Interview with: Liguo Cui, Managing Partner

Guantao Law Firm | View firm profile

What do you see as the main points that differentiate Guantao from your competitors?

Generally speaking, Guantao’s strength lies in our global network, wide range of services, streamlined system, professionalism and coordinated teamwork.

Guantao is a full-service law firm that can provide a wide range of legal services. We have been actively serving our clients’ interests since the 1990s. Now we have over 200 partners among more than 700 lawyers. Our knowledge of industry, extensive experience and resources enable us to provide high quality one-stop service for clients.

Our network covers all major cities of China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Dalian, Xi’an, Chengdu, Jinan, Xiamen, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Wuhan, Suzhou, Nanjing, Fuzhou and Zhengzhou. We also have offices in Sydney, New York and Toronto. Meanwhile, we have built a strategic alliance with Ashurst, an international law firm. This close tie enables us to fully use location advantage and experience to deal with complicated projects involving multiple jurisdictions.

To ensure our sustained and quality services, we have built a streamlined management system and service procedure.

We boast many battle-hardened top lawyers with high educational background (both at home and abroad) and extensive experience, able to deliver legal opinion on a wide range of issues. Meanwhile, we have engaged several renowned law experts and scholars as our senior counsels, so as to conduct research in legal complexities and help provide solutions.

Team effort has always been our distinguishing feature. We allocate firm resources in accordance with specific projects to ensure coordination between lawyers with different fields of expertise. Take Reorganisation, Spin-Off and Listing of Cheung Kong and Hutchison for instance, in this project, over 30 Guantao lawyers from 6 offices, under the leadership of our Beijing head office, work closely to deliver multi-location quality services, winning client’s recognition and praise.

Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

In the past year, our dispute resolution service has done extremely well, both in the amount of cases or recovered fees. The first reason is market need for dispute resolution has surged. Another reason is our merge with two Shanghai law firms (Zhongmao and Shenda), which owns a strong lineup in legal services regarding commercial dispute resolution, has enhanced our professional strength.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

In February 2016, our Hong Kong office is localized. In May 2017, Sydney office is localized. Besides, Guantao has established strategic alliance with the UK-based international law firm Ashurst LLP. In February 2018, Guantao and Ashurst established a Joint Operation Office (JOO) in China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone. Through the strong relationship with Ashurst, Guantao aims to continue delivering service excellence and sharing resources and information for the benefit of its domestic and international clients. Our improving ability in international practices has been a highlight and blessing for our clients in the recent two years.

In the recent two years, working with Ashurst, we assisted China Development Bank in Indonesian Jakarta-Bandung high-speed train financing project involving 4.5 billion dollars. Jakarta-Bandung high-speed train project is a landmark case for The Belt and Road Initiative and China-Indonesian economic relations. In these “going out” deals, cross-border investment, financing and M&A, our one-stop legal services can deliver multi-jurisdictional, comprehensive solution eagerly needed by clients.

In addition to the alliance with Ashurst, Guantao has established cooperative relationship with more than 100 overseas law firms in 34 countries in six continents. Based on Guantao’s close cooperation with Ashurst and interaction with other overseas law firms, Guantao can consistently provide valuable and full legal services to our domestic and international clients on a global platform.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

Technological innovation enables us to communicate with clients more quickly and efficiently and breaks territorial limits. Through online and offline coordination, our panel legal service center in Suzhou can respond to basic service need efficiently.

With prevalence of Internet technology and application of big data, we can provide visual data presentation. Especially in dispute resolution, we are able to help clients evaluate case trend, forecast possible scenarios and take corresponding measure.

Furthermore, we have built our own Cloud Storage system. Now we can share our client information, case data, knowledge and work product simultaneously, thus contributing to our expanding service, risk control, knowledge management and client satisfaction.

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

Guantao can recognize our client’s shortcoming and vulnerabilities and offer target-oriented, practical advice.

Through our legal services, clients can benefit from successful experience in management, capital operation, labor, management, government affair of SOEs and FOEs

Guantao provided legal services for Zhejiang Huanglong Sports Investment Co., Ltd., which is one of the investors in the deal of “Suning Sports Series A Private Equity Financing”. This deal involves business restructuring, setting up “red-chip” structures for overseas listings, private equity investment, and RMB overseas investments. The deal involves a large number of parties (the lead investor is Goldman Sachs. Other investors include Alibaba Sports, Evergrande, Yunfeng Capital, SenseTime and two local government sports industry funds Zhejiang Sports Fund and Jiangsu Sports Investment Fund and three bank institutions CCB International, CMBC International and ABC International) and a large amount of money (600 million series A round financing) while time is limited. In addition to the above difficulties, as a RMB fund, Zhejiang Sports Fund was faced with a huge challenge in how to complete the investments under the situation of monitoring of private equity funds and ODI at that time. The investment plan designed by lawyers from Guantao for Zhejiang sports fund has passed the strict and rigorous reviews by the lawyers of Suning and the lawyers of Goldman Sachs. They believed that the plan is feasible and will not cause obstacles to the overseas listing of the target company. The plan makes it possible for Zhejiang Sport Fund to participate in this round of financing in RMB. Jiangsu Sports Fund followed the same mode and also participated in this round of financing in RMB.

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

We appreciate the importance of client relationship maintenance. To achieve that, we must delve into clients’ need, business strategy and goals, helping them solve legal complexities and minimize political risks.

Our clients value not only our professionalism, but also our in-depth observation of government regulation and industry trend. We can evaluate a project in the perspective of regulator, offer result-oriented advice, reduce compliance risk, and achieve strategic goal in a more efficient and cost-effective way.

We put great faith in our future. We just opened offices in Fuzhou and Zhengzhou, which further improve our domestic service network. Our focus would be the coordination and synergy between Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and central region. Besides, the localization of Hong Kong and Sydney office has laid solid foundation for our going out strategy. We will strengthen our ties with Ashurst and open other overseas offices in the future 3-5 years when the time is ripe.