll come across as driven and goal oriented.

12. “Can you name three of your strengths and weaknesses?”

 Perhaps the most classic interview question of them all, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” is an exercise in self-reflection. While Taylor advised BI to “ultimately turn [your weaknesses] into strengths,” I’m going to disagree respectfully. The old “my weakness is actually my strength!” trick is a tired one, and hiring managers have seen it countless times before. The problem? It doesn’t address their actual point of interest (your ability to evaluate your strong suits and areas that need improvement). A better bet involves being honest about your weaknesses but actively mentioning the steps you’re taking to grow and evolve.

13. “What are you most proud of in your career?”

The hiring manager already has a clue regarding your career-related pride points: your resume, which should be a well-curated marketing document highlighting your most outstanding professional achievements. But the way you talk about these accomplishments reveals a great deal about your passions and your dedication. Stay clear and concise, but don’t shy away from genuine expressions of confidence. You’ve earned them!

14. “What kind of bosses and coworkers have you had the most and least success with, and why?”

Another culture-centric query, this question is “trying to ascertain if you generally have conflicts with people and/or personality types,”

15. “How do you handle stress?”

Interviewers, particularly those in professions with considerable amounts of high-value and time-sensitive work, want to know that you can withstand a reasonable quantity of workplace pressure with strategy and grace. Rather than regaling your interview panel with an account of your extracurricular yoga and meditation practices, consider narrowing your focus to the tactics you use to deal with stress while in the office.


16. “How have you handled conflicting priorities in the past?”

When hiring, companies actively seek out skilled multitaskers due to their promise of productivity. But if you’re faced with two important tasks and must choose which to prioritize over the other, can you smoothly synthesize the information you have about these assignments and come to a deliberate and well-conceived decision? That’s the “trick” behind this interview question, so an answer that addresses this concern will likely yield a positive response.

17. What are some of your leadership experiences?

Don’t get caught up in just listing every leadership role you’ve ever had — think about the ones where you truly made a difference. Anyone can rattle off the manager positions they’ve held or the volunteer work they performed, but the leadership is measured on impact. People should be changed (for the better) for having interacted with you. And, if you’re lucky, you should be changed as well. And if those experiences are related to the work you’ll be doing, all the better. Also, you’ll want to make sure that your experiences as a leader demonstrate proactivity. Never give examples of a time leadership was thrust upon you; this sounds like you are reluctant to take on responsibility and be made to do so. You should demonstrate your ability to build a harmonious team and create a positive working relationship with the people you lead. Of course, teamwork should ideally lead to results. Someone who is a leader can demonstrate the ability to get others to want to get on board with the direction the team is going. Think of an example when you could get coworkers or direct reportees on board with the idea of a successful outcome.

Contributor: Mudita Valakati (Senior Researcher, Hughes-Castell)

Editor: Sam Kenworthy (Director – Head of Private Practice, Hughes-Castell)


Guys and Gals

What do you do when you don’t know if your reader is a he or a she? Your correspondent remembers the good old/bad old days when no one cared. He was assumed to refer to either sex when used as a general pronoun. Such a cavalier attitude will land you in hot water today.

The problem is that English has no gender neutral pronoun, like for example the French on.  In 1884, Charles Crozat Converse, an American attorney and composer of church songs (What a Friend We Have in Jesus), proposed a new pronoun: thon, a combination of that and one. Thon didn’t catch on, although it was listed in the Funk and Wagnall’s dictionary as recently as 1964.

So what’s a gal/guy to do? Let’s look at some alternatives.

The pronoun one

One might think the pronoun one would do the trick. One would be wrong:

“The writer has many tools at one’s disposal. For example, one could use plural pronouns in the singular.”

Obviously one doesn’t work to refer to a previous noun.


I’ve noticed several writers alternating between he and she. This works better in longer works where use of the technique becomes clear. One writer even announced upfront that when he spoke of “the writer” and “the reader” he would use opposite genders and then switch with each chapter of the book.


This should be fine for informal emails. But with all the elegance of a packing label it won’t be your first choice in formal writing. Plus it doesn’t help with the accusative case: h/im/er.

Change the referent noun to a plural

This change often does the trick. The paragraph above under “The pronoun one” could read:

Writers have many tools at their disposal. For example, they can use plural pronouns in the singular.”

Use the singular they

This is my favorite and I’m willing to put money on its winning out over the long haul. Almost no one has a problem with a sentence like “Does everyone have their notebook?”. But there is still resistance when referring to a more specific noun like reader. I saw a style manual from one firm which flatly rejected the singular they.

The singular they is not a feminist invention of the past century. As Steven Pinker* points out, this device has been deployed by writers going back to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Swift, Byron, Austen, Shaw and others.

Furthermore, the singular they can be preferred to him or her even when the gender is known. Take this quote from George Bernard Shaw (cited by Pinker):

Caesar: No man goes to battle to be killed.

Cleopatra: But they DO get killed.

Artfully, Shaw’s “no man” refers to the individual soldier, personalising and emphasising the angst, while “they DO get killed” refers to the more generic carnage sure to follow.

So your Wednesday Writer’s advice is to keep all of these techniques at the ready in your tool box and to use your writerly skills in choosing the best tool for each job.

That’s it for today. I hope that any reader of this column who has a question, objection, or observation will leave a comment. I promise to reply to thon.

* Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style, Viking 2014



Bill Lawrence worked in US law firms and multinational companies until 2001. For the past 15 years Bill has been a writing coach at the Polytechnic University’s Centre for Business and Professional English. He has also presented seminars to law firms on coaching lawyers on effective writing.

Too many notes, too many nouns

In Miloš Forman’s film, Amadeus, Emperor Joseph II tells Mozart his latest work is excellent, except that there are “too many notes”.

None today would agree with His Majesty, but we can fairly accuse academics, scientists, lawyers, government officials and other writers of “too many nouns”.

Nouns are to writing what fat is to the body: both are absolutely essential, but too much of either can give you that bloated, sluggish feeling. We’ve already had occasion to examine “noun piles” ( Today we turn to the phenomenon of nominalisations. This is a fancy pants word for turning adjectives and verbs into nouns. As per usual, this is best explained by looking at an example, this one from Joseph Williams*:

The current estimate is of a 50% reduction in the introduction of new chemical products in the event that compliance with the Preliminary Manufacturing Notice becomes a requirement under proposed Federal legislation.

Spelling correct? – check. Good grammar? – check. But this isn’t the most vibrant sentence you’ve ever read, right? The problem of course is “too many nouns”. The counterpart of the noun is the verb. Consider the verbs here: is and becomes. If you just looked at the verbs you’d have no idea what the passage is about. So let’s get to work and change some of those nouns back into verbs.

If Congress requires that the chemical industry comply with the Preliminary Manufacturing Notice, we estimate that the industry will introduce 50% fewer new products.

Now the verbs begin to tell us the story: requires / comply / estimate / introduce. The key is to keep a razor sharp focus on “actors” and “actions”. Make the actor the subject of your sentence or clause and use a strong verb to describe the action.

Here’s another example of the sort I’m sure you’ve come across:

In the event of the termination of this Agreement by the Client before the expiration of the project period, the Client must undertake payment of all costs that Service Provider has accrued at the date of termination.

