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Asia Insight: Developing a Legal Team in Asia

by on March 19, 2010

I was recently contacted by representatives of two large U.S. companies who were considering entering the Chinese market, partly due to China’s continued growth into a more formidable economic power, and in part simply because they needed to find innovative ways to grow their retail businesses outside of the U.S. which continues to struggle with a poor economic outlook.  These companies wanted to get some idea of what might be a good way to figure out how to get into the Chinese market.  Should they focus on Hong Kong first?  The Mainland?  Try to develop a presence in both markets?  They literally are at square zero.  No plan, no local team, nothing.  I told them, that of course, they really needed to start with a market research team, since the first priority is to find out if they can or even want to be in China.  But as we talked, the legal and red tape issues came up and the discussion briefly turned to who they could hire to handle that and how and if they could build an in-house team to deal with any Asian expansion.

A fairly quick search led me to helpful article in the Pacific Business Press.  The article is an interview with Mitchell Stocks, General Counsel – Asia Pacific at NetApp,  He discusses his approach to building an in-house legal team for companies operating in the APAC region:

“AC: What steps have you taken in order to develop a legal team for the Asia Pacific region, and what challenges have you faced in the process?
MS: After joining NetApp, I spent the first several months meeting the business teams throughout the Asia Pacific region in order to build relationships with my new clients and to identify activities that were high risk or high reward. I then focused on helping to mitigate the big risks and exploit the big opportunities. Those first few months of conversation also helped me decide where additional legal resources should be added to support the geographic areas with the highest business growth and most complex regulatory regimes.”

FULL INTERVIEW

No matter how you go about it, if hiring a lawyer or setting up a legal team is not your number one priority, it should probably be next in line.

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