Interview with: Betty Yap, Managing Partner – China Practice

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison | View firm profile

Managing Partner Betty Yap describes how the firm adds value to serve its clients

What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capability?

I am proud to have built one of the strongest private equity practices in the legal market. In doing so, we have supported some of the most ambitious clients in some of their most impactful strategic moves in the market and nurtured a group of young but talented attorneys. I am proud to see our work has helped some of our clients to become the shakers and movers in the private equity market and has built a team with probably the strongest bench depth in this market.

What do you do differently from your peers in the industry?

In China, we are 100% committed to M&A and private equity work and our partners are very hands-on. This level of concentration has given us a competitive edge in supporting our clients. Our level of speciality has put us in good stead to advise our clients in developing structures and solutions to achieve their goals, in understanding what the market practice is and where the boundaries can be pushed, and in navigating heavily regulated industries. Running a lean and specialized team also means we are extremely effective in delivering results, often in very tight timetables and demanding circumstances.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Constantly taking a step back and looking at the big picture.

Can you give me a practical example of how you helped a client add value to the business?

The competitive auction is increasingly used by the sell-side and nowadays is not necessarily dominated by pricing decisions anymore. There have been many instances where the sell-side would retain a minority interest after the sale for future upside and the sellers would look for the best strategic alignment and future direction of the business.

We were involved in a prominent auction sale where we have helped our client prevail. Aside from delivering top quality legal advice and documentation, we understood what the sell-side wanted from a strategic and business perspective and delivered a bid package which was responsive to their needs whilst protecting our client on the key aspects of the deal. Instead of being overly aggressive which can be of the fault of many attorneys, we worked collaboratively with all advisors in the deal and added value by finding structures and solutions to address both sides’ needs and facilitating the deal. Our value-add was that we recognized the best outcome was to make all parties win and to deliver the deal – and we worked hard to make that happen.

Within your sector, what do you think will be the biggest challenge for clients over the next 12 months?

The biggest challenge would be dealing with the aftershock of COVID-19. The aftershock of COVID-19 may affect consumer behaviour in a more structural way and therefore the sectors and the types of deals to focus on for private equity investors. In the short-term, COVID-19 will present a valuation gap which may be challenging to bridge between the sell-side and the buy-side.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

Our firm’s strategy is to focus on the top-tier market where we are able to deliver top quality advice to clients who are market leaders in their fields. I do not think that this strategy will change. I believe this is also compatible with our clients are looking for from us.

Clients do want some stability from their law firms. Our firm offers this, with our core values and focus remaining unchanged. Our team is also the trusted advisors of a number of market leading clients. To them, we offer continuity, with a good mix of experience, judgement and energy from attorneys of different seniority within the client teams.