New normal for legal work

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The July/August issue, as in past years, features our annual China Business Law Directory, comprising listings of active law firms keen to support China-related business. It should be your handy reference when you need to locate the right legal expert.

Leader-1707-08Apart from law firm listings, the special directory edition this year again features a series of four connected stories providing in-depth analyses of the overall regulatory and market landscape. A touch of tech looks into the implications of technologies for lawyers and legal work. Taking a new path contains articles from three in-house counsel groups exploring the new challenges for in-house work. A question of quality focuses on the regulatory and judicial updates in the China market, while Staying in play looks at the current key challenges confronting Chinese and international law firms.

The power of computer and information technologies has not left the legal sector untouched. Currently, one big challenge for law firms and in-house counsel is how to adapt to the expanding role of technology in legal work. Many have been active in adopting IT systems and automation tools to improve work efficiency and accuracy, and enhance internal management. Advanced technologies have also brought lawyers pressure – a key concern is that artificial intelligence will eventually replace them. However, it seems it is still too early to reach that conclusion.

Another challenge for corporate counsel and law firms is how to keep abreast of the fast evolving business and regulatory landscape. In the past year, the regulatory changes in the China market have been a mixture of streamlined regulation and authorities tightening their grips. The central government’s conviction to further open the market remains unchanged, but it has focused more on strengthening the real economy, encouraging innovation, reducing financial risks, protecting key data, and other issues closely related to the quality and security of economic development. Corporate counsel in multinationals are facing an increasingly complex global business environment. Heads of in-house legal teams are also playing a more important role in the decision-making process and the company’s risk assessment and control.

Meanwhile, law firms are feeling intense pressure from greater competition with peers, and the necessity to engineer a tailored firm development plan that works. The rapid growth of Chinese law firms has become one of the most significant challenges for international firms in the China market, but Chinese firms are also at a point of thinking about how to strike a balance between scale expansion and specialization.

This issue also features the second story in our series on the Belt and Road initiative. Building a backbone looks at some concrete examples of how law firms are bringing the scheme’s dreams to fruition through infrastructure construction and project finance deals. We look at areas that are likely to play a pivotal role in the advancement of the Belt and Road initiative, and also possible stumbling blocks.