Interview with: Vu Thi Thu Ha, Director – Managing Partner

ATS Law Firm | View firm profile

Director – Managing Partner Vu Thi Thu Ha discusses how the firm is adapting to clients’ changing needs

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

ATS Law Firm (alternatively known as “ATS Lawyers” or “ATS”) is a leading full-service law firm in Vietnam, headquartered in Ha Noi and branch office located in Ho Chi Minh City which has set a high standard for providing innovative and effective legal services.

ATS maintains close relationships with prominent international law firms to offer top-level advice and service for all domestic and international legal matters. This uniquely qualifies us to effectively accomplish objectives of clients, which include state enterprises, non-government organizations, companies and well-known foreign investors.

Under the leadership of experienced partners who have practiced as senior lawyers and advisors at many well-known groups and consulting firms in Vietnam, we maintain a diverse team of highly qualified professional associates with immense insight into the interpretation of laws and practices.

At ATS, we are committed to providing effective, responsive and reliable legal services in a professional manner and we enable clients to minimize administrative overhead so that they can focus on their core business activities. We pride ourselves in our ability to leverage applicable laws and build client trust in order to exceed expectations.

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

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges in many aspects of life, including the legal industry. In our opinions, the focal legal focus areas in Vietnamese legal industry for the next 12 months include:

Dispute Resolution: Mediation and Litigation

The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic leads to many risks of disputes in business, from leasing contracts to commercial contracts, providing services, etc. Disputes may arise from the parties currently having or expecting future difficulties in cash flow, significant impairment or insolvency due to social distancing or negative psychology of the customers. Most of these difficulties are due to objective or unforeseen factors and not from bad intentions of parties. But the terms of the contracts in Vietnam are usually quite vague and general i.e. not strict enough or not fully understood, leading to a dispute.

Of course, when resolving these disputes, enterprises should pay attention to maintaining good relationships with their partners, looking for opportunities to restore business in the future. Therefore, the best solution is that the parties should negotiate in good faith for a reasonable settlement. However, it is quite difficult for conflicting parties to find a common ground by themselves without necessarily going to courts, so mediation is recommended method. This method is still unfamiliar to many Vietnamese businesses but is increasingly appreciated because the parties are fully active and in control of the mediation process. On the other hand, litigation at the court has been the traditional dispute settlement method and, due to the mentality of needing a solid assurance regarding judgment enforcement, many Vietnamese businesses still prefer this option.

Labour and Employment

Due to quarantine and social distancing policies, one of the problems that stands out is that personnel who are foreigners are prohibited from entering Vietnam. Personnel residing in areas declared an outbreak are quarantined or restricted in a blocked area. From the employers’ side, even though the market goes down, enterprises still have to retain the salary and insurance regime of employees, which can further make bad impact to their business.

Thus, enterprises should closely review legal risks before taking action toward the employees’ rights and obligations. For example, if a foreign employee is banned from entry, it is necessary to consider a remote work option, where hourly wages can be negotiated or a wage rate can be reduced. If the employee resides in a blocked area, it is possible to renegotiate the salary and adjust the benefits to reduce costs for the business. If the employer takes action without careful review and negotiation with employees, they may face the risk of violating the labor laws and getting involved in unexpected labor lawsuits.

However, there has been an increase in the number of cases where it is inevitable that the enterprises will have to terminate labor contracts with a large number of employees. The employers shall then have to carry out all procedures required by law and fully pay entitled benefits to emplyees.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients? And how have the firm responded to assist clients during this unprecedented pandemic?

Like other Asian countries, face-to-face meeting is a traditional way to do business in Vietnam. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many adjustments. The major one for our firm is the increase in using conference and video calls as the preferable meeting method. We are determined to make online meetings as effective and productive as traditional ones.

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

Yes, it does. As stated above, technology gives us the ability to bridge time and space in a cost-effective manner, enabling us to maintain consistent and relevant communication with clients throughout the pandemic, leaving no room for misunderstanding or delays. We make our services accessible around the clock on all available communication platforms and networks, yet stay the same quality.

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

Termination of labour contract by the employer always has a high probability of giving rise to labor disputes. There are instances where the employees would stir up troubles by uploading untrue information on their social media, sending complaint letters to reporters or labor-management authorities. Proactively, ATS detected and responded promptly to minimize these behaviors. We worked with reporters and administrative closely. By the end of the day, the lawful rights, reputation, and image of our clients were successfully protected.

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

Clients seeking legal services do look forward to and expect to get benefits from their legal providers, especially clients with day-to-day legal consultant contracts. With the vision of becoming a top-level legal services provider on domestic and international matters, ATS has formed associations with many local, national, and international organizations to exchange knowledge, experience, and skills. In the next three years, ATS will continue to enhance our co-operation with other global firms and organizations which share our expertise. Furthermore, witnessing the technology helps us to reach out to clients in such vulnerable time has led us to prepare plans on providing legal service for more changes that could happen in the upcoming years.