In the 2000s, Chinese law firms entered the era of scaling layout. Facing the onslaught of large law firms, many local firms followed the trend of the times, taking the opportunity to join big firms. Others either faded away or cultivated a purely local market.
After two decades of such evolution, national law firms have transformed from generalised market capture – pivotal on Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen – to refined regional market division, with regional offices providing diversified services through the integration of resources across wider geographic areas. In the meantime, local law firms that survived the previous wave have formed large and solid local networks, and with a deep understanding of local strategic capabilities, the boundaries of their services are widening.
In these awards, we identify the leading firms in each region, acknowledging and respecting that the two distinctive types of law firms have their own merits, and can sometimes even be competitive in terms of regional development.
To determine the winners, we looked carefully at each firm’s outstanding transactions, cases and other notable achievements in the past year, and also took into account the nominations and recommendations from in-house counsel, management decision-makers, government officials and academics to judge each firm’s performance on a multidimensional basis.
For the purposes of this award, each region category is divided into “Branch office” and “Homegrown” law firms. All headquarters of different national law firms are classified as homegrown as they have grown up on a path and been immersed in a culture similar to that of local firms.
It is important to note that eight elite Chinese law firms were awarded the “Golden League” in the China Business Law Awards 2022, namely: Deheng Law Offices; Fangda Partners; Han Kun Law Offices; Jingtian & Gongcheng; JunHe; King & Wood Mallesons; Tian Yuan Law Firm; and Zhong Lun Law Firm. Although the headquarters of these rewarded firms are undoubtedly the best in their respective regions, homegrown firms are also gaining ground in the face of increasingly fierce competition. In order to give recognition to more up-and-coming homegrown law firms, the headquarters of winners from our Golden League were excluded from these regional awards.
There is a famous line in Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “What’s past is prologue”, which in a contemporary context means that history sets the tone for the present. Whether making the list or not, every Chinese law firm is contributing to the building of the rule of law in the country. It is hoped that these awards will serve as an incentive for the winners, while those not making the list this time may set a goal to achieve this in the coming year.
The winning list is sorted by region and law firm name in alphabetical order
|China Business Law Awards (Regional Awards)|
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Beijing)
The Indigo II project was the largest foreign-invested real estate programme in Beijing in 2020. In the following year, amid uncertainty in the real estate industry, Grandall Law Firm represented the project’s host company, Xingtaitonggang Properties, in negotiations and communications with a syndicate of six state-owned and commercial banks for more than six months, securing a RMB12 billion (USD1.73 billion) fixed asset loan. This was the largest single financing project to date in China’s real estate market.
Grandall also completed some initial projects such as advising the first bankruptcy restructuring case of a securities company in China, helping its client, N-Securities, remove nearly RMB5 billion of debt and resolve major systemic financial risk.
V&T Law Firm’s capital markets team has completed many significant transactions, notably an RMB500 million financing project for Porton Advanced Solutions and an RMB10 billion shelf offering from Beijing Capital Agribusiness & Foods Group. V&T also handled some public-private partnership (PPP) projects in the construction sector last year, the most well-known being the Beijing Winter Olympics and Winter Paralympic Games Yanqing PPP project.
DOCVIT Law Firm’s Beijing headquarters finished mergers with Wuhuan Law Firm last year, and with Dare & Sure Law Firm and Dachi Law Firm this year. The firm expanded its offices to 3,200 square metres, with its litigation practice growing by 1.79 times, and its non-litigation practice by 1.52 times.
The Beijing office of Tahota Law Firm has been in the local market for nearly 20 years and is one of the largest regional offices of scaling law firms in Beijing. With resources from the Ministry of Commerce and many embassies, the office has developed advisory on international trade as one of its pillar businesses. Its clients also include China Development Bank, Trane, Unisem Group, Standard Chartered Bank, Samsung, Auchan and the China National Agrochemical Corporation.
Additionally, Tahota defended the largest steel mill in the EU in an anti-dumping investigation, which was selected as a typical (model) case among the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) legal services.
The firm’s services radiated to other regions, with Beijing partner Wang Xiao completing the largest case of its kind in Guangdong involving a syndicate counterfeiting alcoholic products. The case took four years to initiate criminal and civil proceedings, setting a record in terms of manpower from public security authorities, local procuratorates and courts, as well as the number of persons detained, arrested and prosecuted in a single case.
The Beijing office of Hui Ye Law Firm was founded in 2020 with nearly 30 partners and associates brought in the following year, including many senior lawyers from local firms. Zhao Lijia, an in-house counsel of legal affairs at Shanxi Gengyang New Energy, praised Zang Hongliang, a senior partner in the firm’s Beijing office, for “advising us professionally and meticulously on purchasing a Gulfstrem G550 jet”, and for his ability to provide significant legal services in areas such as BRI, civil aviation, construction and engineering, and corporate restructuring.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Chengdu)
|Chihkao Law Firm|
|Faxian Law Firm|
|Mingju Law Firm|
|Sichuan Junhe Law Firm*|
|Tahota Law Firm|
* Sichuan Junhe Law Firm is not affliated with JunHe, a law firm headquartered in Beijing.
The Chengdu office of Zhong Lun Law Firm specialises in capital markets. One of its outstanding performances last year was advising New Hope Liuhe on issuing its RMB8.15 billion convertible bond. With Zhong Lun acting as a PRC law counsel to the underwriters, Chinese state-owned corporate Sichuan Development’s listing of USD400 million in senior unsecured notes on the HKEX, Chongwa Financial Asset Exchange in Macau and Luxembourg Stock Exchange was the first bond of this type in the world.
The Chengdu, Shanghai and Beijing offices of Zhong Lun also jointly steered Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia, a wholly owned overseas subsidiary of Tianqi Lithium, in introducing Australian-listed company IGO as a strategic investor in a capital increasing transaction valued at USD1.4 billion. Tianqi Lithium, one of the world’s top suppliers of rechargeable battery components for electric vehicles, made its debut on the HKEX as the second-largest share sale to date on the exchange this year.
