Labour and employment: foreign firms in China

Baker McKenzie FenXun

Led by Jonathan Isaacs from Hong and aided by practitioners based out of Shanghai and Beijing, Baker McKenzie FenXun's three-partner team has the strength-in-depth to provide a 'professional and knowledgeable service' to  multinational corporates and financial institutions across the spectrum of contentious and non-contentious employment needs related to their operations in Hong Kong, mainland China and throughout Asia. As well as his aptitude at providing 'commercial and culturally sensitive' advice to international employers on China-related work (including collective bargaining, investigations and terminations), Isaacs also frequently co-ordinates the overarching strategic Asia Pacific-related employment advice associated with M&A in the region. Shanghai-based US-qualified partner Zheng Lu  is well-versed at handling a range of litigation and investigations work, as well as strategic advisory mandates on behalf of US headquartered multinationals on China-related mandates. Based in Beijing, Bofu An is also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Jonathan Isaacs

Other key lawyers:

Zheng Lu; Bofu An; Jane Peng


‘The team is amazing and I rely on them for everything from personnel policies, to guidance on pay and contracts. The lawyers are professional, knowledgeable, and always explain things in a way that makes sense.’

‘The team truly knows labour law, and understands our business.’

‘Jonathan Isaacs provides commercial and culturally sensitive advice.’

DLA Piper

Led from Beijing by the 'commercial and solutions-orientedJohnny ChoiDLA Piper's six-strong China team combines cultural and local law expertise with an international mindset, thereby ensuring that the firm is well-placed to provide 'responsive and practical advice' to multinational corporates on employment issues associated with doing business in China, as well as for Chinese companies on their domestic activity and outbound work. The team handles a range of contentious and non-contentious mandates, including advising clients on sensitive large scale redundancy, immigration issues, data privacy matters, as well as dismissal cases and discrimination claims. As part of his broad-ranging expertise, Choi himself advises multinational clients at senior management and boardroom level on matters relating to senior employees, including terminations and transfers, as well as advice on HR policy and benefits. The team also frequently interacts with employment lawyers spread throughout the firm's international network and has a particularly close relationship with the Hong Kong team, which is led by Helen Colquhoun.

Practice head(s):

Johnny Choi

Other key lawyers:

Helen Colquhoun; Ying Li; Yiduo Qi


‘Excellent customer service and responsiveness.’

‘The team is extremely responsive and provides practical advice.’

‘Johnny Choi consistently delivers high-quality service, taking time to understand our culture, and provide advice and solutions that are commercial and relevant. I cannot recommend him enough as a strong legal partner in China.’

Key clients
















Morgan Stanley






Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP has expertise across a range of employment matters, including as it relates to hiring and termination, the establishment and enforcement of company policies and collective bargaining. Working closely with its regional and international offices, the team is particularly effective at advising multinational employers on matters which often require co-ordinated advice across various territories. 'Exceptional and responsive' team head Lesli Ligorner  'understand the pressures multinational corporates face when operating in China' and delivers her advice 'in a practical manner that is easily digestible'. Ligorner has a niche focus in relation to work at the intersection of employment law and anti-corruption, and regularly advises clients on establishing robust procedures to comply with local anti-corruption laws as well as in relation to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Todd Liao and Charles Mo are the main names to note within the firm's Shanghai and Hong Kong offices, respectively.

Practice head(s):

Lesli Ligorner

Other key lawyers:

Todd Liao; Charles Mo


‘The firm works closely with its regional and international offices, which greatly assists multinational clients, which often require advice across a variety of territories.’

‘The exceptional Lesli Ligorner is very responsive and alert to commercial issues facing businesses. Being a foreigner herself, she understands the pressures multinationals face when operating in China and delivers her advice in a practical manner that is easily digestible. I thoroughly enjoy working with Lesli and would highly recommend her and her team to any colleague.’

