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News Section, pg.4, Legal Daily Aug.30, 2004

Super brand in legal industry thrives throughout decades of practice

If the conditions of our life permit us to choose any profession we like, we may adopt the one that assures us the greatest worth, one which is based on ideas of whose truth we are thoroughly convinced, one which can provide us the widest scope to work for mankind, and for ourselves to approach closer to the general goal for which every profession is but a means --- perfection.

——Karl Marx

Glory, molded by strength

If we say, there is ever a group of law firms, witnessing the two-decade’s vicissitudes since the new China restored lawyer system, GFE Law Office is a well-deserved member within the group; if there is ever a group of law firms testifying to the rapid economic evolution in Guangzhou, since the economic reform program and the initiative of opening up to the outside world, particularly in foreign-related economy sector, GFE is one of the recognized leaders.

GFE is nonetheless a monument, in the course of evolution in Guangzhou’s legal industry. With a history review, perhaps we can better understand what the “monument” is all about.

Guangzhou Foreign Economic Law Office, the predecessor of GFE Law Office, was founded in July 1984 among the first batch of legal service agencies following China’s resumption of law order. In 1985, the firm was nominated by the Ministry of Justice of China as one of the principal law firms dealing with foreign-related matters. In 1993, the firm was among the first 35 legal firms in China that was authorized by the Ministry of Justice and the China Security Regulatory Commission to advise on securities and on matters involving listed companies. In 1995, the firm transformed itself from a state-owned law firm into a partnership firm. In 1997, Mr. Xiao Yang, former Minister of Justice and former president of the Supreme People’s Court, inscribed for the firm with delight, “striving to build a modern, large-scale law firm in Chinese context” (努力建设一个有中国特色的现代化大型律师事务所). In 1998, GFE was ranked by the Ministry of Justice as one of “the twenty model law firms” in China. In 2000 GFE was among the first group of law firms in China authorized by the China Security Regulatory Commission to advise on companies from abroad involving domestic rights and interests to issue shares and list in overseas markets. For two consecutive years, during 2002 and 2003, the firm was ranked as the most profitable law firm in Guangzhou. In addition, GFE has handled more than 100 successful cases of overseas offering and listing, second to none among professional peers, according to Hong Kong Stock Exchange and Singapore Exchange statistics…

GFE has been striding through the past years on firm step. The firm’s strength speaks for itself.

Over twenty years, GFE Law Office has made great contributions to Guangzhou’s economic development, which has been revealed by the clients GFE has served, namely Guangzhou Otis Elevator Co. Ltd, Sinopec Guangzhou, Guangzhou Honda Automobile Co., Ltd, Microsoft, Wrigley China, Colgate, Esso-Mobil, Bosch Gas Appliances Co. Ltd, Bossini Int’l, Elf Lubricant (Guangzhou), Yum! Restaurants Inc. (KFC), Garden Hotel and Holiday Inn… Currently, GFE has acted as long term legal counsel for nearly 200 clients.

The choice of these discerning customers is a testimony to GFE’s expertise and strength.

A premier Japanese multinational corporation, the World’s Top 500, intended to employ a legal counsel in China and headed a whirlwind tour around five firms in three days’ time. The five firms, despite differences in locale and nature, are top players in legal arena. One firm, most notably, was then working closely with the corporation. However, the enterprise finally opted for GFE. According to the enterprise’s account, what it values most, is the firm’s expertise, the management and in particular, the professionalism of GFE people.

With the advancement of “Rule of Law” and “Administration by Law”, it has been a growing trend for government bodies to commission legal counsels. Guangzhou Economic Development Zone, following merger and reorganization of municipal districts, takes on a new yet heavy role in propelling the city’s development. To render the government, policy-making in line with the “Rule of Law” principle is a matter of paramount importance. When it comes to legal counseling the regional government asked Guangzhou Judicial Bureau for recommendations. Upon request, the Judicial Bureau recommended six major law firms. The government weighed one firm against another; after a long decision making process, GFE became the final choice.

To pay off clients’ favor, GFE offers services of best quality in return.