The Chengdu branch of AllBright Law Offices represented Sichuan Tapai Cable suing Ta Pai Cables for infringement of trademark and antitrust activities. The litigation lasted three years and the court eventually ruled that Ta Pai Cables should stop using the Chinese characters “Ta Pai”, change its business name and compensate Sichuan Tapai Cable for economic losses. The case was selected by the Sichuan Provincial Higher People’s Court as third in the “Top 10 Typical Cases of Unfair Competition in 2019-2021”.
Sun Dasheng, legal director of China Communications Construction, also praised the branch for representation in an engineering dispute, saying it “went deep into the front line of the project and sorted out the evidence with our staff for a month, effectively resulting in an organised and powerful evidence document”. Ultimately, “an unfavourable situation was successfully reversed [by AllBright], and a very satisfactory verdict was finally obtained”.
Jincheng Tongda & Neal’s Chengdu office has extensive experience in serving state-owned enterprises (SOEs). JT&N acted for Sichuan Energy Investment, one of the major local SOEs, in a litigation against Sichuan Sunfor Light and its chairman, Zhang Ming, over a capital increase as well as a series of arbitrations between 23 shareholders over equity transfer disputes. The case was the largest and most influential case in recent years in relation to the merger and acquisition of SOEs in Sichuan.
JT&N has also dealt with a contractual dispute between Chengdu Qianhe Property and a nursing home for a retired cadre of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The litigation highly concerned the General Logistics Department of the PLA, which sent letters to the Supreme Court and the Sichuan Provincial Higher People’s Court indicating its stance. Both courts eventually handled the case as a military matter.
Tahota Law Firm, founded in 2000 with headquarters in Chengdu, has grown to become one of the largest law firms in central and western China, ranking top across the region in terms of the number of lawyers, revenue and tax payments. Initially dedicated to the local market, Tahota has since become a scaling law firm with more than 20 specialist departments.
In 2015, Sichuan Cheng’anyu Expressway Company ran out of capital, causing the whole project to cease and incurring debts of more than RMB30 billion, failing to settle or repay construction companies and financial institutions. Ziyang Municipal Intermediate People’s Court accepted the bankruptcy liquidation of Cheng’anyu Expressway and appointed Faxian Law Firm as a leading entity of bankruptcy administrators. After five months, the firm successfully persuaded the creditors to reach a settlement with Cheng’anyu Expressway, concluding the country’s largest bankruptcy liquidation settlement case to date.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Chongqing)
|Baijus Law Firm|
|Jingsheng Law Firm|
|K&H Law Firm|
|Shariea Law Firm|
|ZHH & Robin|
The Chongqing office of Zhong Lun Law Firm ushered in the first backdoor listing on the Growth Enterprises Market of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange since changes in the rules on reverse takeovers, representing listed food packaging company Precise in a RMB19.6 billion restructuring plan with database centre Runze Science Technology Development.
The office also helped Jinke Smart Services Group, a subsidiary of Jinke Holdings, looking for a way to co-operate with strategic investors tackling cross-border capital markets, investment and financing matters. Shi Cheng, a director of securities affairs at Jinke Holdings, describes the office as “an indispensable legal partner for the company”.
Three cases handled by Tahota Law Firm were awarded the Chongqing Bar Association’s “Top 10 Cases” of 2021, in the areas of intellectual property (trademarks), dispute resolution, and government and public affairs. In other practice areas, the office acted as PRC law counsel to the underwriters in the issuance of offshore US dollar bonds by Aerotropolis City Development Group, as well as handling the Nine Seven Nine Property bankruptcy restructuring, the first of this type after the establishment of the Chongqing bankruptcy court.
One of the 2021 highlights of the Chongqing branch of DeHeng Law Offices was advising on the PPP renovation project of Jiulongpo district in Chongqing, the country’s first urban renewal project adopting a PPP model, and the only project in Chongqing selected by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development as a promotional case of urban renewal.
ZHH & Robin has a strong track record in foreign-related business among the homegrown firms. It advised Chongqing Minmetals Engineering & Technology on a USD8 million overseas investment project in Saudi Arabia, represented Ownest Beauty USA in a USD10 million dispute with Amazon over trademark infringement, and advised Bosai Group on an RMB17.5 billion investment in the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park.
K&H Law Firm specialises in litigation and has been awarded one of the Chongqing Bar Association’s “Top 10 Cases” in various areas. Accomplished at finding a breakthrough in a case, it provided an opinion in a lawsuit of a company in Zunyi, noting that if the “pre-restructuring” process is part of the corporate insolvency process, it would bring the same impact on the exercise of the right of set-off. Its interpretation was eventually adopted by the Supreme People’s Court.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Fuzhou)
|Tenet & Partners|
|Topwe Law Firm|
|Zenith Law Firm|
Entrusted by the Water Resources Department of Fuqing, in Fujian province, Topwe Law Firm provided legal services to confirm the validity of a RMB3.5 billion PPP flood control project on the middle and lower reaches of the Longjiang River, the biggest PPP water resources project in Fujian province in recent years. Topwe also advised many leading companies in Fuzhou and Xiamen, including Jinhua Integrated Circuit, the biggest state-owned chip manufacturing company in Fujian, and Xiamen C&D, a Fortune 500 company ranked 77th in 2022.
Hua Rong Group, one of the top 100 enterprises in Fujian province, was a client of Topwe. Its president and chairman, Lu Jian, says the firm can “solve the existing problems and even prevent them before they happen”. He adds they “can fully consider our business objectives and predict risk during the service process”, and particularly recommends Zhang Hanwei’s “ability and experience in handling difficult and complex legal matters”.
In 2021, AllBright Law Offices’ Fuzhou branch advised on two initial cases, one of which was the first case in China claiming a listed company restructuring had breached public commitments. Another was the first property preservation case based on Hong Kong arbitration proceedings accepted by Fuzhou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court since the PRC-HK Arrangement on Interim Measures came into effect.
AllBright has handled legal matters for many high-profile local enterprises including Fujian Electronics & Information Group, Fujian Metallurgical Holding, Fujian Construction Engineering Group, Fujian Petrochemical Industrial Group and Fuzhou Metro.