Key clients

JP Morgan Chase

Gilead Corporation



American Greetings

Arthrex Corporation

Bristol Myers Squibb

Comcast / NBC Universal


Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China

Work highlights

  • Advising a global life sciences conglomerate on the strategy to defend the legal proceedings brought by four former employees and one current employee -for unpaid equity grants (RSUs).
  • Acted for a global financial institution on a sexual harassment case involving a senior executive in Mainland China and a subordinate employee in Hong Kong.
  • Represented a global producer of dental implants in an employment dispute against a team of seven former employees for breach of the restrictive covenants in their employment contracts, and against two of its competitors for unlawful interference with contractual relations.

Simmons & Simmons

The 'well regarded' Shanghai and Hong Kong-based four-partner Greater China employment team at Simmons & Simmons 'excels at handling complex work' for multinational employers, often in the context of composite advice throughout Asia Pacific. Financial services sector clients account for a significant proportion of the work handled by the team, with advice relating to remuneration and benefits (including contentious work relating to clawback provisions surrounding unpaid bonus payments), as well as regional advisory work and training on hot-button issues. Shanghai-based partner Matthew Durham has an excellent perspective of Chinese law issues impacting multinational employers, from an advisory and compliance perspective, as well as on contentious matters relating to restrictive covenants and potential misconduct. 'Incredibly responsive' Hong Kong-based partner Fiona Loughrey oversees the Greater China employment offering, which also includes the 'very calm and professionalSarah Berkeley.

Practice head(s):

Fiona Loughrey

Other key lawyers:

Matthew Durham; May Lu; Sarah Berkeley


‘They are very professional, regardless of whether the case is simple or complex.’

‘Fiona Loughrey is incredibly responsive.’

‘Sarah Berkeley is a stand out performer, she understands our business and provides practical advice which is implementable and takes into account how we operate.’

‘Sarah Berkeley is very well-rounded and able to advise on various matters, from setting up of an entity, licensing, to labour tribunal cases and even high court litigation cases. She is a very trustworthy partner and is very calm and professional.’

Bird & Bird

Led from Hong Kong and Shanghai by Pattie Walsh  and Ying Wang, respectively, Bird & Bird's integrated Greater China employment team sits at the core of the firm's Asian practice and supports its focus on the digital and technology sectors. Particular strengths include advice to multinational corporates on matters requiring a co-ordinated response across multiple Asian jurisdictions, for example, in the context of a merger redundancy/restructuring process. Work includes a balanced mix of standalone advisory, transactional-related employment matters, and litigation, including a growing number of instructions relating to bullying and harassment claims.

Practice head(s):

Pattie Walsh; Ying Wang

Other key lawyers:

Lorraine Sun

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP

Led from Hong Kong by accomplished litigator Gareth Thomas  and able to call upon the expertise of Shanghai-based employment partner Nanda LauHerbert Smith Freehills LLP's Greater China employment offering provides a 'strong service' to multinational corporates across a range of contentious and non-contentious employment matters, including as it relates to employment issues surrounding regional M&A/restructurings, redundancy issues and internal investigations. Leveraging its broader regulatory and litigation capability throughout the region, the firm also has particular expertise advising financial services firms across many pivotal employment-related issues, including advice on compliance and incentive matters, fraud/misconduct-related whistleblower-initiated investigations and on complex issues surrounding employee mobility.

Practice head(s):

Gareth Thomas; Nanda Lau

Other key lawyers:

Tess Lumsdaine

Key clients

Collins Aerospace

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Credit Agricole

Credit Suisse

Goldman Sachs


Mitsubishi Corporation

Société Générale


Toll Group

Work highlights

    Hogan Lovells International LLP

    Benefiting from a significant presence on the ground in mainland China, as well as from Hong Kong and throughout Asia Pacific, Hogan Lovells International LLP is well-placed to advise multinational corporates on their discrete China-related employment issues, in addition to projects throughout the region. Much of the work is of a standalone nature, and includes advice on mass redundancy/restructuring exercises, the employment aspects of regulatory investigations, and complex litigation. US-qualified Shanghai-based team head Philip Cheng has excellent knowledge of the local PRC laws and regulations impacting international companies doing business in China, and provides key strategic advice to companies (including many within highly regulated industries such as pharma) across a range of employment-related matters, including as it relates to complex data protection matters, business reorganisations, and employee terminations.

