find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Mandarin skills crucial to China engagement

Mandarin skills crucial to China engagement


Firms should give greater priority to finding lawyers with in-depth knowledge of Mandarin as a new wave of Chinese investment hits Australia, one practice head has said.

Hall & Wilcox partner Eugene Chen (pictured) heads up the firm’s China practice, an Australian-based group comprising Mandarin speakers with a range of legal expertise.

The practice has turned over deals worth a total of $250 million since January, and Mr Chen expects revenues to double in the next two years.

“There are more and more Chinese SME businesses coming into Australia,” Mr Chen told Lawyers Weekly.

“In the first wave of the SMEs businesses coming in around 2000 to 2010, their service requirements from a legal perspective were quite low. All of that changed post-GFC, where we've seen a significant push of capital coming out of China. Now there is significant investment in Australia by Chinese businesses, particularly in real estate and agribusinesses.”

While traditionally such clients would have focused on top-tier firms, cost pressures are encouraging them to look at larger firms with a more cost-effective offering, he suggested.

Yet there is a “vacant market space” for firms that can deal with clients in their native language, Mr Chen believes.

“In other firms, there are no senior Mandarin-speaking lawyers running China practices – that's a major deficiency,” he said.

He emphasised that while many firms had Mandarin speakers on staff, a dedicated practice for Chinese clients was a different proposition.

At Hall & Wilcox, Chinese clients are brought in by the China practice lawyers, who then liaise with other practice areas within the firm to give their clients a full service offering.

In Mr Chen’s eyes, having lawyers with Chinese language skills is non-negotiable for firms in the future.

“In this current economic environment, it's unavoidable that you have to do business with China, so that skill is required,” he said.

However, basic language skills are not enough to offer this type of service.

“There are a lot of graduates who turn up with CVs that say they speak fluent, native Chinese – but there's a difference between being able to talk everyday and being able to conduct legal transactions in that language. And that's a skill set that's not out there.”

Graduates who have these skills are often abroad, where firms are more likely to pay a premium for these skills, Mr Chen said.

“I think there are sufficient numbers of Mandarin-speaking law students out there. But [Australian] law firms need to consider those language skills more as they are recruiting. We're losing a lot of Mandarin-speaking lawyers overseas, particularly Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong,” he said.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Mandarin skills crucial to China engagement
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Scales of Justice
Oct 19 2017
‘Ego status’ compelled ex-lawyer to defraud $2.97m, court told
Debarred lawyer John Gordon Bradfield told an NSW District Court that he was driven by “ego status...
Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA), Queensland’s new industrial manslaughter legislation,
Oct 19 2017
ALA welcomes ‘tough’ Qld manslaughter laws
The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has welcomed Queensland’s new industrial manslaughter legisl...
Legal podcasts, tune in, microphone
Oct 19 2017
Legal podcasts you have to tune in to right now
The rise of the internet has hailed in a new dawn for storytelling. Here’s our top pick of podcast...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...