MCI (P) 003/02/2023 issn 0219 – 6875 KDN PPS 1867/10/2015(025605) WHAT GENERAL COUNSEL WANT THE FINEST OFFSHORE LITIGATORS CEOs BULLISH ON ASIA GROWTH SHOWCASING THE EXCELLENCE OF CORPORATE LEGAL DEPARTMENTS
FOR SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES, PLEASE CONTACT: Amantha Chia firstname.lastname@example.org / (65) 6973 8258 FOR SPEAKING AND PROGRAM INQUIRIES, PLEASE CONTACT: Jonathan Mottram email@example.com / (65) 9030 5144 FOR MORE INFORMATION, KINDLY VISIT www.legalbusinessonline.com/hkihls2023 21 SEPTEMBER ALB HONG KONG IN-HOUSE LEGAL SUMMIT 2023 PROUDLY PRESENTED BY OVERVIEW Join us for the 20th ALB Hong Kong In-House Legal Summit 2023, the premier event for legal professionals in Asia. Returning to Hong Kong for its 20th run, this year’s Summit promises to be bigger and better than ever, taking place live in person on September 21, 2023, at the JW Marriott Hotel. Combining ALB’s annual Anti-Corruption and Corporate Compliance with the In-House Legal Summit, this year’s event will offer a range of streams to suit a variety of attendee profiles. With a diverse program of sessions, attendees can expect unparalleled insights and networking opportunities from top-level speakers across the legal industry. TOPIC HIGHLIGHTS • Hong Kong’s Digital Asset Hub: Transparency and Compliance • International Dispute Resolution: A Comparison of Arbitration and Litigation • Mitigating Risks in M&A Transactions: Lessons from Recent Disputes • International Risk and Enforcement Trends in Asia Pacific • Innovating the Legal Industry: Future Trends and Opportunities for General Counsels in Hong Kong and China • Exploring ESG’s role in Anti-Bribery and corruption: burden or benefit? • ESG Investing: Opportunities and Risks for In-house Legal Professionals • Trade Sanctions and Export Control Regime on Hong Kong – Regulatory Updates, Compliance Expectations and Enforcement Practices • Strategic Leadership in the Legal Function: Navigating Complexity and Driving Organizational Success • Conducting Effective Risk Assessment and Monitoring Prior to Investments and Doing Business in Asia and High Risks Countries PREVIOUS YEAR HIGHLIGHTS PANEL SPONSORS PRESENTATION SPONSORS EXHIBITORS
1 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM COVER STORY 16 ALB Asia Top 15 In-House Teams 2023 The annual list recognises and honours the achievements of legal departments across Asia that truly exemplify the future of legal departments. These teams demonstrate a willingness to embrace change through technology, behaviour, business models, or service innovation to meet the organisation’s needs. List by ALB, text by Nimitt Dixit Plus: - Micro Connect - Hanmi Pharmaceutical - Tencent FEATURES 12 A fine balance Southeast Asia’s fintech industry will have to maintain a delicate balance between promoting innovation and implementing strong regulatory frameworks. As this industry evolves, regulators across the region should work together to take proactive measures and collaborate to protect consumers and encourage fair and responsible financial practices. 22 A question of trust As in-house legal teams grow increasingly sophisticated, they are beginning to demand more from their law firms. And while many law firms meet their standards, there are some that cause frustration due to issues with billing, lack of expertise and attentiveness, and occasional outright incompetence. ALB looks into what inhouse counsel based in Asia value in their law firm partners, and what will break their trust once and for all. 26 ALB Asia Top 10 Offshore Litigators 2023 As in other years, ALB showcases the exceptional work of offshore law firm dispute practitioners who have successfully handled significant cases and exceeded client expectations. 30 Future-proofing Asia The Asian market has been through a tumultuous few years, with pandemicrelated disruptions, inflation and geopolitical conflicts breaking economic momentum - and the legal industry has not been spared. Chief executives of global law firms with a strong Asian presence share how firms have diversified client bases, responded to fast-changing client demands and explored new Asian markets to continue growth during this period. 34 ALB Asia Top 15 Female Lawyers 2023 ALB reveals the outstanding female practitioners shaping Asia’s legal landscape and blazing a trail for others to follow. Plus: - Drew & Napier - LNT & Partners - Yulchon LLC 38 ALB Japan Law Awards a resounding success The 19th ALB Japan Law Awards were held on Jun. 8, 2023, at the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo. BRI EFS 3 The Briefing 4 Forum 7 Deals 8 Appointments 10 Q&A Plus: - CIETAC CONTENTS 34 ALB Asia’s Top 15 Female Lawyers 2023 Image: David Gyung/Shutterstock.com
2 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM Asian Legal Business is available by subscription. Please visit www.legalbusinessonline.com for details. Asian Legal Business has an audited average circulation of 11,402 as of 30 September 2016.Copyright is reserved throughout. No part of this publication can be reproduced in whole or part without the express permission of the editor. Contributions are invited, but copies of work should be kept, as Asian Legal Business can accept no responsibility for loss. MCI (P) 003/02/2023 issn 0219 – 6875 KDN PPS 1867/10/2015(025605) Thomson Reuters 18 Science Park Drive Singapore 118229 / T (65) 6775 5088 / F (65) 6333 0900 10/F, Cityplaza 3, Taikoo Shing, Hong Kong / T (852) 3762 3269 www.thomsonreuters.com Celebrating in-house counsel In this edition of ALB magazine, we shine a spotlight on the dynamic relationship between in-house counsel and law firms, delving into the strategies and trends that shape this everevolving landscape. Our cover story showcases the achievements of Asia’s Top 15 In-house Teams. These remarkable teams have demonstrated exceptional legal acumen, strategic thinking, and unwavering dedication. Join us in celebrating their achievements and exploring the pivotal role they play in shaping the region’s legal fabric. Digging deeper, our feature article probes into