My Legal Life – GrandwayLaw
Longing to learn and experience new things every day is part of what makes us human, and our next guest has always thrived in the progress and development of his skills and knowledge, to the future-looking benefit of human well-being.
Mr. Liguo Zhang is the chief partner of GrandwayLaw Offices and a well-known legal expert in the field of China’s securities and capital markets. Here Mr. Zhang talks with Lawyer Monthly about his legal upbringing, the segments and people that shaped him, and the steps that led him to hold the reputation he holds today in China.
What led you to embark on a career in the legal profession? What draws you to your specialist areas of M&A and financial transactions?
In the early 1990s, the trend of Chinese economic reform, development and international communication revealed a growing demand for high-level, professional and international legal services. Meanwhile, it took seven years of legal study experience at Peking University and several years of in-house experience, working in the central enterprise especially assigned to the US law firm, for the elite lawyers’ ways of working, professionalism and social influence to have made me comprehend it, recognize it and more importantly, long for it. At that time, all these strengthened my confidence to engage in a legal career, so I quit the secured job and dedicated myself to a life as a lawyer.
By some coincidence, I had the opportunity to participate in financing transactions and M&A when I’d just began practicing as a lawyer. In the process of providing legal services, I have obtained a better understanding of the relevant industries, enterprises, teams and managements. Furthermore, gaining legal knowledge surrounding the companies, securities, land, taxation, environmental protection and intellectual property etc. called for professional research into the constantly changing, and at times even disordered, regulations and law environment. This period also involved providing personalized resolutions and plans for specific enterprises’ historical evolutions, property rights form and corporate culture via the research mentioned above. Though the stress and the challenges of the whole process were extremely tough and made me over-reach myself, the achievement of clients, their sense of triumph, and high praises of our work made me believe that all the hardships were worthwhile. It is a fortunate and honorable feat to be a securities lawyer, and to create greater economic and social value for enterprises through the capital market with the professional knowledge and vast experience.
Within these segments, is there a particular legal sub-category you are more passionate about? Please explain.
During the course engaged in the relevant legal services, I felt more passionate about the Business of IPO, for the reasons that these businesses are more challenging and of greater significance because of the development of corporates in the Chinese legal environment, and especially for the higher requirements of the intermediaries’ knowledge and experience, and greater difficulty and strength in completing the work.
If you never chose to be a lawyer, what other profession might you have pursued and why?
For the possibility that I had not chosen to be a lawyer, I would have chosen to engage in private equity investment, because I love to know and study different kinds of industries, enterprises, entrepreneurs and management teams. I also mostly enjoy helping and supporting the aspiring enterprises to better develop, in order to better serve human well-being.
In retrospect, if you could return to a highlighted moment of your legal career, what time would you chose and why?
If I had the fortune to experience a time in my legal career once again, I would choose the time when I was involved in a whole IPO process, starting with the due diligence, analyzing all the legal issues we found during the process, participating in the plan making, drafting relevant documents, taking part in the deliberation of shareholders meeting, till the declaration of full set of materials. At the time, I committed myself not only to the development and accomplishment of the project with high effectiveness, but I also established profound friendships with the entrepreneurs and intermediaries. More importantly, I enjoyed the concentration and quiet state of mind with active thinking and creativity.
What would you say have been the most valuable legal experiences or cases that have brought you to where you are today?
My most valuable experience of securities law originates in the participation of hundreds of restructurings and establishments of enterprises’ IPOs, and the businesses of public companies’ acquisition and reorganization. The most fortunate achievement has been proposing practicable resolutions for extremely complicated and difficult corporate issues, providing ways of access to and utilization of the capital market with prospective and constructive legal opinions.
How did being the becoming one of the most influential Chinese lawyers in the top 10 impact your legal career? What do you think got you such a prestige recognition?
With 30-years securities working experience, the law firm, the team and myself have grown up with the Chinese capital market. It is an honor to see the professional attitude and quality of work, the dedication of lawyers we served in the process of providing the legal service, and the supervision departments, clients and peer law firms’ highly praised.
What motivated you to be the first to practice securities law in China and how did you undergo the process?
Due to some coincidences, and the system ®ulations for securities lawyers, the firm I worked for was one of the first law firms qualified to practice securities law. I was also one of the first group lawyers who were qualified to practice securities law. The Chinese capital market has just started its development at that time and there was tremendous demand for legal services in the capital market. As someone who just finished working abroad for a US law firm and came back to China, this was quite fascinating for me. Therefore, I devoted myself to the area of securities law, and no matter how the capital market changed, I have always focused on providing high quality legal services and improving the professional skills of the associates in my law firm and myself.
When giving speeches at Peking University Law School, how does it feel to be paving the way for the future lawyers? What key advice do you have for them?
My legal dream sailed from Peking University, so every time I go back to give a speech at the Law School of Peking University, I would feel a lot of gratitude, warmth and desire to assist or share my understanding of a career as a lawyer, and how to become a good lawyer, especially a non-litigating lawyer, with the students who want to be a lawyer in the future, so that I can do my part to improve the transparency, publicity and fairness of the Chinese capital market.
My suggestions for them are:
(1) being a student, they should focus on study, not only in the legal area, but also in philosophy, literature, arts, and English, to improve themselves to be international and professional;
(2) participate in social activities appropriately, no matter on campus or off campus to improve intellectual or social skills;
(3) choose a career in accordance with the ideals and qualities of themselves. The best career option would be something combined with fitness and interest;
(4) it is critical for an excellent lawyer to be focused, professional and honest.
Do you have further future goals? Are there avenues you still wish to explore in the global legal sphere?
My vision for the future is as follows:
(1) recruit more capable personnel through campus recruitment or other approaches to make Grandway more energetic, creative and accumulative;
(2) advance the all-sided reform within Grandway, not just improve the system, but expand the areas of our practice to make Grandway a more sustainable, comprehensive, international and competitive law firm. Additionally, foster more specialists in our practice areas;
(3) under the influence of globalization, especially with the Internet and artificial intelligence, I hope to figure out a way to combine technology with the legal services in the capital market to free our professional lawyers from some repeating and miscellaneous matters and provide our clients with higher quality.
With career experience of over three decades and an exposure to the capital market for over two decades, I have witnessed the development of the Chinese capital market and participated in a number of land-marking and ground-braking cases; some even managed to bring the company back to life. There are a lot of tastes, which are valuable for me. It’s really hard to choose one.
What are your objectives in 2017?
1) to properly expand Grandway’s scale (including crews and branches) and improve the diversification of Grandway’s business;
2) to further reform Grandway’s system, enhance Grandway’s creativity, inheritance and accumulation;
3) to reinforce the cooperation with advanced techniques intermediaries, promote the integration of Grandway’s professional legal services with Internet and artificial intelligence, and strive to obtain preferable performance.
What are the parts in your life that you will always persist firmly?
Ideal, belief, dignity and happiness.
How do you measure your success?
Success is much more like a state of mind or a feeling within. It is a treasure to maintain inner peace.
Meanwhile, it also brings me a lot joy to know that my existence and endeavors makes my families, friends and colleagues dignified and happier.
Furthermore, I enjoy the happiness, recognition and dignity brought with my commitment, knowing that my career is in accordance with my ideals and beliefs.