The Fuzhou office of Grandall Law Firm represented China Cinda Asset Management in a contractual dispute over the assignment of non-performing debts with Tahoe, one of the four major Fujian-based real estate companies. This RMB1.4 billion case was related to Suzhou Herui Real Estate, Quanzhou Lianhe Real Estate and Jinan Jinxing Real Estate.
This office’s partner, Yao Zhongkai, is a director of the Fujian Province Lawyers Association and head of its Civil and Commercial Committee, and an arbitrator of the arbitration committees in Fuzhou and Xiamen. Another partner, Guo Lizheng, was appointed by the financial authority of Fujian province to draft a local regulation on financial supervision and management. The bill was passed in May this year.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Guangdong)
The Shenzhen office of Guanghe Law Firm is deeply involved in the local legal market, providing legal services in various fields such as construction engineering, compliance and risk management, bankruptcy restructuring, intellectual property rights and non-performing assets. Guanghe also serves as legal adviser to many key enterprises and institutions in Shenzhen, including the Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Planning and Natural Resources, Shenzhen Futian District People’s Government, Air China, China Merchants Bank and China Construction Bank.
The firm was entrusted by Shenzhen Yantian Port Group to provide legal services for establishing a joint venture company to build, operate and manage a container terminal project in the East Yantian Port area, with total investment of RMB10.9 billion, which will consolidate Shenzhen Port’s position as a world-class container hub.
SD & Partners has a strong track record in multiple fields. In cross-border investment and M&A, the firm has advised a US-listed red-chip company on its acquisition of more than 40 companies selling robots and technologies in China. In the financial sector, the firm provided special legal services to the Shenzhen branch of China Development Bank for its RMB43.3 billion loan to Shenzhen Baoan Industrial Group, which involved a huge amount of capital and many practice areas. In the field of land preparation and urban renewal, SD & Partners has participated in half of Shenzhen’s shantytown renovation projects, such as the land preparation and acquisition project for Xili Hub Area, the Huafu Village shantytown renovation, and other major strategic projects.
The Guangzhou office of Zhong Lun Law Firm has a wide range of practice areas with outstanding professional performance. In the past year, the office handled several cases and transactions of significance, including advising the Guangdong Municipal Regulatory Bureau on its first anti-monopoly administrative litigation case, which had far-reaching implications for subsequent anti-monopoly enforcement. The firm also advised Medprin Regenerative Medical Technologies on its GEM listing to become the first company to apply for listing under the second set of GEM listing standards and complete registration in the market.
Based in the Greater Bay Area (GBA), Kingbridge Law Firm has provided legal services to many key local enterprises and institutions in the past 12 months, including Guangdong province’s Department of Natural Resources and Department of Finance, China Guangfa Bank, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, Guangzhou Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Vanke Real Estate and Yuexiu Group. The firm was appointed by an SOE to provide special legal services including due diligence, designing corporate governance mechanisms and drafting a series of documents for raising RMB3 billion to a private insurance company. The firm was also engaged in the bankruptcy restructuring of Jiangmen TEDA Real Estate, which attracted much attention in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau, and involved about RMB4 billion, complex circumstances and numerous creditors.
DeHeng Law Offices’ Shenzhen branch has worked in the local market for more than 20 years with achievements in various fields including domestic and overseas IPOs, intellectual property, construction and real estate, labour relations, litigation and dispute resolution. In the past year, the firm completed several important transactions including the IPOs of Dongxin Semiconductor, Dongpeng Beverages and Nanwang Technology, and the public offering of convertible bonds by Zhuhai Bojay Electronics. The firm also handled a dispute between Shenzhen Tencent and Shanghai Yingxun over copyright infringement and unfair competition, which was the first disputed case over AI-generated article works in China, selected as one of China’s top 10 most valuable IP adjudication cases in 2021.
Founded in 2003, the Shenzhen office of Jincheng Tongda & Neal (JT&N) has performed remarkably well in the capital markets as legal counsel in many major transactions. These included helping FIRST CAPITAL obtain a RMB5 billion subordinated debenture issuance quota and successfully issuing its first RMB500 million subordinated debentures and RMB1.5 billion corporate bonds; and the 2022 Public Issuance of Corporate Bonds for Professional Investors of Hualin Securities, with a total issuance of RMB4 billion. The firm also assisted CMC Leasing to obtain approval issuing RMB2 billion of asset-backed securities.
The Shenzhen office of Tahota Law Firm is its first branch in South China, specialising in traditional areas such as litigation and arbitration, government legal affairs, real estate and construction engineering, and corporate business, while vigorously expanding into new areas such as finance, securities and intellectual property. The firm performed especially well in the field of real estate and construction/infrastructure in the past 12 months, handling a number of major real estate and construction projects with a total investment of nearly RMB10 billion, including the Julong Old Village Residence Renovation Project, Poly Developments and Holdings Group’s largest urban renewal project in Foshan.
Global Law Office’s Shenzhen branch undertook several important transactions last year including: Luxshare ICT’s RMB10 billion strategic investment in Chery Automobile; Oceanpine Capital and dozens of others investing RMB6.4 billion in Beijing Jichuang North Technology; and the landmark SF Express majority acquisition of Hong Kong-listed rival Kerry Logistics for HKD17.6 billion. The firm also acted as legal counsel and expert witness in the arbitration case of Shunde Zhanwei v Sun Fung Timber, responding vigorously to litigation in both mainland and Hong Kong courts, and ultimately winning one of the most influential arbitration cases of 2021 in China.
Han Kun Law Offices’ Shenzhen branch completed many high-impact transactions last year, including the HNA bankruptcy restructuring, the largest bankruptcy restructuring of a Chinese company to date in terms of amount of debt claimed. The firm also assisted SummitView Capital in setting up an IC industry investment fund and the second phase of an M&A fund, respectively raising about RMB5 billion and RMB2 billion. In the Founder Group bankruptcy restructuring, the firm was legal adviser to Ping An Trust, assisting its purchase of more than 66.5% of Founder Group’s equity and assets for about RMB48 billion. This was one of the most complex and influential bankruptcy restructuring cases in China to date.