the minds of in-house counsel to uncover their preferences and pet peeves when selecting a legal services provider. Gain insights into what captivates their attention and what might leave them cold, providing a roadmap for law firms aiming to forge lasting partnerships. And in the Forum section at the start of the magazine, we invite law firms to share their insights on a crucial aspect of client communication: Staying abreast of the latest legal developments. As the legal landscape evolves at an unprecedented pace, it’s essential for law firms to keep clients well-informed. Discover innovative approaches that empower in-house teams to navigate this intricate terrain with confidence. As always, we remain committed to delivering authoritative and insightful content that informs, inspires, and ignites conversations within the legal community. We hope this issue sparks valuable discussions and fosters a deeper understanding of the intricate dynamics between in-house counsel and the legal firms that support them. RANAJIT DAM Managing Editor, Asian Legal Business, Thomson Reuters HEAD OF LEGAL MEDIA BUSINESS, ASIA & EMERGING MARKETS Amantha Chia firstname.lastname@example.org MANAGING EDITOR Ranajit Dam email@example.com ASIA JOURNALIST Sarah Wong firstname.lastname@example.org ASIA WRITER Nimitt Dixit email@example.com RANKINGS AND SPECIAL PROJECTS EDITOR Wang Bingqing firstname.lastname@example.org COPY & WEB EDITOR Rowena Muniz email@example.com SENIOR DESIGNER John Agra firstname.lastname@example.org TRAFFIC/CIRCULATION MANAGER Rozidah Jambari email@example.com SALES MANAGERS Hiroshi Kaneko Japan (81) 3 4520 1192 firstname.lastname@example.org Jonathan Yap Indonesia, Singapore (65) 6973 8914 email@example.com Krupa Dalal India, Middle East, Singapore (91) 22 6189 7087 firstname.lastname@example.org Romulus Tham Southeast Asia (65) 6973 8248 email@example.com Steffi Yang South and West China (86) 010 5669 2041 firstname.lastname@example.org Steven Zhao China Key Accounts (86) 10 6627 1360 email@example.com Yvonne Cheung China Key Accounts, Hong Kong and Korea (852) 2847 2003 firstname.lastname@example.org SENIOR EVENTS MANAGER Julian Chiew email@example.com SENIOR EVENTS MANAGER, AWARDS Tracy Li firstname.lastname@example.org
3 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM THE BRIEFING: YOUR MONTHLY NEED-TO-KNOW U.S. LAW FIRMS SAW Average pay increase for UK lawyers who changed jobs this year, according to a survey by Realm Recruit. For lawyers remaining at the same firm, more than half received little or no pay rise. RISING DEMAND IN Q2 (Reuters) Demand growth for legal work in counter-cyclical practice areas and higher rates buoyed large and midsized law firms’ financial performance in the second quarter of 2023. Demand increased 1.5 percent year-over-year, with bankruptcy, labour and employment, litigation and antitrust among practices that helped drive growth, according to the latest edition of the Thomson Reuters Institute’s Law Firm Financial Index. The index, which tracks key financial metrics across 170 large and midsized law firms, jumped 6 points in the second quarter of 2023 to the highest score since the first quarter of 2022. Averaged worked rates - the rate a client has agreed to pay to engage a firm on a legal matter - grew by 5.9 percent in the second quarter of 2023 compared to the same period the prior year. The new figures contrast with Q2 2022, when there was “dramatic impact” from a decline in law firm transactional practices, said William Josten, manager for enterprise legal content at the Thomson Reuters Institute. 15 PERCENT Legaltech solutions and enterprise legal services provider Consilio has agreed to buy legal resourcing firm Lawyers On Demand (LOD) and legaltech consultancy SYKE. Founded in 2007, LOD has some 4,500 lawyers globally in its roster. IN THE NEWS Dame Sue Carr is set to become the first female UK lord chief justice in history on Oct. 1. Carr’s appointment was described by Law Society President Lubna Shuja as a “great step forward for diversity in the senior judiciary.” Percentage of M&A lawyers who believe AI is set to play an increasingly important role in M&A transactions, according to a survey by legaltech firm Litera of lawyers in six countries globally. “SUBWAY SERVES 100% REAL, WILD-CAUGHT TUNA.” QUOTE UNQUOTE (Reuters) Weil, Gotshal & Manges recently rolled out a new policy requiring U.S. lawyers to work in the office at least four days a week. All lawyers in Weil’s U.S. offices will be expected to work in the office Monday through Thursday beginning Sept. 5. New York-founded law firms Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Davis Polk & Wardwell adopted post-Labor Day policies requiring office work Monday through Thursday, helping set what could become a new industry standard. Law firm leaders are increasing their demands for in-person work as other U.S. sectors, including the New York-centered finance industry, also press for more office attendance. Many U.S. law firms began to require lawyers to work in the office three days or more per week while others continue to offer greater flexibility, with at least a few allowing indefinite remote work. Sandwich chain Subway releases a statement claiming its tuna sandwich contains the real thing after a 2021 California lawsuit that claimed otherwise was dismissed. FOUR-DAY OFFICE RULE GAINS TRACTION AMONG NEW YORK LAW FIRMS
