Jason Lu, chief partner,
River Delta Law Firm
Following The Legal 500’s annual Shanghai employment forum, The Legal 500
sits down with chief partner of River Delta Law Firm, Shanghai, Jason Lu.
Jason explains how River Delta is adapting to clients' changing needs in handling employment matters.
I N T E R V I E W
Above: Mr Jason Lu speaking at the Shanghai Employment Forum event – May 2019.
How would you define your firm’s culture? How important is firm culture to you?
Jason Lu (JL): River Delta Law Firm (RDLF) is a family. Our corporate management style easily allows trust and teamwork between our firms. We further nurture this feeling through frequent social activities, such as sports days, or simply celebrating an employee’s birthday with a cake! This feeling of trust and friendship is reflected in our services to clients, and we have the same attitude towards them. Clients are friends of RDLF and we will always strive to do our utmost for our friends.
Our firm’s culture also consists of a passion for labor law. With every team focusing on this field, it is only natural that everyone is passionate about it. We love to write and share articles and information on domestic or foreign labor and employment law, both internally and externally.
What does innovation mean to you and how can firms be better at it?
JL: Innovation means staying ahead of the competition by offering more material value through any and all means possible. This necessitates research into new technologies and talent with a confident reinvestment of profits. Part and parcel of the research is in recognizing the competition’s strengths and weaknesses, while also paying due regard to one’s own strengths and weaknesses. Only then can one identify where the money should go and why.
What are the biggest challenges facing firms of your size in China?
JL: With the development of globalization and the implementation of China's One Belt and One Road strategy, internationalization of our law firm and lawyers becomes one of the biggest challenges. To consistently improve our service qualities to both foreign-invested clients and our clients investing abroad will be always important to our law firm.
To keep up the broad implementation of new technology, especially the implementation of AI in legal areas, our law firm needs to comply with such new reforms and seek new growth in the field of labor law.
What are the biggest trends facing your practice?
JL: Trends that have recently altered the nature, character and volume of our work have included the “Doing Business” cost-cutting and increasing efficiency of enterprises, the #MeToo movement, the promulgation of the GDPR, the rise of the gig economy, the One Belt One Road initiative, and numerous others. RDLF is consciously and constantly speculating on the next trends and how the law may react – in turn, the subject of much of my academic research. A consequence of this state of readiness is that our client solutions and advice to foreseeable issues will always be the most effectual available.
What have you found is the best way to retain talent – both at partner and associate levels?
JL: A structured and consistent approach towards the recognition of, praise and reward for good work is essential. If the partner/associate knows that 1) their hard work is recognized and valued, and 2) they will receive a direct return as a result, they will have a strong incentive to stay and cultivate their talent.
With this in mind, I would consider the following to be good management advice: keep records of employee’ successes, schedule regular work reviews, maintain clear lines of communication, speak candidly and honestly, and apportion rewards or benefits fairly.
If the employees know where they stand, this will help you to know where your business stands.
Since becoming managing partner, what’s surprised you most about running a firm?
JL: As the founder of the firm, my role as the managing partner has grown and developed alongside the needs and demands of the business. In that sense, I can’t say that anything has taken me by surprise since the experience has been a thoroughly organic one. In terms of the core elements of my work-load now compared to 15 years ago: they are essentially the same, but much more intense.
How has your involvement in client-facing work changed since becoming managing partner?
JL: As would be expected, the frequency of face-to-face client interaction – in the formal sense – decreases in the management role. Informally, however, it has increased ten-fold! Travelling to universities, attending government summits and speaking at a variety of conferences feature heavily in my daily work. In the course of these, I have access to innumerable clients and prospective clients outside of the office, providing me with extensive face-time which then enables the formation and maintenance of professional relationships and friendships. This certainly follows on from the idea that RDLF’s clients are also friends.
What advice would you give to the next generation of partners ready to rise through the ranks?
JL: Be sure to properly balance the provision of top-quality legal services with exemplary client care, efficient team-management and the cultivation of new clients. If these four elements are given due regard and attention, the business will thrive and you will reap the rewards. While being the most knowledgeable in your field or industry is important and admirable, always bear in mind that you are providing a service to people. The business aspect and the human aspect should not be ignored.
What do you think are the top three things most clients want and why?
JL: As follows:
- Transparency and honesty – we want the client’s experience to be one of ease. This can only be accomplished through the maintenance of transparent and honest communication at all times. Every aspect of the service should be evident on its face; the work that is required, the fee structure, the timeframe for completion of the work and the work’s progress. The provision of such is severely hindered without the maintenance of clear lines of communication, whereby the lawyer or lawyers in charge can be reached promptly and easily if the client if so needs.
- Diligence – working independently while keeping the client informed of any required information and important developments. They should be safe in the knowledge that all of their issues and concerns are being given due regard. Never should they feel that they have been cast aside and forgotten about. Timely and consistent communication is key, which links in with point 1.
- High-quality, accurate work producing material results – points 1 and 2 combined with highly-trained and competent professionals will always produce high-quality work. Hopefully this will produce material results, which serves as the reward of both the firm and the client.
Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?
JL: Speed, accuracy, efficiency and flexibility are the concepts that dictate our adoption of new technologies; we are open to anything that will enable us to maximize the client experience and our business model is constantly reassessed according to this. Video conferencing technologies, business-orientated messaging services and file-sharing networks, in particular, have greatly expanded RDL’s reach, enabling us to provide our services to those who require them all over the world. RDL and its lawyers can be anywhere at the click of a button. It cuts costs and time, which reinvest these into the client.