I’ve highlighted the nouns we can turn into verbs, with this result:

If the client terminates this Agreement before the project period expires, the Client must pay all costs that Service Provider has accrued at the date of termination.

This revision also illustrates an acceptable, indeed preferred use of a nominalisation. Termination here provides a crisp back reference to “If the client terminates this Agreement”.

Now you have a go with reversing some common nominalisations. I’ve done the first couple.

submit an application


take into consideration


provide an illustration of

provide a description of

place a limitation upon

make provision for

* Joseph M. Williams, Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, 1995 University of Chicago Press



Bill Lawrence worked in US law firms and multinational companies until 2001. For the past 15 years Bill has been a writing coach at the Polytechnic University’s Centre for Business and Professional English. He has also presented seminars to law firms on coaching lawyers on effective writing.

Legal Move Updates (October – December 2020)

Editor’s note: This is an ongoing list.

December 2020

23 Dec – White & Case (Tokyo, Japan)

White & Case has hired a new partner, Clara Shirota, in Tokyo specializing in debt financing deals. (from

17 Dec – L&L Partners (Delhi, India)

India’s L&L Partners has welcomed a third lawyer in as many months, with infrastructure specialist Prabjot Singh Bhullar rejoining the firm in Delhi. Bhullar advises on construction regulatory and compliance issues, due diligence and acquisitions, and investments. He was previously a partner at firms such as AZB & Partners and J. Sagar Associates. (from

17 Dec – Ogier (Hong Kong, China)

Offshore firm Ogier has hired corporate and financial disputes expert Justin Davis as a partner in Hong Kong from competitor Carey Olsen, where he was a counsel. The Hong Kong office has promoted managing associate Michael Snape, who also specialises in disputes, to partner.(from

15 Dec – K&L Gates (Sydney, Australia)

K&L Gates hires technology partner from Sparke Helmore Lawyers. The hire of Richard Chew is intended to help meet demand as clients move operations online. (from

15 Dec – Clifford Chance (Beijing, China)

Clifford Chance has appointed Beijing-based Yong Bai as its Greater China head of antitrust as Chinese authorities ramp up new rounds of anti-monopoly enforcements targeting the country’s largest technology companies. (from

15 Dec – Charles Russell Speechlys (Hong Kong, China)

Ray Ng, who was most recently partner and head of the dispute resolution for Asia at offshore law firm Ogier, has joined UK firm Charles Russell Speechlys (CRS) in Hong Kong. Ng’s appointment comes as CRS becomes a registered Hong Kong firm able to advise on local law, after its initial three-year period advising on foreign law in the Chinese city. (from

11 Dec – Hamilton Locke (Sydney, Australia)

Another Australian law firm nabs partners from international firms. Capital markets lawyer Guy Sanderson joins Hamilton Locke from Baker McKenzie, and energy and infrastructure specialist Matt Baumgurtel joins from K&L Gates, continuing a trend of local firms hiring partners from their global counterparts.  (from

10 Dec – Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow (Singapore, Singapore)

Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow, the member firm of Baker McKenzie International in Singapore, has hired disputes specialist Emmanuel Chua as a local principal. Chua joins from energy corporation Chevron, where he held an in-house role. Chua, who worked at both Allen & Gledhill and Drew & Napier earlier in his career, joined Chevron last year from Herbert Smith Freehills, where he spent five years. He advises on risk avoidance and mitigation strategies, including cross-jurisdictional contingency planning and strategic advice. Chua is also is a reserved panel arbitrator for the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, a member of the Turnaround Management Association and an instructor of trial advocacy for the Singapore Institute of Legal Education. (from

10 Dec – ZICO Insights Law (Singapore, Singapore)

ZICO Insights Law, the ZICO Law network’s Singapore firm, has established a disputes practice after hired Cheryl Ng as a director. Ng previous managed her own disputes practice at boutique Intelleigen Legal. (from

9 Dec – Dentons Rodyk & Davidson (Singapore, Singapore)

Dentons Rodyk & Davidson, the Singapore law firm of Dentons, has appointed Gerald Singham as its next managing partner. He will replace Philip Jeyaretnam SC, who has been appointed as a judicial commissioner of the Supreme Court of Singapore. (from

8 Dec – BHP (Singapore, Singapore)

Anglo-Australian mining company BHP has appointed a new Group General Counsel, Lyndon Arnall, based in Singapore. Lyndon has joined for 9 years and previously led the legal team for the miner’s global commercial functions. (from

7 Dec – Merits & Tree (Shenzhen, China)

Merits & Tree has recently hired Ru Qinggu, an expert in investment, finance and M&A, in its Shenzhen office. Ru’s main practice areas include cross-border transaction and trade, government regulation, compliance and dispute resolution. With experience in corporate in-house counselling and strategic operations, he is good at providing comprehensive legal risk control and solutions for domestic and foreign corporates. Ru has led in a number of influential cross-border investment and finance deals, having accumulated rich experience in global trade security, finance compliance, cyber security data privacy protection, labour law compliance as well as competition law compliance. (from

4 Dec – Norton Rose Fulbright (Melbourne, Australia)

Norton Rose Fulbright bolsters Australian construction practice with partner hire. Stephen Natoli joins from local firm Holding Redlich. (from

3 Dec – Hill Dickinson (Hong Kong, China)

Hill Dickinson expands Asia offering with 3rd partner hire this year. Richard Lyons joins the firm’s construction and commercial arbitration practice from Dubai-based infrastructure contractor Arabtec LLC, where he was head of legal. (from

3 Dec – Squires Patton Boggs (Sydney, Australia)

Squires Patton Boggs has welcomed two new partners, Natalie Lonergan and Tatiana Gotvig, who joined the firm’s energy and natural resources practice from Norton Rose Fulbright. Both will be based in the firm’s Sydney office and will be joined by associates Graham Johnson and Cindy Yuan. (from

2 Dec – Broad & Bright Law Firm (Beijing, China)

Broad & Bright Law Firm has hired patent expert Kou Haixia to join its Beijing office as a partner. Prior to joining Broad & Bright, Kou was the vice-manager of legal litigation department at Sunshine Intellectual Property Group. (from

1 Dec – Anli Partners (Shanghai, China)

Anli Partners has added two partners: Li Quanhong, a commercial dispute resolution lawyer, and Nie Ming, an expert in financial and securities, in its Shanghai office.

Prior to joining Anli, Li practiced in AllBright Law Offices. He focuses on commercial litigation and arbitration, M&A and restructuring, tax planning, tax dispute resolution, criminal defense as well as corporate counselling, and he is especially good at dealing with Japanese companies’ business. His clients include Mitsubishi Corporation, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Omron and FTL Express. 

Nie was the Vice-President at Mizuho Bank (China) Limited before joining Anli. Nie has expertise in dealing with commercial services of commercial banks, and has experience in areas of corporate regulation, internal control and compliance management, finance and investment, commercial litigation and arbitration. Currently, Nie is also an arbitrator at Shanghai Arbitration Commission. (from

1 Dec – Stephenson Harwood (Hong Kong, China)

Law firm Stephenson Harwood LLP has strengthened its international arbitration practice with the arrival of partner Dr Fan Yang, who joins the firm in Hong Kong.