4 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM BRI EFS CYNTHIA CHUNG, partner, Deacons It goes without saying that a good lawyer is one that keeps abreast with the latest legal landscape. Our firm takes this very seriously, and we are constantly on the lookout for developments, be it governmental announcements, regulatory consultations, or legislative amendments. Since our clients have very busy schedules, we have an array of channels and media types for communicating updates to our clients: - Insights articles: access to information has now become so easy, and a good lawyer’s value lies not so much in spotting a new development, but in advising on the practical significance of a development, and how our clients could better position themselves to brace a change. We regularly publish (e.g., on LinkedIn and WeChat) and email newsletter articles to our clients doing exactly this. - Vlogs: we have, in fact, started shooting short video logs (always within two minutes, if not less) as an alternative way to deliver updates to our clients (for example, see our Labour Law Grab n Go series) in an attempt to make things more lively and with more of a human touch, which we thought was very important during the pandemic when it was not feasible to meet with clients in person. - In-house Corporate Counsel Forum: in addition to events hosted by different teams within the firm, our firm holds an in-house counsel forum each year, whereby presenters and panellists ranging from our partners to in-house counsels from multinational companies discuss the latest developments and challenges faced by the Hong Kong market. AAKASH CHOUBEY, partner, Khaitan & Co As a law firm with over 111 years of storied legacy, several of our clients are also second- or third-generation. We like to think proactively for our clients, whether we are representing them or not. Continuous client engagement sits at the heart of our culture. Our objective is to be their trusted advisor, which transcends a transactional relationship. Each client has its unique needs, culture, and style of working. Our engagement is holistic, catering to the diversity of our client mix. There are a number of initiatives, as value-added services, that we run for our clients. These include regular bespoke teachin sessions to update on legal and market trends, issuing market studies and reports, regular training sessions for clients like our high-profile M&A masterclass, in-house counsel forum, and webinar series. We also regularly distribute focused newsletters and bespoke client alerts. JUNE HO, partner, TSMP Law Corporation At TSMP, we have a motto: Every client, our only client. We pride ourselves on high-touch, relevant engagement with them. In a knowledge-based industry like the legal profession, we believe it’s not just what you know, but what you make of your knowledge that adds value. To this end, we started Forefront, our firm’s e-newsletter sent out to our clients and contacts every month, in 2015. An editorial piece written by partners and senior associates in our firm, Forefront, is where we apply a legal lens on news and current affairs. Topics as diverse as artificial intelligence, the philanthropy landscape, the property market and workplace discrimination have been written about, focusing on how they would impact businesses and business leaders. Forefront is also posted on our company website. On the social media front, LinkedIn is our platform to inform. Beyond our firm’s own profile page, where we share activities and news updates, our partners and senior associates use their personal profiles to share their opinions on and spark conversations about social, current and business affairs. Their followers include clients, business leaders, as well as members of the legal community, both locally and internationally. Of course, there’s nothing like a face-to-face lunch with clients for that personal connection. These serve as avenues to discuss evolving needs and address concerns more privately, ensuring our clients receive tailored updates and valuable information beyond legal matters. FORUM INFORM THE WAY FORWARD CYNTHIA CHUNG AAKASH CHOUBEY General counsel want their external law firm partners to know their stuff and stay on top. Law firms in Asia talk about how they strive to keep their clients up to date to minimise friction and also help achieve their business goals. WHAT ARE YOU, AS A LAW FIRM, DOING TO MAKE SURE YOUR CLIENTS REMAIN REGULARLY UPDATED ON ISSUES RELEVANT TO THEM? JUNE HO
5 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM BRI EFS Image: Dan Hanscom/Shutterstock.com Shenzhen, the southern mainland city home to the pillars of the country’s strategic high-tech sector, has been increasingly gaining favour from China’s policymakers, and international law firms have begun to take notice. The metropolis has been tapped to spearhead the innovative and technological engines of the Greater Bay Area (GBA), an 11-city megalopolis aspiring to become Asia’s Silicon Valley with a combined GDP nearing $1.83 trillion in 2022. It has drawn U.S. tech giants looking to gain a slice of the lucrative Chinese market. Chipmaker Intel, for example, recently shrugged off souring China-U.S. ties and de-risking calls from Washington to partner with six Shenzhen tech firms focusing on AI, chip applications and edge computing, among other technologies. The deteriorating geopolitical climate and regulatory uncertainties have, however, had an impact on domestic firms. Shenzhen-based tech companies, such as internet giant Tencent and drone manufacturing champion DJI have been facing regulatory headwinds fanned by rising Sino-U.S. competition. With national interest on the line, the tech war is only intensifying with the world’s top economies racing to edge out each other in developing sensitive technologies, including artificial intelligence and semiconductors. As a result of the growing need for legal advisory to navigate the complicating regulatory landscape and the titfor-tat sanction regimes, law firms with strong TMT offerings have been mulling to establish a ground presence in Shenzhen to serve high-flying tech clients. Upon approvals from China’s Ministry of Justice in July, Morgan Lewis and Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) made the first moves towards setting up in the southern powerhouse. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Morgan Lewis has picked Shenzhen to set up its fourth office in China, which will be helmed by partner Zhu Shaobin to expand the firm’s IP offerings, including patent and trade secrets disputes, in China. Aviation and insurance powerhouse HFW, based in London, has appointed aircraft finance partner Justin Sun to lead not only the firm’s third office in China, but, more notably, one located in the much-hyped Qianhai special economic cooperation zone. Beijing has been showering Qianhai with preferential tax and legal frameworks, aiming to build it into a professional service centre to facilitate the GBA’s rapid development. The strong policy commitment has prompted a string of insurance firms, family offices and private banks to enter the area. “Being the first UK-based law firm to be granted approval to set up office in the GBA, we remain at the forefront of GBA trends and developments. Having an office right on our clients’ doorstep in the heart of the GBA reinforces our commitment to our clients in the region, whilst gaining access to the rest of the GBA and beyond,” Sun tells ALB. “While providing day-to-day services to our clients, we take a proactive approach to assist our client in areas such as sanction, compliances, which are important for international business,” adds Sun. HFW attained the greenlight to set up shop in Qianhai after a number of lawyers in its Hong Kong office passed the GBA Legal Qualification Examination, enabling them to advise on commercial matters in the bloc. These GBA-qualified lawyers “will play an important role” in the development of the Qianhai office, while any local recruitment and staffing will be “clients-driven”, according to Sun. Industry observers are optimistic about the competitiveness of international law firms gaining or eyeing a foothold in Shenzhen. “International law firms establishing a presence in Shenzhen can benefit from the proximity to the clients they serve. These firms typically have specialised teams in the intellectual property (IP), tech and commercial practice or have a focus on the technology sector,” says Brian Chan, director of legal and governance at executive recruitment firm Ethos BeathChapman. He adds: “International law firms have a competitive edge due to their global platform and expertise across different locations in handling multiple jurisdictional matters, particularly those involving the EU and U.S. jurisdictions. They can also utilise international resources and provide better internal mobility across regions.” With more international firms potentially flocking to open offices in Shenzhen to tap the rising economic opportunities, recruitment experts expect some extent of shakeup of the domestic legal talent pool. “After making senior appointments, as we have seen in Shanghai and Beijing, international law firms will then look for local talent with experience from domestic law firms for associate level hiring, prioritising those with strong language abilities,” says Chan. But Chan cautions the prospective overseas entrants against potential hurdles when staffing their new offices in the mainland tech hub. “We have observed a shortage of talent with both the necessary skill set and language proficiency. Strict regulations and visa issues across the border still pose challenges for overseas talent,” he says. INTERNATIONAL FIRMS OPEN SHENZHEN OFFICES TO TAP CHINA’S TECH MOMENTUM
6 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM BRI EFS BRANDING, PERSONNEL, BD CHALLENGES AWAIT JAPANESE FIRMS LOOKING OVERSEAS Japanese law firms are now becoming a global force to be reckoned with. While most Big Four firms already have a strong presence in other Asian countries, including many locations within the ASEAN region, others are looking even further afield. Nishimura & Asahi, Japan’s largest law firm, already has offices in Germany and the U.S., while Anderson Mori & Tomotsune and Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu have outpost in London and New York, respectively. Even outside the Big Four, firms are not shy about their overseas ambitions. In March, TMI Associates set up shop in Paris, while Miura & Partners announced new offices in London and San Francisco, aspiring to be a “global partner” for their clients. Masayuki Atsumi, a partner at Miura & Partners, tells ALB that his firm’s long-term is to become a “truly international law firm”. In addition, Ken Shimono, a partner at TMI Associates, would like to see his firm to grow in size and capacity to compete with the established U.S. and UK firms in overseas markets. These overseas forays launched by Japanese domestic legal giants might have been backed by strategic visions, ample resources, and qualified talents. But they could also face multiple challenges beginning with the most basic one, that they do not appear as “international” in the way major UK and U.S. law firms are. Isaac Uchiyama, head of business development and operations at EY Law Japan, perceives an uphill battle for these Japanese outlets to have the same impact as their Westernheadquartered counterparts in foreign markets. “The reason U.S. and UK firms have been the most successful at expanding overseas has much to do with the fact that cross-border business contracts are mostly governed by English or New York law as international standard. Therefore, firms with names that sound traditionally British or American don’t look out of place and are not assumed to have limited capability in a global legal marketplace,” explains Uchiyama. “However, a Japanese firm with a distinctly Japanese name will not easily conjure the assumption that it has international capability as a law firm even if they have a U.S., UK or local law qualified lawyer in their new market office,” he adds, which is the case of many internationally expanding Japanese firms. For instance, Miura & Partners’ U.S. operations are headed by corporate partner Naomi Koshi, a Harvard graduate admitted in both New York and California. Atsumi, who is qualified as a solicitor in England & Wales, is co-leading the firm’s UK office. While the problem of perception could considerably hinder some Japanese firms’ overseas expansions, one other issue is the deepening mismatch between a ballooning vision and a tightening budget. “An international law firm has ‘fullservice capability’ on the ground in the foreign jurisdiction. This means, for example, in Japan, there is a team of locally qualified lawyers in addition to Japanese bengoshi (lawyer) and maybe a UK or U.S.-qualified lawyer as well. Such an investment in necessary talent Image: metamorworks/Shutterstock.com
