Learning to love lawyers, Chinese style

When Hangzhou-based e-commerce group Alibaba listed on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month it was a boon not only for its founder Jack Ma but for the lawyers involved too. After all, at $25bn it was the largest IPO of all time.

Local firms Fangda and King & Wood Mallesons shared in the $15.8m of legal fees generated by the listing, with US firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett taking home the largest share after winning the main advisory role.

However, while the listing was the biggest ever recorded, Alibaba actually drove a hard bargain with its lawyers – the $15.8m figure is thought to be only the fourth highest for a US listing in the past 10 years.

The fact that Alibaba is a Chinese company could have something to do with this. As Zhong Lun senior international counsel Robert Lewis recounts in this month’s China blog , business leaders in China have an inbuilt wariness of lawyers, something that became apparent when he shared a stage with none other than Alibaba’s Jack Ma back in 2005.

“He instructed the lawyers to rip up the complex transaction documents and prepare something simple and straight-forward …. then left his audience of Chinese business leaders spell-bound as he ridiculed the role of financial advisers and lawyers in M&A transactions. The assembled group of senior managers of China’s top companies roared their approval,” recalls Lewis.

Almost a decade later and Ma put together a stellar list of firms to deal with his company’s flotation, reflecting how much more sophisticated Chinese businesses have become in the intervening period.

China’s indigenous legal sector has benefited from this growing sophistication too, as is evidenced from the success of the firms that made it into The Lawyer’s first-ever China Elite. To find out more about those firms and what’s driving them, download the report here .

Also on TheLawyer.com:

Featured Briefings
Employment – DLA Piper: Comcare licensees: push to lower barriers to entry to the federal WHS system
Company – King & Capital: Implications of PRC criminal laws and regulations for multinational companies and foreign executives
Company – Minter Ellison: Competition law overhaul — Harper Review leaves no stone unturned
IP – DLA Piper: Full Federal Court confirms isolated genetic material is patentable in Australia
Funds – DLA Piper: Myanmar’s third special economic zone