In terms of serving as legal counsel for corporations, besides acting on consultation, mediation, arbitration, litigation and participation in contract review, drafting, negotiation and attestation, GFE actively assists enterprises in keeping their business operation in line with mandatory and regulatory requirements, --- lecturing, hosting forums and seminars, so as to raise legal awareness in the minds of business leaders; constant consulting in policymaking process; resolving any issues arising from business activities in a timely manner; coordinating the corporation with external relations in each and every detail, GFE plays its role to the very best. The sense of responsibility has long infiltrated into the soul of GFE people.

Once the Development Zone government contracted with GFE, the firm did not assign any individual lawyer as expected. What GFE holds is, firstly, although a single lawyer may excel in a given specialty, group practice does a far better job in the face of the multifaceted governmental administration; secondly, government divisions may require legal counsel to advise on a diverse range of daily affairs, so the form of in-house counseling may serve the purpose of strengthening communication and maximizing work efficiency.

Based on the above, while collaborating with Development Zone Committee, GFE offers comprehensive legal services in a combination of group and in-house counsel, --- the group serves in respect of major issues, while, in-house counsel concentrates on daily workings of the government.

Such is merely a couple of small episodes excerpted from GFE’s consistent service from the heart. What they mirror is the depth and prowess accumulated through two decades’ practice. Indeed, speaking of first-hand experience, no other knows better about the firm’s expertise than their clients.

The reason why a mighty eagle is hailed as king of the sky goes beyond the creature’s physical strength, but lies within its spirit. Likewise, what shapes GFE into what it is like today is more than a history of two decades. It is precisely GFE people’s commitment, dedication to excellence, and, pioneering innovation that bring the firm into fruition; it is GFE people’s spirit that contributes to glory and achievement in GFE’s name.

However, GFE people do not slow down the pace for greater progress. Relying on traditional advantages, following trendy tides, they continue to set their sights high!

Culture Achievements

The restoration of law order in China now celebrates its twentieth anniversary. Quite a few “big names” have already vanished from the scene. GFE, however, despite weathering various difficulties, thrives over the years. To achieve this, it requires enormous cohesion and competitiveness. Founded in 1984, on its tenth year, GFE saw the transformation of lawyer system; this year 2004 marked the twentieth year in the GFE’s living history. In the course of two decades, GFE has witnessed the shifting climates of China’s legal industry and is itself a microcosm reflecting the industry’s practice and exploration. As an ancient Chinese proverb goes, “a fine sword takes ten years to grind” (shi nian mo yi jian), through twenty years’ winds and rains, GFE has become a gold sword in the legal profession arena. Its value lies, precisely, in the fresh culture that gave birth to people-based philosophy and management regime, allowing the firm to advance with the times and to represent future direction.

In 2003, in order to develop into a large-scaled foreign-related legal services provider, of expertise, highly qualified personnel, quality service, GFE moved into Guangdong (holdings) Tower at 555 Dongfeng East Rd. The office has an area of 1500 sq m, with high-speed internet access, a café and edging facilities. This was a whole-new starting point.

Entering GFE, the first impression is “tranquility” and “simplicity”. More than just workplace setting, it is perfect ambience for building a career; it is a spiritual realm, --- the ocean embraces all creeks and rivers yet maintains “tranquility” and “simplicity” in itself; the mountain holds all plants and creatures yet its “tranquility” and “simplicity” remain unchallenged. Likewise, rules and regimes are characteristic in “tranquility” and “simplicity”. The two are “tranquil” in themselves but serve to simplify people’s soul.

Blending the strength of former state-owned law firm with the essence of partnership, today’s GFE ripens into a unique management model.

In GFE, the highest power organ is the partners’ board, which convenes twice a year in July and January. The board handles issues like summing up previous work, drawing up planning and arrangements for the coming stage and electing management committee members and so forth.

The administrative committee manages the firm’s day-to-day business. Its five committee members cooperate and coordinate, in administration, finance, HR management, logistics, marketing and liaison. In the event of an urgent issue such as partnership expansion/reduction, a provisional partners’ meeting will be convened, or, each partner will vote or sign on a written document, to resolve the issues.