7 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM BRI EFS DEALS $6.5 BLN Merger of BPEA EQT firms Vistra and Tricor Deal Type: M&A Firms: Latham & Watkins; Milbank; Ropes & Gray Jurisdiction: Hong Kong $1.3 BLN Indonesia Investment Authority’s investment in toll roads Deal Type: Projects Firms: Herbert Smith Freehills; Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung Jurisdiction: Indonesia $685 MLN Catcha Investment’s SPAC merger with Crown LNG Holdings Deal Type: M&A Firms: Goodwin Procter; Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough Jurisdictions: Malaysia, U.S., Norway $650 MLN Pertamina and Petronas’ acquisition of stake in Masela gas block from Shell Deal Type: M&A Firm: K&L Gates Jurisdictions: Indonesia, Malaysia $600 MLN Ambuja Cement’s purchase of stake in Sanghi Industries Deal Type: M&A Firms: Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas; Khaitan & Co Jurisdiction: India $389 MLN Midtown Properties acquisition of properties from UOL Group Deal Type: M&A Firms: Rajah & Tann; WongPartnership Jurisdiction: Singapore $381 MLN Thomson Medical Group’s acquisition of FV Hospital Deal Type: M&A Firms: Dentons Rodyk; LuatViet Jurisdictions: Vietnam, Singapore $362 MLN Highway Infrastructure Trust’s acquisition of toll road projects Deal Type: M&A Firms: Allen & Overy; Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; Trilegal Jurisdiction: India to sincerely provide ‘full-service’ in a foreign location is very expensive for what is likely regarded back home in Japan by at least some of the partnership as a loss-making enterprise,” explains Uchiyama. But he emphasizes the importance of local talent to help Japanese firms have an impact. “A bench of local law-qualified talent will be needed in order to generate fees out of the expansion office to cover local overhead and move beyond just being an outpost or feeder office. With this comes the need to address the operational language and cultural structure of the Japanese firm which needs to centrally communicate out of a Japanese headquarter while developing an ‘international standard’ for a majority Japanese language- and culturally based staff,” says Uchiyama, while cautioning that firm management may question the necessity to alter the culture of the many to include the few. But even with the necessary onthe-ground expertise, the global vision of these Japanese law firms is difficult to be realized, especially when they are going head-to-head with the resourceful Western outfits on their home turf. “One challenge would be in doing the business development and relationship building with non-Japanese targets and clients in the overseas location. These corporate entities often have well-embedded international law firms advising them around the world, and the firms are more than likely already established in Japan. This is a hard space to break into,” says Uchiyama. He is convinced that investment in business development and marketing services is critical for these Japanese firms to punch above their weight. And the “clients-come-to-me” attitude staunchly held by many senior Japanese partners is now likely doomed to fail. “While this may apply in a domestically oriented practice, overseas expansion is a whole new ball game in an entirely different league,” says Uchiyama.
8 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM BRI EFS APPOINTMENTS ETHAN CHEN LEAVING Kirkland & Ellis JOINING Norton Rose Fulbright PRACTICE Capital Markets LOCATION Hong Kong NICHOLAS CHUA LEAVING CIMB Bank JOINING Dentons PRACTICE Banking and Finance LOCATION Hong Kong HEE JAE LEE LEAVING Korea Fair Trade Commission JOINING Yoon & Yang PRACTICE Antitrust LOCATION Seoul DUTSADEE DUTSADEEPANICH LEAVING ABER Group JOINING Clyde & Co PRACTICE Disputes LOCATION Bangkok WILFRED HO LEAVING Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom JOINING White & Case PRACTICE Disputes LOCATION Hong Kong KENNETH LEONG LEAVING Quahe Woo & Palmer JOINING RPC PRACTICE M&A LOCATION Singapore PAUL NG LEAVING Milbank JOINING Rajah & Tann PRACTICE Asset Finance LOCATION Singapore AFRIYAN RACHMAD LEAVING Roosdiono & Partners JOINING Nusantara DFDL Partnership PRACTICE M&A LOCATION Jakarta IZZAT ZAMRI LEAVING KK Lim JOINING Azmi & Associates PRACTICE Disputes LOCATION Kuala Lumpur NEW LAW FIRMS SET UP IN MALAYSIA BY DFDL, DELOITTE LEGAL Law and tax firm DFDL has expanded its Southeast Asia offering by establishing a Malaysian association firm called Robin Lynn & Lee in Kuala Lumpur. The new firm has three partners: managing partner Robin Teow has headed DFDL’s China desk since 2020, while Hui Lynn Tan joins from an in-house role at Gotrade Securities, and Bin Hau Lee was most recently a partner at Zaid Ibrahim & Co, the ZICO network’s Malaysia member firm. A cross-border transactions expert, Teow advises clients in infrastructure, pharmaceutical, financial services and consumer goods on M&As, public takeovers, project developments and general commercial arrangements. Before joining DFDL, Teow worked for Beijing Guantao Law Firm and King & Wood Mallesons. Tan is a compliance specialist with focus on fintech. Prior to joining Gotrade Securities, she spent more than a decade at Zaid Ibrahim & Co, becoming a partner in 2017. Lee advises on investment, M&A, IPO and project finance. He joined Zaid Ibrahim & Co in 2016 and became a partner last year. Previously, he was at Grandall Law Firm in mainland China. Meanwhile, Deloitte Legal has added to its network a new law firm in Malaysia called Wei Lih Ho & Co, which is led by a former partner of Rahmat Lim & Partners. Helmed by Wei Lih Ho, the sixlawyer firm focuses on commercial contracts, M&A, private equity, and private wealth. Ho advises private equity funds and multinational corporations, including China and Hong Kong-listed companies in technology, education, energy, healthcare and property development sectors on cross-border investments, M&A and restructuring.
