Interview with: Jack Lange, Partner

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

Partner Jack Lange discusses his strategy in running the firm and advising clients

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

Professionally, I am proud to have helped to build what we consider to be the premier private equity practice in greater China, and to have had a strong influence on the development of the private equity market in this region from a legal perspective.

Personally, my greatest accomplishment is my children. (Definitely not my tennis game.) But I have also been proud of my role, as Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, in representing the views and interests of American business here.

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

Our approach involves very hands-on partner involvement, with an obsession for quality. We have a very focused practice, and don’t take on matters unless we are confident that we can add value more than commensurate with our fees. We are also very committed to simplicity and user-friendliness in the legal documentation we produce. It is possible to draft even the most complex and sophisticated concepts in language that is straightforward and easy to understand, if you develop the right skills.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Work harder on your Chinese!

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

Most of our deals involve some pretty complex financial structuring. For example, valuation gaps between parties to a transaction are often bridged by elaborate adjustments and preferences covering various scenarios. A lot of lawyers shy away from numbers and formulas – the attitude is “if I could do math, I would have become a banker”. We often add the most value by embracing the role of ensuring that the financial engineering encompasses all the contingencies that could arise; that it is faithfully translated into comprehensible documentation; and that the formulas work and all the pieces fit together. I can’t count the number of times that this approach has resulted in us finding and filling holes through which a lot of our clients’ money might have spilled.

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

The U.S.-China trade war – which has developed into something much bigger than that – and the progressive decoupling of these two giant economies that is flowing from it have presented major uncertainties and challenges for our clients. Many of them have built their business models around cross-border investments and acquisitions. Eventually they will adapt and find opportunities that this new environment will offer. But we are in a period of transition.

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

Clients have a lot of choices for law firms. But they tend to want a relatively small number of relationships with firms – and, especially, individual lawyers – whom they trust. They are not particularly concerned about your firm’s overall strategic direction, as long as you maintain your edge in the areas where they rely on you.

Our strategy in Asia has been to operate in a limited number of areas where we can be at the top tier in the market and really add value, and to build our practice around long term, core clients who are also market leaders and recognize the value of our services. I don’t think that will change.