The Shenzhen branch of JunZeJun Law Offices is well established in many fields including financial and capital markets, equity investment, dispute resolution, fair trade, taxation, real estate and intellectual property rights. The firm serves as permanent and special legal counsel for well-known domestic and foreign enterprises like Huawei, Shanghai Bank and Keystone Capital Management. The Shenzhen office jointly set up the JunZeJun Bay Area Law Institute with its Guangzhou, Zhuhai and Hong Kong offices to support lawyers providing better legal services to clients. In the Shenzhen DJI v Beijing Fimi Technology and Beyondsky case over infringement of its patent rights, the firm was DJI’s legal counsel and proposed an innovative patent protection model, which was adopted by the Intermediate People’s Court of Shenzhen and became the first of its kind in China. The case won the 2021 Deals of the Year by China Business Law Journal.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Haikou)
Zhong Lun Law Firm‘s Haikou office is deeply committed to the local legal market and participated in a number of important transactions last year that were influential in the region, including the Hainan Free Trade Port Construction Investment Fund’s first foreign investment in a sub-fund project, which aims to form a parent-child fund group of more than RMB100 billion to support the development of key industries and parks, and the construction of major projects in Hainan province.
The firm also participated as counsel in Hainan Development Holdings’ issue of RMB2 billion in renewable corporate bonds and RMB8 billion in perpetual medium-term notes, providing non-contentious legal services such as legal due diligence, legal opinions, drafting and revising relevant legal instruments and filing project documents, communicating with the lead underwriter, and providing legal advice to successfully promote the issuance of the debentures.
Established in 1992, the Haikou branch of JunHe is one of the earliest branches of the law firm in China. It established the Hainan Free Trade Port Practice Group in early 2021, spanning multiple offices and integrating professional resources from various practice areas to provide more efficient and integrated legal support to clients from various industries for their investment and operations in Hainan.
The firm has been involved in various listed company projects in the past year, such as acting as counsel for the acquisition of 27.12% of shares of an A-share listed company on the SSE by a Hainan SOE for about RMB1.28 billion. The firm also advised a listed company with A & B shares on a non-public offering of A shares, which raised about RMB12 billion, and additionally served as issuer’s counsel providing full legal services for the only two H-share companies in Hainan in their IPOs of H shares and listing.
Although established for only two years, Tahota Law Firm’s Haikou office has grown rapidly and now has more than 110 members, including more than 70 lawyers and 30 trainee lawyers and paralegals, ranking among the top law firms in Hainan province. In 2021, the branch’s turnover reached RMB30 million, an increase of 426% over the previous year.
The firm was instructed by the People’s Procuratorate of Longhua district, Haikou, to advise on the city’s first corporate compliance case. The Haikou office also helped resolve a dispute over the purchase of properties in Lingshui county involving high stakes, ultimately safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of the property owners and maintaining the stability of the local real estate market.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Hefei)
|Antaida Law Firm|
|Chengyi Law Firm|
|Tianhe Law Firm|
Jincheng Tongda & Neal’s Hefei office is well established in the field of bankruptcy restructuring. The firm advised on the pre-restructuring plan of Ronggang Real Estate in Anhui province, and the bankruptcy plan of Datang Real Estate in the city of Bozhou. The former was the first pre-restructuring case in Hefei, while the latter involved the largest local real estate company, RMB3 billion in capital and complex claims. With the restructuring of debts, the real estate project was completed and handed over to more than 2,000 property owners, resolving the resulting social conflicts.
The firm also advised both parties in a RMB16 billion M&A transaction last year in which Zhongjing Xinhua Property Management sold its 1.977 billion shares of Hong Kong-listed Huishang Bank to Amer International Group.
DeHeng Law Offices’ Hefei branch currently has more than 130 legal practitioners providing legal services in debt issuance, real estate, criminal, finance and insurance, labour law, international business, intellectual property and bankruptcy restructuring. Based on local resources in Anhui, the firm’s clients include the Anhui Development and Reform Commission, Hefei municipal government, the Anhui branch of China Development Bank, and China Tobacco.
In 2021, the firm was instructed by a tourism development company to sue the city’s Natural Resources and Planning Bureau for demolishing 10 of its buildings and related facilities on the grounds of water and flood control, resulting in a total loss of more than RMB90 million. Due to thorough preparation and vigorous defence from its lawyers, the firm won the case and the client was successfully compensated for its losses.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Hong Kong)
|Wilkinson & Grist|
Rooted in capital markets, JunHe’s Hong Kong office has successfully assisted numerous mainland and local companies to list in Hong Kong. Its practice areas include private placements, directed issuances, preference share and bond offerings.
Numerous important transactions undertaken in the past year included: the China Railway Construction Corporation’s (CRCC) spin-off Star listing, which was the first such domestic listing after new spin-off regulations were announced; Chengdu Communication investment Group’s issuance of USD600 million in overseas bonds, which set two records for the largest issuance size and lowest interest rate of US dollar bonds for local SOEs in Sichuan in recent years; and Jingjiang Port Group’s issuance of overseas US dollar bonds, setting the lowest interest rate in the history of US dollar bonds prepared by urban investment rather than China’s big four state-owned banks.
The Hong Kong office of Zhong Lun Law Firm maintains a leading position in private client practice with an award-winning team of private client specialists, and is also the preferred legal counsel for many leading companies such as Bank of China (Hong Kong), Bank of East Asia, eBay, Dell and Falcon Insurance (Hong Kong). The firm dealt with a dispute over the Henry Fok Ying-tung family’s ownership of the Nansha project, which attracted much attention from both the mainland and Hong Kong due to its lengthy duration, large number of people involved, and the huge value of the development.
“We are satisfied with the service and professionalism of Zhong Lun (Hong Kong),” says Bank of China legal counsel Daisy Li. “A dedicated team of legal professionals is on hand to respond to our legal questions and has successfully resolved our legal problems on numerous occasions.”
The Hong Kong office of Haiwen & Partners has achieved outstanding results in financing, providing legal services for the listing of a number of leading companies in the past year including: Kuaishou Technology’s IPO; the secondary listing of Baidu and Sina Weibo on SEHK; and BeiGene’s IPO on the SSE’s Star Market, making it the first pharmaceutical company triple-listed in Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York.
