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Law Firm Strategies and Market Trends During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Learn how the legal market across Asia has handled the global pandemic and gain an insightful view of the key discussion points of the Chambers Forum: Beijing 2021.

Published on 20 July 2021
Written by John Graham
John Graham

Chambers Virtual Forum: Beijing 2021 Recap

The Chambers Virtual Forum: Beijing 2021 went ahead in virtual form in late June and lasted for over three hours. It was hosted remotely by Chambers Greater China Region team and featured three expert panels of distinguished lawyers from Asia’s leading law firms to discuss firms’ agile responses and major legal market trends in the region since the pandemic.

During the forum, key points of discussion included the challenges and opportunities the legal market has faced, a change in capital markets and how law firms are working to recruit new talent. Below we provide unique insights into these points, with valuable thoughts and details provided by our panel of guest speakers.

Challenges and Opportunities for Law Firms during the global pandemic

The biggest challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic is the challenge of remote working, not merely on an ad hoc basis but as a standard model of management and operation, something the panellists, as managing partners in their own law firms, were well placed to discuss. All the panellists talked about the challenges faced by their own firms in adjusting to this new normal mode of working, including having to adapt to multiple different video conferencing platforms to interact with clients as well as colleagues based in overseas offices. Internal training has also been affected with greater reliance on video and remote learning for trainee lawyers.

That Chambers research findings, law firms and lawyers in the region, adapt to such changes by the pandemic quite well. Although face-to-face communications have not been possible and the pandemic renders some types of work particularly onerous, such as carrying out on-site due diligence, many legal providers and legal professionals including a couple of speakers in the panel do report the benefit of working remotely, including time saved on the road and increased productivity.

Capital Markets – Prospects for Continuous Change

As the world’s second largest economy, China’s domestic capital markets continue to develop and mature through far-reaching reforms, including the introduction of a new registration IPO system for the ChiNext board of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and STAR board of the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The piloted registration-based IPO system has been a success so far and will be a testbed for further reforms such as this new registration-based IPO system to be rolled out to the main board.

Among the IPO market choices, A-shares have also become the most difficult type of issuances to handle because of the volume of due diligence work required. The more stringent requirements are reflection of China regulator’s determination to increate market transparency and protect investors. In practice, there were calls for further discussions and clarifications on how to define the responsibility of intermediaries more clearly, lawyers in particular, in A-share IPOs.

Another thing noticed by the panellists and Chambers researchers are the increasing trend of Chinese companies coming home to have second IPOs on the Shanghai or Hong Kong exchanges after being listed in the United States, partly due to the growing popularity of Chinese capital markets and partly to the rising threat of delisting following tightened US auditing and disclosure standards.

Nurturing Multijurisdictional Cross-border Capabilities and the best legal talent

Recruiting and nurturing talent is a constant mission for all sized law firms from global to boutique. It is something that law firms must continually strive for. Many leading lawyers in China have trained and worked overseas, both at the associate and partner level, but what matters most is that whether the knowledge of the talents is compatible with the practices that the firms engaged. In another word, whether the lawyers are exposed to enough foreign-related mandates in the pipelines. Besides practical knowledge, firms’ top managers also believe it is important to nurture and develop young lawyers’ professional views and values to foster their enthusiasm for the areas of law they handle.

We invite you to watch the recap of the forum below and to hear from leading practitioners in the Greater China Region who provide an analysis of the key topics affecting the legal market in the region and beyond.

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