    Practice head(s):

    Philip Cheng

    Other key lawyers:

    Sherry Gong

    Allen & Overy

    Often providing the accompanying employment law-related advice in the context of corporate transactional work handled by the firm, as well as picking up a considerable amount of standalone instructions, Allen & Overy's Greater China employment team excels at providing co-ordinated regional employment advice. Hong Kong-based team head Susana Ng is fluent in spoken and written Chinese and English and combines international and local law knowledge across a range of contentious and non-contentious matters, including an increasing amount of data privacy-related work. Beijing-based partner Victor Ho  handles employment matters as part of his broad-ranging transactional/M&A offering.

    Practice head(s):

    Victor Ho; Susana Ng

    Key clients

    Societe Generale



    Thomson Reuters


    China Unicom

    Feld Entertainment Inc.



    Work highlights

    • Advised Ferrero on the substantial expansion of its operations in PRC since 2012 following detailed business and employment analysis by the firm and the structuring of its workforce in PRC to streamline its operations.
    • Advised Thomson Reuters and Refinitiv on employment issues following the completion of the multi-jurisdictional sale of Thomson Reuters’s Global Financial and Risk business to a consortium led by the Blackstone Group.

    Clyde & Co LLP

    Clyde & Co LLP's employment team advises multinational businesses on their day-to-day HR matters related to undertaking business in mainland China, as well as on their critical global business change projects. Often working in harness with practitioners across the firm's global network, the Shanghai-based team, which is led by Victor Yang, is well-versed in handling the China-related aspects of multi-jurisdictional mandates. Recent work has included a growing number of data protection mandates. On the litigation front, the firm is able to provide a one-stop-shop service by virtue of its PRC joint law venture, thereby enabling it to represent clients before the labour tribunal in the case of any employment litigation.

    Practice head(s):

    Victor Yang

    Other key lawyers:

    Helena Chen


    ‘The firm takes a balanced approach, including honest feedback even that which the client may not wish to hear.’


    Led from Shanghai by native Chinese speaker Jeanette YuCMS handles a wide range of contentious and non-contentious employment matters, including employee dismissals, redundancies, relocation, and restructurings, for employers within the automotive, chemical, and manufacturing sectors, among others. Leveraging the firm's international network, which includes a practitioner based out of Cologne with significant China-related expertise, many of the instructions flow from European corporate clients of the firm seeking advice on PRC-related matters. As well as standalone mandates, the team also regularly provides the accompanying employment law advice pursuant to PRC and Asia-related M&A transactions handled by the firm.

    Practice head(s):

    Jeanette Yu

    Other key lawyers:

    Sophy Wang


    Independent Hong Kong-based heavy-hitter Deacons is recognised by international corporates, as well as international law firms lacking a presence in the region, as a safe pair of hands with which to advise across a range of employment-related Hong Kong and mainland China legal concerns. The scope of the work is broad and includes advice on cross-border employment arrangements, immigration, and complex multi-jurisdictional labour issues arising from global talent mobility. Appreciated by clients for her 'strong legal background and local experience', Helen Liao is the primary contact for PRC-related employment advice and forms an integral part of the firm's overarching Greater China employment group that is headed by the 'outstandingCynthia Chung.

    Practice head(s):

    Cynthia Chung

    Other key lawyers:

    Helen Liao


    ‘The excellent Helen Liao has a strong legal background and local experience.’

    ‘The responsive Helen Liao provides thorough legal advice,  good time management and clear communication.’