1 Dec – Norton Rose Fulbright (Sydney, Australia)

Norton Rose Fulbright has appointed a restructuring and insolvency partner as its new Australia chair. Sydney-based Scott Atkins takes over on December 1 and succeeds Perth-based partner Chris McLeod in the position.

November 2020

27 Nov – Norton Rose Fulbright (Hong Kong, China)

Global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright has announced the hire of new partner Becky Tai to expand its shipping practice in Hong Kong. (from

27 Nov – East & Concord Partners (Chengdu, China)

East & Concord hired Liu Chaowen, an expert in real-estate, as a partner to join its Chengdu office from Yingke (Chengdu) Law Firm, where Liu practiced as a partner. (from

26 Nov – Merits & Tree (Beijing, China)

Merits & Tree has hired Du Kun, an expert in human resources, dispute resolution, corporate contract, to join its Beijing office as a partner. (from

23 Nov -White & Case (Hong Kong, China)

White & Case nabs top PE partner in the Hong Kong office of Weil, GotshalWeil, Gotshal & Manges. Daniel Abercromby has left the firm after just 13 months to join U.S. rival White & Case and previously was a partner at Kirkland & Ellis.

18 Nov – Hill Dickinson (Singapore, Singapore)

Singapore. Hill Dickinson has hired a new partner, Jonathan Goacher, from DWF, which earlier this year decided to shutter its Singapore office. Goacher, who has expertise in insurance regulation, will be leading the firm’s regulatory practice in Singapore. (from

18 Nov – CMS (Singapore, Singapore)

CMS recruits former DWF India Practice Head in Singapore. Corporate lawyer Babita Ambekar moves over as the listed U.K. firm readies Singapore closure. (from

17 Nov – DLA Piper (Hong Kong, China)

Global law firm DLA Piper announced today that Ed Sheremeta is re-joining the firm as a senior Real Estate partner in the Asia Pacific Real Estate practice, based in the Hong Kong office. Ed was previously a partner at DLA Piper in Hong Kong, having joined the firm in 2013. (from

17 Nov – Gilchrist Connell (Brisbane, Australia)

An Australian law firm has poached an insurance partner and an associate from Norton Rose Fulbright to join its Brisbane office, the latest in a string of partners to leave the Anglo-Australian firm. Insurance partner Brett Solomon is the latest of several partners to leave the Anglo-Australian firm. (from

17 Nov – Moray & Agnew (Newcastle, Australia)

DWF Australia loses another Partner to a domestic firm. Michelle Dawson, who is jumping to Moray & Agnew’s Newcastle office, is the third partner in three months to leave DWF. (from

16 Nov – Paul Hastings (Seoul, Korea)

Paul Hastings LLP, a leading global law firm, announced today that Mr. Dong Chul Kim will succeed Litigation partner Jong Han Kim as Seoul’s Office Chair from January 1, 2021. Mr. Jong Han Kim will transfer to the firm’s Los Angeles office where he will continue to represent Korean and U.S. clients in cross-border litigation. (from

13 Nov – Hicksons Lawyers (NSW, Australia)

Lachlan Wilson is the second partner to jump from the international firm to an Australian firm this year. Lachlan, disputes partner, leaves DWF in Australia to join Hicksons Lawyers. (from

12 Nov – L&L Partners (New Delhi, India)

India’s L&L Partners has welcomed back technology media and telecommunications (TMT) specialist Asim Abbas as a partner in Delhi, nearly two decades after he first left the firm. Abbas joins from J. Sagar Associates. He focuses on TMT, M&A and general corporate advisory, and also advises clients on policy, regulatory, contractual, compliance and approvals, transactional and litigation. (from

12 Nov Peter Doraisamy (Singapore, Singapore)

Singapore boutique firm Peter Doraisamy has added three new lawyers: Partners Mike Chiam and Kyle Gabriel Peters, and associate Nicholas Kwa. Chiam, who was working in CNP Law’s Blockchain-Cryptocurrency-ICO team until earlier this year, specialises in commercial and corporate advisory, regulatory financial services, M&A, fundraising, VCCs, private equity, venture capital, and fintech.  Peters, who joins from K&L Gates Straits Law, specialises in commercial and corporate litigation, insolvency and restructuring, fraud and investigations, and international arbitration.

Peters’ exit from K&L Gates follows the recent departure of Nick Williams, who joined Hogan Lovells as a partner in the latter firm’s business restructuring practice in Singapore. (from

11 Nov – Milbank (Hong Kong, China)

Milbank lands Magic Circle Hong Kong trio in major Asia push. Clifford Chance’s Andrew Whan and Neeraj Budhwani and Linklaters’ Davide Mencacci are the latest to move to a U.S. firm.  (from

10 Nov – M.B.KEMP (Hong Kong, China)

Former Stephenson Harwood Greater China Chief, Voon Keat Lai, leaves for Hong Kong Boutique K.B.KEMP. (from

10 Nov – Hunton Andrews Kurth (Tokyo, Japan)

Hunton Andrews Kurth hires Tokyo partner from Shearman & Sterling. George Borovas will lead a global nuclear energy practice at the Houston-based firm. (from

9 Nov – Ashurst  (Sydney, Australia)

Global law firm Ashurst has hired a projects partner, Bree Miechel, from Reed Smith in Singapore to join its Sydney office. (from

9 Nov – Mills Oakley (Perth, Australia)

Australia’s Mills Oakley hires another partner from Norton Rose Fulbright. A litigator with over 20 years’ experience in Australia, the U.K. and the BVI, Meriel Steadman joins Mills Oakley’s Perth office. (from

9 Nov – Latham & Watkins (Tokyo, Japan)

Latham expands Tokyo disputes offering with Ropes & Gray Partner. White-collar and antitrust specialist Kaede Toh moves over. (from

8 Nov – Kennedys (Melbourne, Australia)

Kennedys hires professional indemnity lawyer, Emily Schneider, from Australian Firm Barry.Nilsson to join its insurance group in Melbourne. (from

7 Nov – J.Sagar Associates (Mumbai, India)

Former L&L Partner Apurva Jayant has joined J. Sagar Associates as a partner in its Corporate team in Mumbai. She will be joining the firm along with her team on November 9. (from

6 Nov – JunHe (Beijing/Shanghai, China)

JunHe warmly welcomes the prominent Corporate/Cross-border M&A lawyer, Ms. Zhang Hong who joined our Beijing and Shanghai offices on November 2, 2020. Ms. Zhang specializes in complex cross-border M&A and corporate restructuring in and outside China. (from

5 Nov – L&L Partners (New Delhi, India)

J.Sagar Associates (JSA) partner Asim Abbas is due to join L&L Partners in Delhi, according to two sources. (from

4 Nov – DeHeng Law Offices (Shanghai, China)

DeHeng Law Offices has recently expanded its team in Shanghai office by adding multiple partners: Deng Xueping, Ma Hongtao, Yang Min, Yu Yunbo, Zhao Zhidong and Wu Yanan. (from

4 Nov – Desai & Diwanji  (Mumbai, India)

Disputes specialist Anoj Menon has left Indian law firm AZB & Partners to rejoin Desai & Diwanji as a partner in Mumbai. Menon is an expert in litigation, arbitration and dispute resolution. He left Desai & Diwanji in 2017 to join AZB. (from

