Ni hao, it’s off to work we go

How often do you text your clients or key contacts just to say hi? Not often is my guess. But then I’d also guess that, even now, the majority of lawyers reading this haven’t done much business in China.

All the more reason why our cover feature is required reading. As our Asia editor Yun Kriegler highlights, the cultural differences between doing business in the City and in China stretch much further than the appropriate method of handing over your business card. It used to be only Chinese lawyers who sent ’Happy New Year’ texts to key contacts during the Chinese spring festival.

Now the cannier members of the international community are waking up to the fact that texts are more popular than emails.

As Kriegler says: “Sending text message greetings for Chinese New Year has become an important and popular business etiquette in China.”

But this article is not just about how to win friends and influence people. It’s about the growing importance of friends full stop.

Ever since the Hong Kong IPO goldrush kicked off there has been a glut of global firms targeting local law capabilities, spearheaded by the US elite, including the likes of Simpson Thacher, Davis Polk and Sullivan & Cromwell. But there is another way. The so-called red circle of elite PRC firms, which includes the likes of Haiwen, Commerce & Finance and Jingtian & Gongcheng, are increasingly being targeted by top US and UK players who want to tap into those firms’ links to potential clients based on the mainland.

These firms are in the front line when it comes to acting for Chinese clients, many of which are reaching the point where they will go public.

It’s still relatively rare for a Chinese counsel to play the role of kingmaker when it comes to appointing the other advisers on their Hong Kong listing, but as Jun He capital markets partner Shao Chunyang points out in this piece, the number of deals where it does happen is increasing.

The game is to be in pole position for the nod when it happens, and that will take more than sending a text.