9 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM BRI EFS Image: Nook Hok/Shutterstock.com With geopolitical tensions roiling economic exchanges between China and Western markets, more companies in both the mainland and Hong Kong are turning to the Middle East for overseas investment opportunities. This also comes at an ideal time for Gulf states, which are currently looking to diversify their oil-dependent economies, as well as international law firms seeking to unlock new areas of growth as dealmaking activities slow down due to the high inflation and tightening credit conditions in the United States and Europe. “There is more interest in the Middle East than ever before. The Middle East and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is experiencing growth in key economic and industrial sectors,” says Gregor Pryor, Europe and Middle East managing partner at U.S. firm Reed Smith. “As the Middle East’s economy continues to diversify, emerging industries will require guidance to navigate the laws and regulations under which they are operating. Ensuring these new businesses have access to commercially proficient legal services will be essential to their long-term success, and again provide opportunities for law firms,” Pryor adds. The investment capital of these Middle East sovereign funds is forecast to swell by 150 percent and reach $10 trillion by 2030, with HKEX head Nicolas Aguzin predicting that 10 to 20 percent of this will go to China. In particular, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been spearheading a charm offensive to court investments from Asia, especially China – the Kingdom’s top trading partner. The two states recently sealed more than 30 deals with a total price tag of $10 billion at the Arab-China Business Conference in June, spanning strategic sectors including technology, renewables, agriculture, minerals, supply chains and health care. “For trade and investment between the Middle East and Asia, Hong Kong is a natural choice to centre that activity – as seen by Saudi Arabia’s 2022 decision to open a regional office of its $776 billion Public Investment Fund in the city alongside new offices in New York and London,” explains Tommy Tong, a Hong Kong corporate partner at UK firm Herbert Smith Freehills. HSF recently became one of the first international law firms to practice independently in Saudi Arabia after the Kingdom relaxed its professional service regulations in March, and Stuart Paterson, HSF’s Middle East managing partner, says the opening in Riyadh marks a step change in the firm’s services in and for the region. “Initially, the office will focus primarily on energy, infrastructure, M&A, projects and project and structured finance. But there are deeper opportunities; Riyadh, Dubai, and other MENA markets sit at the centre of growing investment corridors to and from the UK, Europe and the U.S., Africa, Asia and Australia,” says Paterson. Tong highlights inbound and outbound investments and private capital as areas where he foresees continued trade and investment momentum between China and the Middle East. He adds that he expects to see increasing opportunities for energy and infrastructure work, and the many project aspects of such investments, from initial financing to international arbitration of construction and investment disputes, particularly as the “Middle East diversifies into new energies, industries and sectors.” With offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Reed Smith expects to see an uptick in demand for cross-border corporate, finance and related regulatory work between Middle East and the Greater China region. Hong Kong, Asia’s financial hub roaring back to life after three years of COVID restrictions, is poised to play a key role. “Hong Kong is a growing conduit for investment, trade and development for the Middle East. Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Tadawul stock exchange and the HKEX, sovereign wealth funds from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are set to establish Hong Kong-based vehicles to invest in the ongoing expansion of the Greater Bay Area economy, and access mainland China and Asia-Pacific markets,” notes Denise Jong, a Hong Kong corporate partner at Reed Smith. “The agreement allows the two exchanges to explore cooperation in areas of cross listings, fintech and ESG. It also allows working on a framework of cross listing providing easier access to investors in both exchanges,” she adds. Sachin Kerur, managing partner at Reed Smith’s Middle East offices, notes the synergies with energy, construction and Web3 developments between Middle East and Asia thanks to the establishment of the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) in Dubai last year. In addition, “The UAE is seeing exponential growth in legislative reform which is expanding our areas of practice. We have been significantly investing in talent in the region for several years now and are aligned with the diversification strategy of the key markets in the region,” Kerur adds. FROM EAST TO MIDDLE EAST: CHINA, HONG KONG EYE GULF OPPORTUNITIES
10 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM BRI EFS Q&A ‘ASIA HAS MADE UNPRECEDENTED PROGRESS IN INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION’ The ICC International Court of Arbitration recently marked the 100th anniversary of its founding. Claudia Salomon, international disputes specialist and the first female president of the ICC Court, shares with ALB about its evolution, the development of arbitration across Asian jurisdictions, and why dispute resolution is now more important than ever in the age of mounting geopolitical risks. ALB: Can you first tell us a bit about how the organisation has evolved under your watch? Claudia Salomon: I am focused on ensuring that every aspect of international arbitration has a client mindset. This means that the parties - essentially our clients – are the ones driving the service requirements. The best way to identify what parties want in each case – and to improve our ability to respond to those desires – is to engage the parties themselves more deeply in the arbitral process. With this approach, the parties can have more control over the way in which the resolution of their dispute unfolds. Given the expanding role of in-house counsel over the last decade to more of a business strategist and risk manager, we must ensure that the arbitration process better reflects this role. In this centenary year of the ICC Court, we are transforming how parties and other stakeholders access our services with the launch of ICC Case Connect, which now enables more streamlined communication and file-sharing among parties, the arbitral tribunal, and case management teams. ALB: How has the international arbitration ecosystem shifted in Asia in recent times? Salomon: The progress that Asian jurisdictions have made in international arbitration is unprecedented. The governments in the region have been very forward-thinking and nimble in addressing arbitration issues, including legislation dealing with the emergency arbitrator, third-party funding, and enforcement of interim relief. Chinese parties have increased power in their contract negotiations. And we have seen a marked improvement in the sophistication of Asian parties in resolving cross-border disputes and the emergence of world-class counsel. We see an extremely high