4 Nov – Macpherson Kelley (Brisbane, Australia)

Deloitte Legal has lost a five-member tax team to local Australian firm Macpherson Kelley’, the second local departure from the accounting giant in a week. John Ioannou – a partner at Deloitte – and Dominic Moon – a special counsel at the accounting firm – have both joined Macpherson Kelley as principal lawyers and will be joined by three other lawyers from Deloitte. (from

4 Nov – Phoenix Legal (Mumbai, India)

Indian law firm Phoenix Legal has hired a six-lawyer maritime disputes team from boutique Legasis Partners, including partner Gautam Bhatikar and counsel Zoeb Cutlerywala. Bhatikar has more than two decades of experience in offshore maritime and shipping, insurance, environment, international trade, oil and gas, energy, commercial litigation and alternative dispute resolution. He advises banks, shipowners, PSUs, oil companies and insurers. (from

4 Nov – Baker McKenzie (Taiwan)

Baker McKenzie has elected Michael Wong as its new Asia-Pacific chair. Wong, the first Taiwanese lawyer to hold the role, succeeds Ai Ai Wong. (from

3 Nov – S&R Associates (New Delhi, India)

Indian law firm S&R Associates has hired a team of five banking and finance specialists in Delhi from J Sagar Associates, including partners Divyanshu Pandey and Arpita Garg. Pandey specialises in banking, finance and restructuring including structured finance, cross-border lending transactions, hybrid debt financing, project finance, acquisition financing, real estate finance as well as restructuring, enforcement and insolvency matters.  Garg’s banking and finance specialisation covers restructuring, insolvency, structured finance, real estate and trade finance, bond issuances and project finance. (from

2 Nov – Ashurst (Hong Kong, China)

Ashurst has hired a new partner, Jonathan Chapman, in Hong Kong focusing on structured financing and derivatives transactions. (from

2 Nov – Ropes & Gray (Hong Kong, China)

Ropes & Gray has promoted Chune Loong Lum as Partner for its Hong Kong office. (from

October 2020

30 Oct – Johnson Winter & Slattery (Melbourne, Australia)

Australian firm Johnson Winter & Slattery has hired Norton Rose Fulbright senior counsel James Love to join its dispute resolution team as a partner, as increases in regulation in the country lead to more litigation. (from

30 Oct – Lander & Rogers (Melbourne, Australia)

Australian law firm Lander & Rogers has nabbed a partner, Sarah Fregon, from Deloitte Legal to help build its regulatory and government disputes practices. (from

29 Oct – L&L Partners (Mumbai, India)

India’s L&L Partners has welcomed back Shonali Choudhry as a partner in the firm’s Mumbai office from Advani & Co., where she was a consultant. Choudhry specialises in mergers and acquisitions, infrastructure & project finance and private equity as well as in arbitration and environmental matters. (from

28 Oct – Morrison & Foerster (Tokyo, Japan)

Morrison & Foerster adds Baker McKenzie M&A partner, Jeremy White, in Tokyo. (from

26 Oct – DSK Legal (Mumbai, India)

Sajit Suvarna has been promoted to Deputy Managing Partner of DSK Legal. He currently heads the Real Estate practice at the firm. (from

26 Oct – HFW (Sydney, Australia)

HFW has hired a four lawyer team to join its Sydney construction offering, as the firm continues to expand its Australian presence. Partner Antony Riordan, senior associate Brooke Gilbey and associates Natasha Joukhdar and Rachel Irwin join HFW’s Sydney office from Australian firm Colin Biggers & Paisley. Riordan had been at the firm for over 30 years, according to his LinkedIn profile, and was most recently head of the firm’s commercial dispute resolution team. (from

26 Oct – Yoon & Yang (Seoul, Korea)

Big Six Korean law firm Yoon & Yang has hired Seung-Kook Synn and Sung Uk Park as partners in Seoul from conglomerate SK Group and Kim & Chang, respectively. At SK Group, Synn was general counsel, overseeing global legal affairs including M&A, antitrust, intellectual property and litigation. Meanwhile, Park was a senior foreign attorney at Kim & Chang, focusing on inbound and outbound M&A, private equity, fund formation and disputes and investigations relating to foreign direct investments involving multinational corporations.  (from

26 Oct – Jia Yuan Law Offices (Shanghai, China)

Jia Yuan Law Offices has recently hired Mo Huan as a partner in Shanghai. Mo is an expert in intellectual property, who previously practiced as an attorney in Ropes & Gray LLP.  (from

23 Oct – JunHe (China)

Legendary law firm co-founder and longtime leader, Xiao Wei, is set to pass the torch to the next generation. Launched in 1989, Xiao Wei led JunHe to be one of the China’s most prestigious law firms, with 880 lawyers including 240 partners working out of 13 offices in China and the US. Warren Hua will succeed Xiao Wei as managing partner on 1 January 2021. The other members of the management committee are: Beijing-based M&A partners Sammuel Zhao and Yongqiang Yu, Guangzhou office head Ping Zhang, and Shanghai-based disputes specialist Lei Wu, the only new member. (from www.

23 Oct – Hylands Law Firm (Beijing, China)

Hylands Law Firm hires Lin Tiejun, an expert in dispute resolution and litigation, as a partner from King & Capital Law Firm in its Beijing office. Lin has expertise in dispute resolution and litigation, capital market/securities, M&A. His clients include large private companies and small and medium state-owned enterprises. (from

23 Oct – Clifford Chance (Hong Kong, China)

Leading international law firm Clifford Chance has announced the appointment of Dauwood Malik to be Hong Kong’s new Office Managing Partner effective 1 November 2020. (from

23 Oct – Trilegal (New Delhi, India)

Indian firm Trilegal has hired a new disputes partner Nitesh Jain from Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas. Jain specializes in commercial disputes, international and domestic arbitrations, and white-collar crimes.  (from

22 Oct – Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (Mumbai, India)

India’s Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas has bolstered its real estate practice in Mumbai with the hire of partner Bhoumick Vaidya and his five-member team from Kanga & Co. Vaidya focuses on title diligence, private equity investment, foreign investment, general corporate and commercial matters. (from

20 Oct – Clifford Chance (Singapore, Singapore)

Clifford Chance has promoted Singapore office head Kai-Niklas Schneider to its global executive team. Schneider will take up a newly-created role on the firm’s executive leadership group, focusing on global financial investors such as private equity firms and asset managers. (from

19 Oct – Mayer Brown (Singapore, Singapore)

Mayer Brown has hired Paul JP Teo as a partner in Singapore from Baker McKenzie, where was the Hong Kong-based head of the firm’s international arbitration practice for Greater China. (from

19 Oct – Gulapa Law (Manila, Philippines)

Al-Shwaid de Leon Ismael has promoted to the Corporate/Commercial Partner at Gulapa Law in Manila, Philippines. 

