1. Why did you start a law firm? Biggest challenge of starting a firm?
I formed an idea about how to provide legal services and wanted to realize it, however, I couldn’t find a suitable platform. So I thought it was time for me to start my own firm.
If you think of a lawyer as some kind of technician, then a partner is just like a CEO. Legal problems are not their only concern, he/she has to think more about operations. The biggest challenge that I was facing was how to operate the business. How can I promote the business while controlling costs? That was an important question to answer yet I rarely thought about it when I worked as a lawyer. I continuously find more cost effective ways to help my clients, the point is that it has helped me better understand my clients’ needs.
2. A brief introduction of your firm.
Although AsiaBridge has a domestic focus, a large percentage of our business is derived from our international clients. Here at AsiaBridge, our main focus is to assist foreign individuals and business entities who wish to do business in China. These clients can be separated into two categories. The first are those who are involved with international trade. They work with many Chinese suppliers and are importing and exporting products. Their needs are generally IP protection, due diligence, contract drafting and negotiation, litigation (when required) and commercial services, like payment processing. The second are those who are trying to establish a business in China. They want to have a physical presence in China. Although their needs sometimes overlap with those in the first category, they need more. With this second group of clients, we support them from day one. We help establish an entity like a wholly owned foreign enterprise, to labor laws and tax issues.
3. What’s your vision for the law firm?
I hope, through our straightforward job, we can help people become successful in China. I hope to grow with our clients. I hope that in 5 or 10 years from now, when people think of doing business in China, they will think of us.
4. Who at your firm will handle my case?
Usually, after we’ve signed a service agreement, the associate most suitable to the case will be assigned as the contact person for our client. However, when necessary, the entire firm may be involved in the case since it’s the firm that is responsible for the client. Teamwork is embedded in our firms’ cultures.
5. Are you planning on having an office overseas?
We are a Chinese law firm. We provide services to our clients while they are doing business here in China. We are considering liaison offices in major markets for better communication and closer relationships with our clients.
6.What do you like most and least about working with foreign clients? What’s your approach to managing clients?
No matter where our clients come from, we can always try to find a way to help them and they greatly appreciate us for that. With that said, there are pros and cons to every business relationship. Fortunately, our team is determined to find solutions to any obstacles encountered in our business relationship. All solutions achieved through our efforts are well worth it in the long run.
Well, in my opinion, there are many scientific methods of client-management, they do work and I think it’s important to know all them. However, I think the most important approach is to show your sincerity to your clients. You have to let them know you care for them and you will go all out to fight for their interest, since that is of utmost importance to us.
7. What’s the hardest thing for foreign clients to understand about doing business in China?
I heard more than one client complain about their experience in China: How can this happen? Why do Chinese people do business differently” etc… Unfortunately, it’s useless to complain about the differences. Like the old saying, “When in Rome (do as the Romans do)”, everyone should learn to adapt to their environment if they want to be successful.
8. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can give to new importers?
A successful business deal starts at the very beginning, not in the middle of negotiations. You may initially feel you’ve made “best deal” but, if you do not know who your dealing with, you may later find out it’s the worst deal you’ve made. What I’m saying ties into your previous question. Do your due diligence before you negotiate, sign the contract and make a payment. Make sure the companies you are dealing with are legitimate enterprises. So if something goes wrong you can take legal action. Unfortunately, many clients see a website with an address, a nice picture and even receive samples, believing everything is okay. Don’t make that mistake. Not to sound cliché, but here’s another old saying, “Do your homework!”
9. What changes have you seen over the years in the Chinese business climate in its relation to Western companies?
Well, that’s a big question. Many different perspectives will have many different conclusions. As a Chinese lawyer, I noticed more business interaction between China and western society. There has also been more cooperation among Chinese and overseas entities. The Chinese government is working very hard to improve the legislation with an emphasis on provide a better investment environment. Also, Chinese entities have learnt a lot from their international peers. Though many problems still exist, the total investment environment has improved. At the same time, the threshold for investing in China is much higher and it’s more competitive to do business in China. In a word, it’s a big market full of challenges and opportunities.
10 What’s the best piece of advice you can give someone who wants to do business in China?
Many of my clients have asked me: “Is it very important to know Chinese culture and protocol to be successful in doing business in China?” That depends. My personal opinion is that it depends on what kind of business you are doing. If you want to sell something in China, of course you have to know something about Chinese culture since you need to know about your clients. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s a “must”. After all, culture is a very complicated phenomenon, especially for china, a nation with more than 2000 years of history and more than 50 nations. There are huge differences between different regions, such as north vs. south and coastal regions vs. inner regions.
So my suggestion is that:
1) You don’t have to know Chinese culture, but you do have to respect it;
2) Observe more, act less. You won’t make serious mistakes if you follow general protocol, which applies elsewhere. For example, don’t talk about politics or religion during dinner. Nor should you talk about sensitive topics, such as Taiwanese or Japanese issues in China.
For more info., visit www.AsiaBridgeLaw.com