GFE people differentiate themselves: first, “women hold up half of the sky”, out of the sixteen partners, eight are women, a dazzling high ratio in the professional world (“feng jing xian”); second, lasting collaboration between the partners, --- right here in GFE, a majority of partners have been devoted comrades and friends all along. They value GFE as best career platform, dedicated to fostering “permanent GFE partnership”. This is, in contrast to the ever-changing face of legal industry, such an amazing wonder. Third, a concentration of talented overseas returnees (“hai gui”), --- recent years see a dramatically rising trend of “overseas returnees entrepreneurship”; lots of overseas returnees initiate business ventures back in their home country. Yet, as early as in the 1980s, GFE, a pioneer in overseas returnee entrepreneurship, already networked a pool of experienced overseas returnees (“lao hai gui”) from UK, the United States and Australia. Today, among GFE partners, many have imbibed European or American educations; among salaried lawyers and paralegals, quite a few are overseas educated with LLM degrees; even the staff without overseas experiences can use English as working language.

Today, the firm has 16 partners, nearly 70 professional consultants, lawyers and supporting staff, including 40 full-time lawyers. Among full-time lawyers, 14 persons are medium/senior professional title holders, 16 LL.M. degree holders. GFE leads a team of expertise, with extensive experience and in perfect age structure. The firm has known where it is headed since day one, --- maintaining its focus on economic non-contentious practice. Foreign-related matters have been its practice strength. Tracking a full array of foreign investments in Guangzhou, it is not difficult to detect GFE’s strong presence in high-profile projects like Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station, Honda Automobile, Guangzhou Isuzu, Toyota Motor Engine and Guangzhou Metro financing. There is no exaggeration in saying GFE people make every effort in Guangzhou’s economic boom. The heart of GFE is pulsing with the epoch!

GFE also helps to deepen reforms concerning state-owned enterprises and state-owned asset management regime, as well as financial regime, enterprise joint stock restructuring. Besides, the firm’s exploration into brand-new areas of practice such as restructuring, listing and real estate has resulted in extraordinary achievements; above all, it is unparalleled in legal counseling for overseas listing of corporations holding domestic interests.

In GFE, lawyers serve clients uniformly in the name of the law firm. When it comes to a specific case, it is handled according to a professionally specialized team consisting of partner, salaried lawyers and paralegals. A partner provides guidance and supervision to the lawyers and paralegals in the team. Each legal documents issued in the name of the firm shall be affixed with the seal and signature of the GFE management committee. Top-calibre personnel, strict management and standardized procedure serve to ensure GFE’s quality, and work for the best interests of GFE’s clients as well.

Great practice relies on great theory for guidance. Standing at the forefront of legal practice, GFE people are consciously engaged in a variety of research, integrating theory of law with their own practices, --- lawyers took part in a diverse range of seminars as keynote speakers; the firm also hosted a few workshops on topics like “experience and skills in non-performing assets disposal of overseas banks”. The publication of GFE Law Review in 2004 further showcases the firm’s characteristics, extensive experience and inexhaustible thinking on law. Mr. Huang Wu, past member of the firm, now deputy director of Guangdong Provincial Judicial Department, wrote a foreword for the journal with pleasure.

Following China’s entry into WTO, the firm’s horizon is broadened. Yet, opportunities are present with challenges. Rising to these challenges, GFE tightens the ties between foreign firms based in Canada, UK and the United States. On the other hand, GFE constantly learns from the advanced experience of international peers, adjusts its internal management, while keeping in pace with the increasingly globalized legal industry, in terms of expertise and the services provided.

“The grand tide knows the talents whilst the talents set far sail in the company of gales and thunders”. From the forefront of the times, looking back, GFE people shall pride themselves on every success it has ever made, --- they live up to the expectation of the Party and Chinese people upon foundation of the firm; looking ahead, they are now equipped with a solid sense of responsibility, and, a towering morale! Towards building up an even brighter future, GFE people are making big strides…

Yue ICP Bei No. 17141921

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