16 Oct – Hylands Law Firm  (Beijing, China)

Hylands Law Firm hired Shen Qian, an expert in trade, as a partner in its Beijing office from Guantao Law Firm, where Shen was a partner. Shen focuses on areas of domestic trade remedy, tax, competition and anti-trust. She has dealt with multiple domestic and international trade cases including representing a central enterprise in an arbitration case with a target value of nearly 1.6 billion yuan, acting as a Chinese expert witness in the United States federal courts for an international bankruptcy dispute case, acting as s a Chinese expert witness of an international investment dispute case in Singapore Supreme Court, advising China Iron and Steel Association in the Costa Rican rebar safeguard case, advising China Chamber of Commerce for Textile Importers and Exporters on the safeguard case of Turkey Polyester staple fiber, advising a central enterprise on the EPC project of the Africa Cup of Nations stadium, and advising China Council for the Promotion of Trade for the case of Argentina’s sunset review of anti-dumping. (from

16 Oct – Baker McKenzie (HK & US)

Baker McKenzie has added two partners to its global executive committee to replace two existing members whose terms have ended. The firm has appointed Hong Kong partner Shih Yann Loo and Dallas-based partner Melinda Phelan to the executive committee as the terms of Singapore partner Ai Ai Wong and Washington, D.C., partner Duane Webber have come to an end, according to a statement. (from

13 Oct – Zhong Lun Law Firm (China)

Zhong Lun Law Firm has recently added five partners: Dou Xing, Sun Yu, Yang Jingyu, You Xiao and Zhao Yanchun. The five lawyers are based across its Nanjing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Shenzhen offices. (from

12 Oct – Han Kun Law Offices (Beijing, China)

Han Kun Law Offices is pleased to announce that Mr. Wang Xikang has recently joined the firm, further strengthening Han Kun’s capital markets and M&A practices. He will mainly be based in the firm’s Beijing office. Mr. Wang Xikang’s practice focuses on capital markets transactions, corporate/M&A, private equity and venture capital investments, corporate financing, and foreign direct investments. (from

12 Oct – DaHui Lawyers (Beijing, China)

DaHui Lawyers welcomes new partners Xiang Li, a patent specialist, and Zhao Pei, an expert in private equity and M&A, in its Beijing office. (from

10 Oct – East & Concord Partners (Chengdu, China)

East & Concord recently hires dispute resolution expert Li Yongsheng and finance expert Zhong Jingjing to join its Chengdu office as partners. Prior to joining East & Concord, Li practiced in Si Chuan Ying Ji Law Firm, while Zhong was a partner at AllBright’s Chengdu office. (from

8 Oct – Kobre & Kim (Hong Kong, China)

Kobre & Kim adds offshore Disputes Partner in Hong Kong. Timothy Haynes joins from Walkers where he headed its insolvency and dispute resolution group in Hong Kong. (from

8 Oct – Harry Elias Partnership (Singapore, Singapore)

Construction and engineering expert Yvonne Foo has left Clyde & Co, where she was a legal director, to rejoin Harry Elias Partnership as a partner in Singapore. She is Harry Elias Partnership’s first partner hire since its split from Eversheds Sutherlands in June, ending the three-year-old merger between the two firms. (from

7 Oct – Hogan Lovells (Singapore, Singapore)

Hogan Lovells has hired Nick Williams as a partner in the firm’s business restructuring practice in Singapore from K&L Gates. The exit of Williams from K&L Gates follows the July departures of corporate partners Nicholas Hanna and Mark Tan, who joined Pinsent Masons’ transactional services group in Singapore. (from

5 Oct – Asia Search Partners (Hong Kong, China)

Matthew Bersani, who says he anticipates major changes and challenges for the legal industry in Asia, has joined a Hong Kong-based recruiting firm co-founded by wife Molly Cliff. (from

1 Oct – Bird & Bird (Singapore, Singapore)

Bird & Bird has hired Lijun Chui as a dispute resolution partner in Singapore. Lijun Chui, who joins as a partner, was most recently a counsel in the Singapore office of Clifford Chance. (from

1 Oct – Ashurst (Melbourne, Australia)

Ashurst has hired the global leader, Hilary Goodier, of Herbert Smith Freehills’ legal technology strategy to be the inaugural global chief operating officer of its NewLaw division, Ashurst Advance. The hire of Hilary Goodier signals a continued push to build out its New Law offering, Ashurst Advance. (from

HK Capital Markets resilient in challenging market

According to Reuters, a recent flurry of IPOs and secondary listings worth at least $4.5 billion due to launch in Hong Kong will put 2020 on track to be the second-busiest year for equity capital markets in the city. Against the backdrop of the turmoil created by the protests earlier in the year which ran straight into the Covid-19 pandemic whose effects on the region began to take hold around the Lunar New Year celebrations and continue to affect business locally and globally, this is yet another example of the resilience of Hong Kong as a business centre. It’s also fair to point out that major secondary listings are expected to continue in the short term in the wake of the ongoing US/China trade stand-off, during which various bills have been introduced Stateside which are proposed to subject Chinese companies to greater scrutiny over US listings which have in turn encouraged them to seek alternative placements.

As a result, and as we run up to the Mid-Autumn festival, a number of eye-catching Hong Kong deals have been announced in September alone. Sidley Austin advised Chinese fast-food giant Yum China Holdings on its $2.2 billion secondary listing on the mainboard of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett counselling the sole sponsor, underwriters, joint global coordinators and bookrunners.

Then Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Global Law Office Shanghai advised Chinese courier ZTO Express on its $1.55 billion secondary listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and again Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer grabbed a key role advising the sponsor and the underwriters alongside Jun He.

Davis Polk & Wardwell and Zhong Lun Law Firm advised Chinese biopharmaceutical giant Zai Lab’s on its $761 million secondary listing on the mainboard of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Commerce & Finance Law Offices advising the underwriters.

And most recently Davis Polk & Wardwell advised Ming Yuan Cloud Group on its $797 million IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer representing the joint sponsors and underwriters, and the Magic Circle firm further cemented its credentials advising the underwriters on the $783 million secondary listing in Hong Kong of Chinese hotel management company Huazhu Group alongside Jingtian & Gongcheng, with Cleary advising Huazhu Group.

While the US and China remain at loggerheads both stand to suffer, but it has provided and unexpected fillip to Hong Kong’s economy. With the US election in November and the prospect of a new administration taking the reins early in 2021 this could be a relatively short-lived surge but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to predict nothing with any degree of certainty. As the diminishing numbers of new cases in Hong Kong contribute to a cautious return to day-to-day normality with schools, bars and leisure facilities gradually reopening (notwithstanding the stiff restrictions on inbound travel), there remains the nagging question of “what’s next” for the city?

Contributor: Sam Kenworthy (Director – Head of Private Practice)

What Makes You A Leader?

What adjectives come to mind when you think of the word “leader”? Passionate? Inspirational? And humble? Some people still hold mistaken thoughts that leaders must be in high-level positions, such as supervisors, partners, government officials etc., but these are not necessarily what defines a leader. Everyone may have their own interpretation of leadership, but our favourite is “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way,” as defined by John C Maxwell.

Partners at law firms do not naturally become leaders upon promotion. Leadership is not something that can be acquired in a day or two. It requires setting clear objectives, and engaging in hard work and perseverance to achieve those objectives. Few people are natural born leaders. Many good leaders have taken years of learning and practicing the attributes of leadership. The following are the pivotal attributes of being a good leader that we think help lawyers to build up their skills.