The Hong Kong branch of Han Kun Law Offices is fully synchronised with mainland branches, enabling highly integrated resources of the two regional teams to provide efficient and high-quality legal services. The firm has gained the trust of many top international and domestic enterprises with its outstanding professionalism including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs (Asia), Credit Suisse Securities (US), UBS Securities (Hong Kong), Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Tencent, Baidu and Jingdong.
Established in 1851, Deacons has been deeply involved in the Hong Kong legal market for more than 170 years. As the largest and oldest independent law firm in Hong Kong, it is trusted by both domestic and international clients for its extensive litigation experience, proficiency in local business practices, and outstanding multilingual capabilities. In 2021, the firm added and promoted three partners in the areas of corporate finance, corporate commercial practice and intellectual property, continuing to strengthen its expertise in these areas.
The firm successfully represented Google in an appeal against the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner resulting in a landmark decision where the Administrative Appeals Board confirmed the jurisdictional application of Hong Kong privacy law, and that there is no independent “Right to be Forgotten” under Hong Kong law. The firm also advised on the cases of Meyer v Taching and Meyer v Shell. These two related actions were the first and only private litigation cases to be referred to the Competition Tribunal by the High Court of the HKSAR Court of First Instance.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Jiangsu)
|Fadedongheng Law Firm|
|G&D Law Firm|
|Sundy Law Firm|
|Yunya Law Firm|
Fadedongheng Law Firm was Nanjing’s first law firm established after China’s opening-up in 1978, and has grown into a regional powerhouse in capital market transactions. In the debt crisis of Jiangsu’s largest private enterprise, Suning, the firm acted as special adviser for the investors, providing legal services throughout the formation of the RMB8.9 billion (USD1.3 billion) investment fund, design of the transaction structure and acquisition of target assets. The firm further acted as administrator in the debt reorganisation of Nanjing Construction Industrial Group, among a total of 25 companies with collective debt of RMB150 billion. Fadedongheng applied innovative methods such as setting up trusts and new platforms to maximise asset value and streamline repayment, largely completed by mid-2022.
The firm also advised Nanjing Xinghe Shuntong Real Estate in one of the earliest class actions involving decoration engineering contract disputes in Nanjing, and He Caimei, legal director at the company, highly praises their professionalism. “Fadedongheng’s service team is not only highly responsive, but also well capable of making professional judgments and giving the most apt advice fitting our stage of development and state of market,” she says.
Video profile: Fadedongheng Law Firm
With more than 140 practising lawyers, the Nanjing branch of AllBright Law Offices is renowned for providing services to pivotal state-owned platforms and listed companies across Jiangsu province. Among its clients, the branch assisted GPRO Investment and its affiliate, Nanjing Yangduo International Trade, in multiple litigations amounting to hundreds of millions of renminbi, recovering a significant loss of profits. It also regularly advises High Hope International Group Skyrun Corporation, substantially reducing its major legal disputes and longstanding legal issues, and has performed due diligence for Jeshing Group and 37 affiliated companies, formulating a debt restructuring and bankruptcy reorganisation plan for debts of about RMB30 billion.
The Nanjing team of Jingtian & Gongcheng participates in multiple prominent capital market deals, including advising the joint sponsors and underwriter on Chinese law in the HKD8.3 billion (USD1.1 billion) Hong Kong secondary listing of Trip.com, one of the world’s largest online travel agencies. The firm also advised in the Shenzhen Stock Exchange IPO of Shenghang Shipping, China’s largest private hazardous chemicals transportation company, which raked in RMB500 million. As a long-time adviser of Shenghang Shipping, the firm also took part in its listing and subsequent delisting from the National Equities Exchange and Quotations (NEEQ).
The Wuxi office of Hui Ye Law Firm provides legal services to a number of local government sectors including the government and justice bureau of Xinwu district, Wuxi. The branch represented the plaintiff in the subrogation right dispute between Hongshen Medicine and Yilin Real Estate Development ‒ a challenging case due to one of the parties being a wholly foreign-owned enterprise ‒ and its complex legal and debt relationship with a sub-debtor. The court eventually ruled for the sub-debtor to bear the obligation of repayment, setting a valuable precedent for subrogation right disputes.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (North China)
|Join & High Law Office|
|Kingbird Law Firm|
|Winners Law Firm|
|Zhang Ying Law Firm|
|Zhong Lv Law Firm|
Under our award division, Beijing is not included in the North China category. For the list of winning homegrown firms and branch offices in Beijing, please refer to the section headed “Best Overall Law Firm (Beijing)” .
Join & High Law Office participated in the equity transfer, divestiture, liquidation and personnel placement for 160 companies under Tianjin University’s enterprise structural reform. In IP protection, Join & High was engaged by Nasdaq-listed XPEL to provide non-litigation legal services in China, successfully formulating plans for launching civil litigation and criminal charges after resolving tricky issues such as inconsistent scope of protection accorded by China’s Copyright Law and the Berne Convention.
Wang Liying, administration supervisor at Tianjin New Yansha Outlets, reserves special praise for Wang Jianfeng, a senior partner at Join & High, for his professional and meticulous legal services. “Wang has ample legal expertise and experience, and is able to grasp the client’s interests and needs, mobilise the team efficiently, respond to emergencies in a methodical, analytical manner, and come up with precise and pertinent legal solutions,” she says.
With government legal advisory a core offering, Zhang Ying Law Firm – the first to be named after a partner in Tianjin – has provided legal counsel to China International Import Expo for four consecutive years, including the last edition in November 2021. Clients also include the Tianjin government’s general office and Tianjin Commission of Commerce. The firm also notably developed commercialisation of technological achievements as a systematic legal service product, having summarised a total of 33 relevant common legal risks across 12 categories.
Winners Law Firm advised Tianjin Infrastructure Construction & Investment Group in its RMB150 million contract dispute with PetroChina. Winners also worked closely with Hong Kong lawyers to advise Bohua Petrochemical’s arbitration at the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre over a project with Everglory Energy. In the capital market, Winners acted as legal counsel for the IPO of Kaihua Insulation Materials on the Beijing Stock Exchange, as well as several listings on the NEEQ.
