Labour and employment: foreign firms in China

Baker McKenzie FenXun

Representing numerous major multinational companies in a variety of employment matters – including senior terminations, redundancies, investigations and business immigration – Baker McKenzie FenXun continues to provide one of the market’s stellar offerings. The firm’s joint operation with FenXun Partners also gives the firm the ability to provide representation before the arbitration commission and people’s courts. The experienced Jonathan Isaacs, who splits his work between the Shanghai and Hong Kong offices, heads up the team. He is supported by post-transactional employment specialist Joseph Yue and associate Olivia Wu. Restructuring and strike actions expert Zheng Lu, now registered with FenXun, works very closely with the Baker McKenzie team.

Practice head(s):

Jonathan Isaacs

Other key lawyers:

Zheng Lu; Joseph Yue; Olivia Wu


‘Extensive experience and understanding of client needs. ’

‘Excellent services, Zora Mao and Zheng Lu are very active during their services.’

‘Jonathan Isaacs, Joseph Yue and the rest of the team are the kind of team that you want looking out for you while your HQ is in UK or US and you have business dealings in China. They make it easy to work around the cultural differences and handle our affairs as soon as required.’

Work highlights

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP handles a high number of mandates for clients in relation to mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, and contractual drafting, as well as advising on hiring, termination, and workforce reductions. The firm is also recommended for its assistance for multinational companies in navigating Chinese data protection laws and regulations, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the PRC’s own anti-corruption laws. The team is led by the highly experienced Lesli Ligorner, an expert in collective bargaining matters and employment mobility and immigration. Also central to the practice are terminations and non-compete clauses specialist Todd Liao and associate Yuting Zhu. Hong Kong based Charles Mo supports the team. Qian Nie departed the firm in 2022.

Practice head(s):

Lesli Ligorner

Other key lawyers:

Todd Liao; Yuting Zhu; Charles Mo


‘Lesli Ligorner and Yuting Zhu provide exceptional employment advice for China, and facilitate great service for other parts of APAC. Quick to respond with commercial and pragmatic advice. ’

‘The Labour and Employment team are excellent – responsive, able to explain complex legal requirements in a clear and concise way, and (more importantly) provide practical solutions. ’

‘Lesli Ligorner is my go-to with any China employment matter. She has a great team around her, including Yuting Zhu, both of whom I trust implicitly. ’


Key clients

JP Morgan Chase

Gilead Corporation



American Greetings

Bristol Myers Squibb


Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China

Work highlights

DLA Piper

DLA Piper provides employment law services to clients in a wide array of sectors including banking, retail, tech, transport and life sciences. The firm is recommended for its handling of cross border immigration matters and multi-jurisdictional non-contentious projects, alongside expertise in investigations work and litigation support. The practice is led by Johnny Choi, who is recommended for advice on collective bargaining issues, executive removals, corruption investigations and employee IP theft. He is supported by consultants Xiu Zhou and Ning Zhou. Ying Li moved to PRC firm Kaiman Legal.

Practice head(s):

Johnny Choi

Other key lawyers:

Xiu Zhou; Ning Zhou


‘DLA Piper’s Labour Law team has in-depth understanding and practical experience in local laws and regulations. It is the most trustworthy partner to provide professional and timely services.’

‘On behalf of our company, I would like to thank two lawyers, Johnny Choi and Xu Zhou, for their many years of support to our company’s work and escorting our business development and team expansion in China.’

‘Johnny Choi knows our business well and can give us the right and best service and assistance that fits us the best.’

‘DLA Piper has a solid employment practice in China and Hong Kong. Their value comes from having a combination of locally qualified experts across both jurisdictions that are led by partners with a strong sense of business needs and requirements and are thereafter able to help clients navigate laws and regulations that are often quite different to those outside of China.’

‘I want to state that Johnny Choi is a great DLA Piper practice leader. He’s responsive, helpful and practical. He does invest time and effort to build and maintain a good relationship with our company.’

‘The DLA Piper Team in Beijing have been a trusted partner over a number of years. They are exceptionally strong – providing quality service and also strong in their ability to understand our needs and to be strong relationship managers. I also appreciate the breath of the capability that the firm provides.’

‘Johnny Choi is the partner that I work with most. He is an exceptionally strong lawyer. I feel like we are his most important client every time we interact. I also appreciate his ability to understand us and our needs and to provide specific and relevant advice.’

‘DLA’s labour team in China is certainly one of the best labour teams I work with worldwide. They understand our needs as a business, having a mindset that goes beyond the mere application of the laws. They communicate easily, without legal jargon, are concise, and go to straight to the point that we need.’

Work highlights


CMS is recommended for assistance with a range of matters including employment contracts, pension schemes, international secondments, redundancies, trade union relations and employment litigation. The firm is known particularly for its specialism in representing German and Austrian businesses trading in China. Jeanette Yu, an expert in senior executive matters, leads the team in Shanghai.

Practice head(s):

Jeanette Yu

Other key lawyers:

Sophy Wang


‘Closely knit team, totally dedicated to top service, perfectly in tune with the general corporate team.’

‘Jeannette Yu is very experienced and service-minded, with almost instant turnaround times and good drafting skills.’

Work highlights

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP handles matters such as executive terminations, employee transfers and regulatory compliance for a multinational client base, with a particular specialism in financial services. The team is overseen by the Singapore based Gareth Thomas, with work in mainland China being directly led by Gillian Miao, who is based with the firm’s joint operation, Kewei Law Firm. Miao is experienced in investigations, post M&A restructurings and workplace policy advice for international clients operating in mainland China.

Practice head(s):

Gareth Thomas

Other key lawyers:

Gilian Miao

Work highlights