All great leaders look confident, but none look proud and arrogant. Leaders should always present as confident as people will be seeking advice from them, whenever they encounter challenges. Leaders should be calm and assured in delivering proposed resolutions, it will help encourage team members, and thus enhance overall morale and productivity. It will also gradually help the team to grow in confidence.


Integrity is the most essential attribute in leadership. Leaders should not only praise successful team work, but also influence that team. A person with integrity usually earns people’s respect easily by leading by good, honest example and encouraging trust. Dishonest or two-faced people, on the other hand, will quickly lose the respect of their fellow team members which makes difficult for them to be respected in a leading role.

3.Passion and Enthusiasm

Leaders always display great passion for what they are doing. They should also be enthusiastic about sharing success with others. If you are passionate about your work, your teammates will easily be motivated by your enthusiasm. They will start looking up to you for your opinions at critical situations, which helps to enhance team performance and productivity. If you are not fully committed or if you lack passion for your work, people who work with you will know it and adopt the same mentality.


Besides all other characteristics of leadership, it is difficult to oppose the view that a leader is a representation of innovation. This accords with Steve Job’s mantra, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and follower.” It is not common to see someone who is stubborn, closed-minded and a leader simultaneously. In law firms, when complex issues arise in an unfamiliar project, partners should always analyse the whole situation and provide guiding solutions. This may require skills beyond those utilised in everyday tasks, on which leaders are required to be innovative to find solutions to the issues.

5.Inspire Others

Another invaluable attribute of leadership is to be able to inspire others. Being inspirational is not equivalent to being persuasive. Lawyers may have good persuasive skills to encourage others to follow their thoughts, yet leaders will inspire others so that they know what they need to accomplish without excessive instructions. Good leaders are can be judged by how they have encouraged others to step up to becoming a leader. Leaders should not only be able to instruct but also able to make their colleagues as successful as they are. The key to leadership is to nurture future leaders by inspiring people, to help them grow into their own leadership roles.    

6.Delegation and Empowerment

It is impossible for a single person to finish everything by himself. Even the most capable partners at the top law firms cannot do everything by themselves. Delegation is important in leadership because it gives your teammates a chance to grow by taking the lead. In a law firm environment, a leader could be a partner or managing partner who is overseeing a team or the operation of business, or even your teammate. However, it is not uncommon nowadays to see that a few are still micro-managing or taking absolute control of the team, even with regards to very trivial matters. Leaders delegating work does not mean that they don’t care at all. They weigh in by giving out support to their teammates when they need help. Delegation will help empower team members and make them take ownership of their work. In the long run, this will help nurture more leaders.

7.Emotional Intelligence

Good leaders always know how to influence others without force. They do it by connecting with people emotionally. That is where emotional intelligence becomes one of the qualities of leadership. Have you ever seen an emotionally combustible leader? Did you recognise a leader who is easily riled and quick to resort to yelling? The answers are probably “NO”.  Leaders usually have high emotional intelligence which helps them to behave rationally and control their emotions. Besides, it is not difficult to see most leaders are very focused and detail-oriented who seem to be knowing and understanding what you think. It is not because they have supernatural powers, but they are sensitive to people’s emotions. It explains why leaders are capable of resolving conflicts.


Empathy is the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experiences of others. In other words, putting yourself in somebody’s shoes. It is important for leaders to understand people’s emotional make-up. Partners who manage a firm in dictatorial style and do not display empathy will be hurtful to established internal relationships. Understanding the problems of your teammates and their discomfort is the first step of becoming an effective leader.

Achieving all the characteristics and qualities of leadership may seem a long path to travel for many people, especially in a busy law firm environment. However, it is not impossible. Most leaders are not born with primary leadership skills. They develop such skills by learning and trying throughout their careers. Leadership is not exclusive to partners or managing partners at the firm, it is vested in everyone who wants to make a change in current situations. Leaders can be partners, lawyers, legal and professional support staff, your peers and colleagues at the firm, or yourself!

Resource links:

Dummy Subjects for Dummies

Our world has no shortage of dummies. And they can be cute and amusing – think McDull or the Three Stooges. But you don’t want to be a dummy, and neither does the subject of your sentence. So what is a “dummy subject” anyway? As with many features of English, this is best explained by looking at some examples.

It is possible for the court to modify the judgment.

There were no reasons offered by the judge for denying punitive damages.

Here we have the usual two suspects, it (more frequent) and there. They are indeed the grammatical subjects of these two sentences. But when you consider the core meaning of each sentence – who did what to whom – you see that it and there are mere stand-ins. Let’s rewrite each sentence, starting with the actor: court and judge, respectively.

The court can modify the judgment.

The judge gave no reasons for denying punitive damages.

Note that as a bonus we have shorter sentences. As we’ll see in future episodes, plain English often means shortening your sentences. We’ll discuss several techniques along the way.

Of course, it is a perfectly fine pronoun when it stands for something (note the second use in this very sentence). And there is quite useful when you want to point out something in plain sight.

Let’s have a look at a few more examples of dummy subjects. (I’ve left 2 revision boxes blank so you can give it a try).

It is clear that the summons was not properly served.

Clearly the summons was not properly served.

It is  my considered judgment that the documents will require your amendment.

I think you need to amend the documents.

There are a number of issues that must be considered.


It is incumbent upon me to remind you that  …


Dummy subjects are very common in speaking and writing, and I often catch myself using them. So don’t feel like a dummy if you do the same. Just think: “how could I reword this sentence for greater clarity?”

Dummy subjects are mostly a problem in longer, more complicated sentences. What do you think of these two?

It’s raining.

There’s no beer in the fridge.

They sound OK, no? Indeed, how could you eliminate the dummies? “The rain is not falling” or “Beer is absent from the fridge”? So as always, our advice is to use your good judgment. That’s the best defense against dummies of all kinds.

See you next time!



Bill Lawrence worked in US law firms and multinational companies until 2001. For the past 15 years Bill has been a writing coach at the Polytechnic University’s Centre for Business and Professional English. He has also presented seminars to law firms on coaching lawyers on effective writing.

Leaders in Law: Interview with Ronnie Luo

Today, we are happy to have Ronnie Luo, Senior VP/General Counsel, Government Affairs & Sustainability of Covestro, to join us to share with us her rocky career path and tips for young lawyers, as well as her insights about the changing legal landscape in China. As Bayer’s former Head of Corporate Legal, Ronnie was the first foreign lawyer selected to the headquarters for systematic on-job development and spent three years working in Leverkusen groomed for the leadership pipeline. However, the plan did not realize due to timing issues and changes to the organizational structure. However, as one door closes, another one opens! Now, Ronnie is the SVP/ General Counsel of Covestro, bearing broad responsibilities to head up its China, India, and Thai legal and compliance teams and cover intellectual property, government affairs, and sustainability.

SX: Sherry Xu (Director, Hughes-Castell)

Ronnie: Ronnie Luo(Senior VP/General Counsel, Government Affairs & Sustainability, Covestro)

SX: You were the first foreign lawyer Bayer sent to the headquarters for on-job development and have worked there for 3 years as part of the General Counsel’s succession plan. But the plan was not fulfilled in the end. Would you share with us how you managed the disappointment?