The Tianjin office of Grandall Law Firm has stepped up its core businesses of capital markets, bankruptcy reorganisation and intellectual property, gaining traction in many prominent global events. Bai Xianyue, managing partner at the Tianjin branch, was designated by the Court of Arbitration for Sport as one of nine arbitrators for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. He was also special legal counsel for a prestige construction project of the Luban Workshop technology training institute in Tajikistan, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Tajikistan. Grandall further advised Minmetals Securities on the RMB116 million affordable housing ABS project.
After gaining prominent new clients including FAW-Volkswagen, the Tianjin branch of Wang Jing & Co has a sterling reputation in shipping and maritime matters, along with foreign-related business, state-owned enterprises and government affairs. The firm was engaged by Wanzefeng Fishery to tackle a contract dispute over the design and construction of the Dark Blue No. 1 deep-sea fully submersible, signed with the Ocean Engineering Equipment Research Institute. The case, amounting to a total of RMB130 million for original lawsuit and countersuit, was selected by the Supreme People’s Court among the top 10 model cases of 2021.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Northeast China)
|Gong Cheng Law Firm|
|Heng Xin Law Office|
|Liangzhi Law Firm|
|Wang, Wu, Yang & Ma Law Firm|
|Zeazone Law Firm|
Gongcheng Law Firm advised Dragon Crown Group, a large integrated terminal service provider, with the successful introduction of a partner, Shanghai Baoye Group, in a complex venture involving company establishment, restructuring, capital increase, dissolution and liquidation, investment and M&A, transaction of state-owned assets, engineering and public-private partnership (PPP). The firm also helped China Construction Eighth Engineering Division complete an engineering settlement with its Gaia project in Inner Mongolia, plagued by settlement issues and requiring exceptional expertise and timely legal services.
Dalian-based Heng Xin Law Office played a key role in several major cross-border disputes and capital market deals. In October 2021, the firm advised Chengda Biotechnology, a biotech company focused on human vaccines, in listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, raising RMB4.6 billion. Chengda markets China’s only domestic inactivitated vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, and was the first applicant approved by the listing committee since spin-off listing policies came into effect severely limiting the number of promulgated rules and market precedents available at the time.
In China’s largest M&A and restructuring case to date, the Shenyang branch of DeHeng Law Offices provided legal services to China Fangda Group in its RMB41 billion acquisition of the aviation business of Hainan Airlines (HNA). Overcoming the complicated status of related party transactions and entangled internal equity transfers, the team managed to divide HNA’s assets into aviation and non-aviation categories, painstakingly confirmed each item on the draft of creditors’ rights, and brought the acquisition to a successful close in December last year. HNA’s bankruptcy reorganisation ended in April.
In addition, the DeHeng branch acted as legal adviser for the listing of Inner Mongolia Xinhua Distribution Group, the largest publisher in the autonomous region. The company landed on the main board of Shanghai Stock Exchange in December 2021, raising RMB890 million, bookmarking the first IPO from Inner Mongolia in eight years.
The firm also provided legal counsel to the RMB1 billion private placement of Guilin Layn Natural Ingredients, China’s first listed company engaged in plant extraction. Layn’s investment in a subsidiary, by way of capital contribution and lending for its participation in local flood control, drainage and lake-based water works, attracted inquiries from the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC). DeHeng completed fund verification – proving it in line with business needs, relevant accounting standards and CSRC requirements – allowing the private placement to continue without further hindrance.
Maritime dispute resolution is one of the core businesses of the Dalian office of Jincheng Tongda & Neal. In 2021, the office represented Sino Energy International Holdings Group in a RMB140 million arbitration involving multiple contracts, some governed by Hong Kong law. It also represented Singapore-based Step Industrial in its RMB6.5 million arbitration complicated by the import of distillers’ dried grains with solubles (DDGS) from the US amid import control under the Sino-US trade war and a contract governed by UK law.
The Changchun office of JunZeJun Law Offices provided legal support for multiple financings of Changchun Railway Traffic Group. These included: RMB1 billion in three-year 5.33% medium-term notes, its first in 2022 as well as the first bonds issued by a municipal key enterprise since the pandemic; the RMB2 billion 10-year 5% green bond, marking the largest single bookkeeping scope, longest term and lowest interest rate for comparable corporate bonds across the three northeastern provinces in the past five years; and the RMB1 billion 3+2-year 5.5% directed debt financing facility, recording the lowest interest rate for non-public issuance of bond products of the same term by AA+ entities in Northeast China.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Shandong)
|Deheng Law Firm|
|Eternal Glory Law Office|
|Jointide Law Firm|
|Qilu Law Firm|
|Wincon Law Firm|
Law firms Guoyao and Qindao, respectively based in Jinan and Qingdao, merged with Eternal Glory Law Office in May 2021. The new firm is headquartered in Jinan, with a presence across Shandong province including Qingdao, Linyi, Liaocheng and Dongying, and is mainly engaged in bankruptcy, compliance, “dual-carbon” and foreign-related businesses. Eternal Glory was desginated as administrator in the bankruptcy reorganisation of Changle International CBD Development amid critical social issues such as unfinished housing. Eventually, the firm persuaded the creditors and company to reach a court-recognised settlement agreement, one of few successful bankruptcy settlements.
Eternal Glory further participated in the expansion and reconstruction of major municipal infrastructure such as Qingdao Jiaodong International Airport, as well as the subway, high-speed rail, airport expressway and tertiary hospitals in Qingdao. With total investment of RMB38.2 billion, the airport launched operations in August 2021 and expects passenger throughput of 35 million by 2025.
Qilu Law Firm, working directly under the Shandong Provincial Department of Justice, lent legal support to the non-public issuance of corporate bonds by Shandong Land Development Group. The RMB2 billion 3.6% bond was listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, recording the lowest coupon rate for similar bonds since June 2020. Qilu also advised Heze City Investment in the issue of USD119 million in offshore senior unsecured bonds with a fixed rate of 4.55%, the first offshore USD bond issuance in Heze.