standard of toptier Asian law firms, particularly in Singapore, Hong Kong, India, South Korea, and Japan, and we also see the emergence of a growing number of top-tier Asian arbitrators. We have also seen an increase in intra-Asian disputes arising from significant intra-Asian investment and the desire by Asian parties to have arbitrations seated in Asia. The complexity of disputes has been rapidly increasing. For example, construction disputes often also involve disputes regarding the financing of construction projects. Chinese and Indian parties were the sixth and seventh most frequent nationalities, respectively, among the parties in ICC arbitration, and parties from Asia-Pacific account for 25 percent of the parties. Singapore is among the top five seats in ICC arbitration. ALB: What challenges and opportunities does the current geopolitical landscape present to disputes? Salomon: We are currently changing relationships, as some of the biggest economies look for additional partners or investments. Some companies will pull out of China or diversify and set up production in other countries, such as India, Mexico, Turkey, and Vietnam. And China will look to strengthen its trading position, particularly in ASEAN, with great regional integration. In this shifting landscape, companies need to mitigate risk. They need mechanisms in place to protect their supply chains, to protect their investments and ensure they can continue to operate even in challenging circumstances. Key to risk mitigation is assuring that cross-border agreements have an effective dispute resolution mechanism. Businesses trading across borders do not want to find themselves in the courts of their counterparties. The process is often too slow or considered to be hard to navigate or untrustworthy. Instead, businesses large and small, as well as states and state-owned enterprises, want an effective avenue of recourse and thus turn to international arbitration to resolve such conflicts. ALB: As the first female president of the ICC Court, what are your thoughts on the state of diversity in the arbitration profession in Asia and what progress are you hoping to make in terms of advancing gender equality in the practice area? Salomon: The global business community regards diversity as essential to the legitimacy of arbitration practice. They rightly expect the arbitration community to reflect their diversity and values. We are therefore focused on increasing the number of Asian arbitrators, not just for cases involving Asian parties. We have made significant strides in increasing gender diversity: women, for example, now comprise approximately 40 percent of appointments by the ICC Court. And the ICC Court has recently introduced standard language in its model letters to parties and co-arbitrators, encouraging diversity, broadly defined, when nominating arbitrators. CLAUDIA SALOMON
11 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM BROUGHT TO YOU BY CIETAC CIETAC Officially Announced the New Panel of Mediators China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) has successfully completed the renewal of the Panel of Mediators and officially announced the new Panel of Mediators on June 1, 2023. The diversification of dispute resolution services has become one of the major trends in the development of dispute resolution in the world. The United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (i.e. the Singapore Convention on Mediation) entered into force in September 2020, marking the new era of international commercial dispute resolution, known as the New York Convention of mediation. Domestically, the high-quality development of the economy also requires diversified dispute resolution services. The Central Committee of the Party has made a critical decision to build a diversified dispute resolution mechanism. President Xing Jinping explicitly noted that “non-litigation dispute resolution mechanism should be put at the first place”. In response to the international trends, the call of the country, the demands of economic development, and the needs of enterprises to resolve disputes, CIETAC keeps being innovative. It not only provides independent, impartial, and globally renowned arbitration services, but also, benefiting from its rich experience in dispute resolution and a team of experts, provides domestic and foreign parties with diverse dispute resolution services such as mediation and construction disputes review. CIETAC set up the Mediation Centre in May 2018 and released the CIETAC Mediation Rules in the same year. On 1 June 2019, CIETAC announced the first Panel of Mediators, building a team of first-class domestic and international industries, etc. Mediators work in languages such as Chinese, English, Russian, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, as well as dialects such as Cantonese, Hakka and Minnan dialect. They are able to satisfy the needs of parties to mediate in different countries, regions and industries. To further the development in the need for resolving intellectual property disputes, the renewal has particularly considered to include mediators work in the field of intellectual property. The number of mediators specializing in intellectual property in the new Panel of Mediators has increased to 73, accounting for around 24.3% of the total number. Their expertise covers trademarks, copyrights, unfair competition, trade secrets, evaluation of design patent; intellectual property affairs in electronics, communications, computers, and semiconductor displays, integrated circuits, and related trade investigations; customs, administrative enforcement, franchising, network security, and data security compliance, etc. Through the renewal, CIETAC has further improved the diversity, professionalism and internationalization of the mediators, optimized the mediation services, and plays an essential role in settling social conflicts, promoting social harmony, and creating a modernized, ruleof-law business environment. The new Panel of Mediators has been officially published at the official website of CIETAC (www.cietac.org). Parties can log on to inquire more detailed information of the mediators in the “ADR Service” – “Mediation” – “Panel of Mediators”. CIETAC looks forward to continuing to provide professional and efficient commercial mediation services for domestic and foreign parties. mediators. The “Oriental Experience” pioneered by CIETAC to combine arbitration with mediation, and a team of experts with professional experience, build a good foundation and conditions for providing mediation services. Through the establishment of mechanisms and rules, CIETAC has not only provided commercial mediation services, but also established the mechanism to connect mediation-arbitration, mediation-litigation and litigation-mediationarbitration, providing the parties with “one-stop” diversified dispute resolution services. The professional competence and ethics of mediators are important guarantees for handling mediation cases properly and resolving disputes effectively. Therefore, CIETAC attaches great importance to the work of the renewal of the Panel. CIETAC announced the renewal and opened the application channel for mediators to the public on April 6 2023. There was a considerable number of domestic and international applications. After strict selection, CIETAC decided to confer mediator qualifications to 300 domestic and foreign experts, 181 of them are renewed while 119 of them are newly accredited. There are 265 Mainland China mediators from 23 provinces/autonomous regions/ municipalities, with 8 new provinces/ autonomous regions, 35 experts from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and other 11 foreign countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Brazil, Italy, Germany, France, Canada and Singapore. The mediators’ expertise covers a wide range of industries, including financial securities, construction and real estate, trade, investment, Sino-foreign joint ventures, intellectual property rights, natural resources, film and television