Ronnie: We often see candidates who want to look externally for opportunities as their indicated promotions do not materialize due to company strategy or business environment changes. I understand the loss and frustration of unfulfilled hope. Still, I always ask myself — aside from being disappointed or losing self-esteem, did I actually lose anything or would it be worse than it is now? How can I be sure if another path does not even suit me better for the future? There is a time for everything. Chance always favors those who are well-prepared no matter whether it comes from outside or within this organization where solid performance track records have been aggregated for a long time. Internal promotion is more likely to be a safer “shortcut” on one’s overall development path compared with external development as you don’t have to experience any pressures of stress from any job change. When you are eventually settled in a different development path and all the confidence and recognition are back again, that disappointment period would no longer read as a “regret”; instead, it is “delayed gratification.”

SX: Ronnie, I know your work is not limited to legal and compliance but also covers intellectual property, government affairs, and sustainability. Can you tell us more about the expanding in-house legal function to cover government affairs responsibilities?

Ronnie: There are two main aspects to sum up government affairs (GA) responsibilities: proactive and coordinative. First, the GA team will take a proactive approach to research government policies’ orientations through engaging with the government; and the second is to assist in resolving any sudden administrative enforcement issues involving the enterprise. Since the macroeconomic environment highly influences our industry, the GA team needs to pay attention to any related macro governmental plans. Hence, the former is the more dominant part of the work. For example, if the government has policy concessions for technological innovation and related investments; therefore, our GA team must study and communicate with the relevant authorities concerning the specific criteria and try to enroll us in the scheme by advocating for our projects. Another example is the Free Trading Zone (FTZ) planning; we had to thoroughly study the planning and advise the business units where opportunities might arise, is relevant to our business presence and model. Let us also look at the NDRC’s planning. It will significantly impact the chemical industry’s development for the next 5 to 10 years, including environmental protection thresholds, industrial distribution, and industrial upgrading level requirements that require our GA team to take the initiative to interpret the latest policy information.

Second, the GA team also needs to collaborate with other departments to identify where policy and our company’s business are related and direct the company to make well assessed and calculated investment and operational decisions. GA is a department that is not easy to develop systematically compared with Legal and their professionals’ know-how knowledge is harder to transfer and acquire through traditional career training and development tools. They also tend to have a different mindset compared to Legal. When GA professionals encounter a particular topic, they tend to interpret policies and regulations on a case-by-case basis, relying on communications with specific authority or officials.  Sometimes it works. In contrast, legal professionals believe if we can operate under clear law and regulations, many issues shall be principally predicted in advance, excluding any contradicting interpretations made by any single authority or individual official. Because of the differences and grey areas of law and policies, effective communications and balance between GA and legal teams are necessary. In addition to this, cross-departmental cooperation and know-how sharing with other peer functions, such as Finance, Tax can enrich GA colleagues’ knowledge base and provide the company with the most comprehensive considerations to enable strategic business planning and modeling.

SX: Ronnie, you have a proven track record of cross-departmental/multicultural management.  What are your tips for young lawyers who want to work/develop their career in a cross-departmental/multicultural environment? How do they start to prepare themselves?

Ronnie: First of all, we must understand ourselves, not everyone is suitable to “step up”, and personal growth is not a “given”. Aside from those promotions where there is a title change but no substantive changes to job-scope, a real promotion and expansion of leadership functions will come with uncertainties and challenges. Especially at management level, you will still face various organizational issues and politics. China’s legal market has developed over the last two decades and we’ve observed rapid growth and personal development. Looking at the mature Western legal markets which have long gone through a similar development stage, their markets are now relatively stable and saturated. The majority of in-house lawyers and companies are mentally prepared, with flexible and accommodating mindsets, to accept that some team members will continuously work in ‘subject matter’ roles.  As long as the individual’s work ability, salary and team communication meet the requirements of the role and are reasonable, because after all, the higher the level, the less likelihood of mobility. I believe the Chinese legal market will gradually move in this direction. It is common for in-house counsels to remain in the same companies’ teams over decades without promotion, but not because of their performance or lack of self-motivation. . Therefore, it must be pointed out that not getting promoted is not a “sin”; finding a role that suits oneself in the market is more important. If a promotion is your ultimate goal, then I think you need to have a very strong curiosity and commitment to expand your knowledge and network. Having an interest and the potential to do or cope with things other than legal is necessary.

Critical thinking is also essential. You need to understand what and why people do the work, understand the content of their job responsibilities, and then provide legal advice to different departments accordingly. In doing this, you can thoroughly understand the circularity of an enterprise. Let’s take the sales department as an example: what is their driving force? What is the relationship between the sales department and the supply chain? Where is the conflict among the supply chain, production, and customers? When the HR team does internal restructure, how will they determine the reasons, drives, and restructuring issues? 

On personal career development, curiosity and follow-thorough are more important than attending any courses or finding a mentor. It is more practical if you can enrich your knowledge base through daily life. In my early years at Bayer, many colleagues invited me to join their projects because of my curiosity and commitment. I often took the initiative to ask. Over time I understood how the company operates. To sum up, my advice is to be curious, understand the business environment, network, and put yourself in your customers shoes. That way, your analytical, structured, and solution drive lawyers’ traits can best you to develop to the next level.

Full original interview (in Chinese):

How many tenses does English have?

How many tenses does English have? I’m sure you answered this correctly. But many people are surprised to learn that English has only two tenses. Many are also surprised that English has no future tense, unlike the romance languages (think of the song Que Sera, Sera or more recently Andrea Bocelli’s Con Te Partirò). OK, I’m getting technical on you, and we all know that English offers many ways to express time – past, present and future.

For a linguist, there are in fact only two tenses: the past simple and the present simple. All other “tenses” use additional verbs called auxiliaries. For example, “He had just opened the door to the darkened mansion, when from the shadowy depths …” and “I will be there for sure”.

These compound verb forms are called aspects. They have bedevilled second language learners from time immemorial, and we’ll have ample opportunity in future columns to explore their ins and outs.

The past perfect

For now though I’d like to focus on what is generally called the past perfect. This form is actually little used by native speakers and way overused by second language learners. The first thing to understand is that it has nothing to do with how far in the past the first action occurred. For example,

I had just finished the memo when the boss arrived this morning.

Your Wednesday Writer’s advice is to use the past perfect when

    1. it is important to show that an action took place and finished before something else occurred, and
    2. the sequence of events is not otherwise clear from the rest of the sentence. 

In most other situations the past simple is appropriate.


“She had finished eating when I arrived home.” (past perfect)

but: “She finished eating before I arrived home.”  (past simple with before)

“John lifted weights and Tim shot hoops.” (order is not important)

I’m very happy to reply to question and comments, so fire away if you have any.

See you next time!



Bill Lawrence worked in US law firms and multinational companies until 2001. For the past 15 years Bill has been a writing coach at the Polytechnic University’s Centre for Business and Professional English. He has also presented seminars to law firms on coaching lawyers on effective writing.

Do you dangle your participles?

The grammar scolds1­ say you shouldn’t use dangling participles or other modifiers. Before we consider their arguments, let’s look at a couple of examples of what we mean:

Hopefully the judge will rule in our client’s favor.

To summarize, unemployment remains the state’s major economic and social problem.2

Did you find either example difficult to understand? Did either offend your sense of grammatical righteousness? I thought not.