Qingdao-based Shandong Deheng Law Firm (not be be confused with Beijing-headquartered DeHeng Law Offices) achieved a number of desirable results in construction engineering, real estate, new energy, corporate and commercial disputes last year, satisfying clients and courts alike. Guo Xiaoli, HR administration manager at Shanghai Industrial Development (Qingdao) Investment, is impressed with the professionalism and timeliness of the firm’s legal offerings, with particular praise reserved for partner Lyu Shiwei. “Over decades of co-operartion, Lyu has offered a great number of extremely valuable business proposals and legal advice, which helped navigate our company on a path of healthy development and orderly operation,” she says.
The Qingdao office of Zhong Lun Law Firm participated in many prominent cases in dispute resolution, debt restructuring, capital markets and maritime affairs. In the debt restructuring of Atten Group ‒ engaged in nonferrous metal, real estate development and golf club operation ‒ Zhong Lun performed a thorough inspection of a substantial RMB1.5 billion debt across eight financial institutions, easing the company out of crisis via a combination of real estate M&A and disposal of the non-performing assets. The branch also provided legal support to the listing of Sportsoul on the main board of Shenzhen Stock Exchange, as well as Kingchem (Liaoning) Life Science and Goertek Microelectronics on ChiNext.
When two foreign-owned tankers collided, spilling oil near Chaolian Island in Qingdao in April 2021, Zhong Lun acted as the special legal adviser to a legal support and compensation committee set up by the municipal government, winning more than RMB5 billion in compensation for affected regions and entities.
The Qingdao office of DHH Law Firm last year helped Zhonghuan join the first batch of companies listed on the fledgling Beijing Stock Exchange. It also acted as legal adviser in the Star Market listing of Yunlu Advanced Materials Technology, a global leader in amorphous alloy, raising RMB1.4 billion. The office also participated in a bulk pandemic-related supplies dispute between Yaowang Group and the British Embassy, a complicated issue amid both the pandemic and legal reform of the Civil Code concerning the application of Chinese or foreign law. After several rounds of negotiation, both parties reached consensus on the replacement of part of the goods.
Intellectual property is a core business of the Jinan office of Tahota Law Firm. Last year, the office represented Yalinghao Clothing (Fujian) in its lawsuit against LiXun Group for infringement of the “LT Duck (小黄鸭)” trademark, affirmed by a second-instance court awarding compensation of more than RMB2 million. Tahota also helped Mingsheng Environmental Protection Technology ward off a utility model patent and invalidation dispute with Maijinli Environment Protection Equipment and receive RMB70 million in compensation, a discretionarily determined sum within the range of statutory damages considered high among comparable cases.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Shanghai)
Global Law Office has added some high-profile clients in the past year including ByteDance, China Resources Microelectronics, Novartis and Xiaomi Group. The Shanghai branch has also participated in various notable equity, energy and resources, and M&A transactions. Exemplary deals include: the USD1.6 billion privatisation of New Frontier Health Corporation from the NYSE; Carsgen Therapeutics’ USD390 million Hong Kong IPO; and Primavera Capital acquiring Mead Johnson & Company’s greater China business for USD2.2 billion.
Marx Zhou, the compliance head of Takeda, is very satisfied with Global’s compliance services, both on risk management and investigations. He also mentions that the firm “has been helping industry associations such as the China Pharmaceutical Industry Associations to establish certification standards for effective compliance systems and to drive up the compliance standards in the industry”.
Grandway Law Offices acts as permanent counsel to many domestic listed companies, including Long Yuan Construction Group, Shanghai Hanbell Precise Machinery, and WPG (Shanghai) Smart Water Public Co. Apart from representing these clients on external affairs, the firm also assists and provides guidance to their general meeting of shareholders, board of directors and supervisory board, advising on issues relating to governance and disclosure of information, and legal opinions required by regulators.
Cai Guanhua, the board secretary of Tradezone Holdings, speaks highly of Grandway’s service. “In all of our company’s capital markets and refinancing projects, Grandway has provided professional advice and offered pertinent and effective solutions,” says Cai.
Jin Mao Law Firm achieved 27% growth in revenue in the past year, with foreign-related business growing nearly 50%. The firm has undertaken 64 bankruptcy cases, including the bankruptcy restructuring of Guirenniao, the first listed company in the sports industry to enter such a procedure. Jin Mao also advised in several urban renewal projects in Shanghai, including the RMB4.2 billion (USD602.9 million) Honganli project.
Boss & Young Attorneys-at-Law’s broad service scope covers real estate and construction, finance, competition and antitrust, intellectual property, labour law, entertainment and media, maritime and shipping, tax and wealth management. Lu Guofei, a partner of the firm and director of the Real Estate Committee of the Shanghai Lawyers Association, has a leading role in the legislative consultation of the Shanghai Urban Renewal Ordinance.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Wuhan)
|Chengming Law Firm|
|Dewell & Partners|
|S&H Law Firm|
|Today Law Firm|
|Zhongsan Law Firm|
Zhong Lun Law Firm has a leading position in Wuhan’s local insolvency practice. In 2021, the firm signed on various liquidation and bankruptcy restructuring projects involving companies such as Wuhan Xingye Guangdi Agricultural Development, Carnival Ruixue Investment Management, and Wuhan Zhengyu Real Estate Development. The firm has also advised local governments in various governance matters, receiving accolades from government departments.
Ding Shidao, director of compliance at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, applauds Zhong Lun’s services. He says a wide range of legal matters arise on a daily basis at the university, with the firm’s partners advising on various subsidiaries involving assets of more than RMB10 billion. “Zhong Lun’s team conducts themed training for us regularly with their tailor-made solutions, and has minimalised the university’s legal risks,” says Ding.
Hui Ye Law Firm has handled many foreign-related cases and dozens of civil and commercial disputes with amounts in dispute of more than RMB100 million, providing special legal services to many Fortune 500 companies, central enterprises and SOEs. In a series of disputes between Chinese SOEs and a well-known listed real estate company in Thailand, Hui Ye successfully facilitated a settlement by taking the initiative to work with a local Thai law firm. The legal relationship in the case was very complex and involved arbitration in both Singapore and China, during which one of the parties even requested the Thai Embassy in China to mediate the dispute.