12 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM As digitalisation continues to grow in Southeast Asia, regulators have to launch suitable legal and regulatory frameworks. However, they will also face several key obstacles in achieving a balance between innovation and regulation that safeguards consumers. “From a regulator’s perspective, the challenge lies in information asymmetry given the many complex attributes of these novel business models, and financial products that blur the boundaries between traditional and innovative ways of doing business whether it involves banking, investments, lending, payments, currency or other fintech,” says Kristine T. Torres, junior partner at Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra in the Philippines. Torres notes that regulators are faced with the difficult task of identifying and predicting the various new and intricate risks presented by digitalisation. They must also quickly learn how to regulate these risks effectively. Although regulators strive to align their policies and regulations with the best international standards, they cannot simply adopt them without taking into account the differences in implementation when applied to various types of innovations or countries. As fintech innovations often outpace the development of regulatory frameworks, regulators must stay updated on emerging technologies and business models to effectively address potential risks and consumer protection issues, according to Azmul Haque, founder and managing director at Singapore’s Collyer Law. With many fintech companies operating across multiple Southeast Asian countries, regulators face a difficult task of coordinating and harmonising regulations to ensure consistency and effective oversight. Finding balance between innovation and compliance can be challenging, according to Haque. Too much regulation can impede fintech progress, which may prevent consumers from enjoying the full benefits of these advancements. It is crucial to strike the right balance that fosters innovation while also ensuring compliance with consumer protection standards. “Addressing these challenges requires a dynamic and adaptive regulatory approach that fosters innovation while prioritising consumer protection and maintaining financial stability. Regulators must be proactive in their efforts to monitor the evolving fintech landscape and adjust their policies accordingly to create a sustainable and safe fintech ecosystem in Southeast Asia,” Haque tells ALB. According to Athistha (Nop) Chitranukroh, a partner and director of Tilleke & Gibbins’ corporate and commercial group based in Bangkok, regulation and innovation are not in competition with each other. “When it comes to new and complex products such as those being developed in the fintech sector, a clear and comprehensive regulatory framework can give businesses the confidence to make investments,” Athistha tells ALB. In terms of consumer protection, while fintech has been instrumental in expanding banking and financial services to people who have traditionally been unbanked, lower levels of digital and financial literacy within the population pose a challenge for regulators, according to Athistha. “Legislation that gives consumers information and control, such as data protection laws, and that protect consumers from malicious activities, such as cybercrime laws, are key tools for tackling such problems,” Athistha says. REGIONAL DIFFERENCES The regulatory frameworks for fintech can differ greatly among Southeast Asian countries, potentially affecting businesses operating in multiple markets in the region. A FINE BALANCE Southeast Asia’s fintech industry will have to maintain a delicate balance between promoting innovation and implementing strong regulatory frameworks. As this industry evolves, regulators across the region should work together to take proactive measures and collaborate to protect consumers and encourage fair and responsible financial practices. BY ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS Image: Owlie Productions/Shutterstock.com F INTECH
13 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM The disparities in the adoption of comprehensive and specific regulations are a notable feature of the regulatory landscape for fintech in Southeast Asia, according to Athistha. Countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand have adopted various regulations regarding as e-payments, electronic know-your-customer (e-KYC), peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, cryptocurrencies, and crowdfunding. By having supportive regulations and regulators who are proactive in engaging with these industries, these jurisdictions are able to promote innovation and encourage investment. However, there is less in the way of specific regulations in countries such as Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. “This poses challenges for fintech businesses looking to expand their operations into these jurisdictions, where a lack of legal clarity and understanding of the relevant technologies creates uncertainty over how specific business activities and product offerings will be regulated,” says Athistha. Among them, Vietnam has proposed several regulations in the fintech space, and its recent implementation of comprehensive data protection legislation is a further encouraging sign. “Many regulators in Southeast Asia have established regulatory frameworks for digital payments, through either general regulatory framework for the wider payment sector, or activity-based regulations that are specific to certain fintech industries like e-money, virtual currencies, digital payments, online lending, digital banking and remittances,” says Torres. Different jurisdictions have varying approaches towards certain fintech categories. In some jurisdictions activities like P2P lending and virtual currencies are prohibited, while in others they are treated as unregulated or subject to licensing regulations. Some jurisdictions have bespoke regulatory frameworks that are similar to those of other jurisdictions. Additionally, some countries have introduced fintech regulatory sandboxes, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, which enable them to quickly address the rapidly evolving fintech landscape. Torres points out that there are other jurisdictions that are more advanced in terms of fintech policies and regulatory framework. This impacts businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions since there are nuances that would entail more regulatory compliance and licensing for some that in other jurisdictions simply would not apply. These fintech companies would then need to tailor-fit their approach per country. F INTECHwww.legalbusinessonline.com