Yet the scolds would pounce on these. Take the first example, which is shorter and easier to explain. They would say that “hopefully” is a participle and has to modify the subject of the sentence, “the judge”. They are right that “hopefully” is a participle. But there is no logical or grammatical reason that it can’t modify the speaker of the sentence, which is clearly what it does.

There is, however, a danger is dangling your participles. Because they can modify more than one part of a sentence, you can create ambiguity, sometimes hilariously so:

I saw a dead cow driving over here.

Locked in a safe for over 30 years man finds a fortune in gold coins.2

Steven Pinker says that a modifier can dangle when its implied subject is the writer and the reader (as with “to summarize” in the second example above).

So, to summarize, the best advice may be: undangle your modifier if (1) it creates ambiguity or (2) you wish to avoid a grammar scolding.

See you next time!


  1. For example, see Bryan A. Garner, The Elements of Legal Style, 2nd Ed. 1992 Oxford University Press section 2.24 at 45-48. Even Garner admits that some danglers are now accepted as prepositions, e.g., “considering the outcry”. This seems to me a stretch as considering is very verb like, but there you are.
  2. Examples taken or derived from Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style, 2014 Viking (Penguin Group)


Bill Lawrence worked in US law firms and multinational companies until 2001. For the past 15 years Bill has been a writing coach at the Polytechnic University’s Centre for Business and Professional English. He has also presented seminars to law firms on coaching lawyers on effective writing.

5 stay home activities during social distancing

In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, many corporations and organisations follow the social distance policy by allowing their employees to work remotely. With bars, gyms, sports centers, and other social gathering areas closed, an abundant amount of time is now being spent at home by all of us, so it is probably the right moment for you to refresh and recharge by adopting new habits. There are 5 activities we think you can do it at home!

1. Read a book

Normally with a busy schedule, you may find it difficult to spend time with a book that you’d like to read. With the social restrictions in place, you may now have time to pick up a book that you‘ve been meaning to read and start your reading journey.

2. Enroll on an online course

It is always beneficial to learn something new when you have a stable life schedule. You may start enrolling on some online courses purely for pleasure or which may help in furthering your knowledge or skillsets for career advancement.

3. Cook

Evening dine-in service is now banned in restaurants. In lieu of ordering delivery or takeout, you can try cooking at home. We heard that people are becoming cooking experts in the past few months as they have to spend most evenings at home. It is also a good opportunity for you to check out new cuisine recipes for variety.

4. Exercise

Though all gym and yoga centres are currently shut down, it is not an excuse to not do any exercise. If you have a yoga mat at home, you can do it anytime as you want or your schedule permits. There are loads of free or subscription-only fitness and yoga videos online, find one that you like and start moving your body.

5. Develop a new hobby

No matter what you do at home, whether it’s reading a book, cooking, exercising or enrolling on an online class, it is never late for you to develop another new hobby. A few of our friends picked up a new hobby in painting since the pandemic first impacted the workforce. Art generally is a great way to relax while engaging the mind.

Whatever you do, please remember to maintain your personal hygiene, and continuously keep observing social distancing. With everyone’s collective efforts, we will hopefully emerge from this situation soon.

Group Hires Take The Summer Headlines

“As one door closes, another one opens,” may not be the most fitting idiom for this situation but as Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe closed the door on Hong Kong, a door opened for K&L Gates to snag a high-calibre private equity team. Scott Peterman, Sook Young Yeu and William Ho came on board the US-headquartered global firm as partners and brought a pre-packed practice with them. Team hires are always a boon for firms to make: by definition, the team should already be working together harmoniously as it has done previously, client relationships are easier to preserve, associates are more likely to join in numbers meaning further hiring (time consuming in a process of identifying, interviewing, making offers to and waiting for notice periods to expire for multiple candidates) is not an issue, and recruitment fees may well be capped. Ordinarily some creative new internal office arrangements would have been required in the short term, but the return to more frequent working-from-home arrangements following a new spike in Covid-19 cases make that less of an immediate concern, albeit in the least pleasant of circumstances.

Another team move saw Stephenson Harwood’s regional realignment continue with the US-focused pair of trusts and estates experts Erik Wallace and Lawrence Ho move (again, with juniors) to the perhaps more obvious home of US West Coast-founded Loeb & Loeb. Another plug-and-play move that should work out for all sides.

Another firm showing ambition with a number of partner hires in a short space of time was Jingtian & Gongcheng, hiring four partners from four different firms in Beijing and Shanghai.

In Beijing, Li Li brought a blockchain practice from Dentons and Nan Tiejian bolstered capital markets in a move from King & Wood Mallesons. In Shanghai, Tang Xue brought a private equity practice having joined from Fangda and Zou Ye added expertise in asset management having left Llinks Law Office.

Four partners, two offices, four disparate practices. This kind of hiring activity is bold and ambitious, especially in such a depressed market where one would expect most hires to be in restructuring and insolvency, dispute resolution and, with the increasingly fractious trade war between the USA and China continuing to grab headlines, sanctions and export controls. As PRC firms become more aggressive in making lateral hires to protect and expand market share, they are also looking more long-term in strategy if these hires are to be a marker.

With the trade war continuing, and Hong Kong’s future remaining uncertain, inbound investment in the region is widely expected to diversify. While ongoing travel restrictions have stilted activity in investment, once the skies clear it will be interesting to see which jurisdictions turn out to be the most attractive. Vietnam and Taiwan are generally highlighted as ripe for investment in infrastructure and technology, while Taiwanese semiconductor giant TSMC (briefly) became the world’s tenth most valuable company, buoyed by Apple’s decision to take its business there in preference to Intel. Singapore is oft touted as the preferred alternative to Hong Kong as he most obvious destination for unsettled expat lawyers for well-documented reasons but, as the sands shift in the region, others may well begin to present themselves as appealing for the more adventurous and open-minded. 

The other two “S’s”: Such and the Said

Earlier we had a look at the use and misuse of shall. Today we turn to the other two of the “three S’s”: such and the said (with its close cousins, the aforesaid and the aforementioned).


“Such” is often used in legal writing in the place of determiners such as “the”, “this” or “these”. For example,

The client acquired the land at auction in 2005. Such auction was conducted by the tax authorities of the province pursuant to Sec. 345 of the Code.
This use of such is no more precise than an ordinary determiner and merely adds a stuffy tone. So reserve such for situations where you mean “of this kind.” Note the use of an article with this meaning.

Such an auction is permitted under Sec. 345.

Said / aforesaid / aforementioned
Lawyerisms like these are best avoided. As Richard Wydick puts it in Plain English for Lawyers, they give writing “a legal smell” but add nothing to clarity or precision.  For example, if you’ve only mentioned one property then “the property” is as specific as “the property aforesaid”.  If you’ve mentioned more than one property, “the said property” doesn’t help to identify which one you are talking about now.

I can’t think of a situation where these expressions would be good choices. If you can, or if you have any questions or comments, please speak up.

See you next time!



Bill Lawrence worked in US law firms and multinational companies until 2001. For the past 15 years Bill has been a writing coach at the Polytechnic University’s Centre for Business and Professional English. He has also presented seminars to law firms on coaching lawyers on effective writing.