With four offices in Hubei province, Dewell & Partners advises international and foreign investment institutions, government agencies and domestic enterprises in central China. The firm’s representative cases of foreign-related legal services include Siemens’ acquisition of Changdong Group, overseas investment projects such as the China Belgium Technology Centre in Belgium, a Chinese developer’s investment project on the Gold Coast of Queensland state in Australia, a water treatment project for Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works (MMK) in Russia, and a contracting project for Kenya’s Nema expressway.
Today Law Firm has established eight branches across the country, with more than 100 partners and 500 lawyers and staff. The firm advises on a wide range of areas including finance, intellectual property, real estate, maritime and shipping, international trade, taxation and arbitration, providing year-round legal advice to various clients from the Hubei Provincial People’s Government and Hubei Provincial Department of Justice to the China Development Bank and China Construction Third Engineering Bureau.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Xi’an)
|Forever Law Firm|
|Help Reaching Law Firm|
|Jiaxuan Law Firm|
|Jindi Law Firm|
|Yong Jia Xin Law Firm|
Hui Ye Law Firm specialises in real estate, construction and related areas, and has undertaken a number of landmark cases in the past year. In a celebrated dispute over the grant of state-owned construction land, the parties originally agreed to resolve the dispute through arbitration. Instructed by a listed real estate company client, Hui Ye analysed the agreement and proposed resolving the dispute through administrative litigation. This view was adopted with the case heard in court, and the firm secured a favourable first instance judgement, recovering RMB400 million for the client in the largest dispute over granting of state-owned construction land in Shaanxi province to date.
Li Jianhua, legal director of Zhenro Properties Group, says: “Our past co-operation with Hui Ye has repeatedly demonstrated that He Siwei [a senior partner at Hui Ye] has always stuck to the integrity of law and principles. He treats his clients with sincerity and does not deceive or cheat.”
Jincheng Tongda & Neal (JT&N) has built a strong track record in the areas of domestic and overseas listings, M&A, and issuances of bonds and private equity funds. The firm set up an equity incentive scheme for Xi’an Bright Laser Technologies, a company listed on the Star Board of the SSE, the first in Shaanxi province for a Star Board-listed company to adopt the incentive scheme via the exchange’s Type II Restricted Shares Incentive Plan.
Cui Jiangshu, board secretary of Xi’an Bright Laser Technologies, says: “[Jincheng Tongda & Neal] is able to stand for the client’s point of view and works conscientiously for us.” She also recommends the firm’s senior partner, Zhang Hongyuan.
Jiaxuan Law Firm has completed a number of significant transactions in the areas of bond issuances, asset-backed securitisation, banking and non-performing assets, and corporate compliance. In 2021, the firm assisted military-industrial company DeeWin Financial Leasing to successfully issue two tranches of asset-backed notes totalling RMB1.7 billion, promoting DeeWin’s strategic transformation to “service-oriented manufacturing”.
Li Yan, deputy general manager of Xike Holding, is very satisfied with Jiaxuan’s service and professionalism. She especially recommends senior partner Cao Peng, and says: “I have known Cao Peng for many years and he is a very good lawyer, very knowledgeable about business, with strong work ethics and professionalism.”
Jindi Law Firm’s key services range from municipal, provincial and national construction projects and establishment of stock corporations to M&A, issuance of new shares, bond issuances, equity transfers, asset replacement of large companies, groups and listed companies, and ownership restructuring of SOEs. The firm also initiated a number of pro bono initiatives in the past year, not only donating material to fight the pandemic, but also providing legal assistance to rural areas.
REGIONAL AWARDS Best Overall Law Firms (Zhejiang)
Grandall Law Firm’s expertise covers capital markets, insolvency restructuring and liquidation, infrastructure and dispute resolution. The firm helped Sinopep-Allsino Bio Pharmaceutical, originally in the innovation tier of the NEEQ Board, to successfully list on the Star Board of the SSE, with the stock price soaring more than 400% on the first trading day. Grandall also acted as the issuer’s counsel assisting Zhuzhou CRRC Times Electric in its RMB7.6 billion IPO on the Star Board, the largest A-share IPO raised for a company in Hunan province to date.
Zhong Lun Law Firm actively explored new areas of practice in the past year, such as preventive environmental public litigation and civil-military integration projects, while maintaining its traditional competitive edge. The firm’s representative deals included: advising Beijing Lianhe Rongbang New Energy Technology on its acquisition of 11 wind power projects from Shanghai Sineng Investment; the EPC contracting of an offshore wind project in Guangdong for China Energy Engineering Corporation; and a high-purity polysilicon green energy construction project for Xinte Energy in Inner Mongolia.
David Qian, managing director of Hangzhou Xinhuidong Real Estate, says: “Zhong Lun has a well-staffed and experienced team of lawyers with a number of multidisciplinary lawyers to provide services in various areas such as construction, advertising and investment.” Qian recommends Guo Heng, a partner of the firm, saying: “He understands Hangzhou’s policies, markets and industry development with extensive experience in the real estate sector.”
Brighteous Law Firm undertook a total of 4,941 cases in 2021, including 2,246 commercial cases, some of which were selected as exemplary cases by judiciaries, prosecutors and industrial associations. A trade secret infringement case the firm handled was selected by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate as one of the Exemplary Cases for the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights by Procuratorial Organs of the year. In addition, the bankruptcy restructuring of Zhejiang Qingshuiwan Estate that Brighteous handled was chosen as one of the top 10 outstanding cases of bankruptcy administrators in Zhejiang province of 2021 by the Zhejiang Bankruptcy Administrators Association.
Hightac PRC Lawyers acted for the People’s Insurance Company of China in the second instance before Zhejiang High People’s Court in the Ou Ya Leng No. 6 ship collision insurance compensation case of a Chinese fish carrier running aground in the Marshall Islands, introducing extraterritorial evidence to eventually reverse an unfavourable first instance judgement and achieve a settlement for parties.
Gong Liduo, a legal director of Vanke, says: “Hightac’s lawyers are highly professional and very responsive, meeting our needs for safe and rapid project advancements.” She recommends Chen Shi, a senior partner of the firm: “His legal advice was not only professional and comprehensive, but also aimed to solve problems in practice. All of his services provided exceeded our expectations.”