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GAR 100 - 5th Edition

Fangda Partners

05 March 2012

Fangda Partners enjoys one of the stronger reputations for CIETAC arbitration work, and is being seen more often in international arbitration outside China

Pending cases as counsel:
30
Value of pending counsel work:
US$1 billion
Treaty cases:
0
Current arbitrator appointments:
2 (of which 0 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
2

Founded in 1993, Fanga Partners boasts over 150 lawyers offering commercial law services in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzen. Its name consists of two Chinese characters – “fang”, meaning integrity and “da”, meaning open-mindedness – which the firm says provides “a short-form mission statement”.

Lawyers at the firm have been advising foreign clients on disputes since the early days, but the international arbitration practice really came to the fore after the opening of the Beijing office in 2004 and the addition of new US-trained practitioners with deeper international experience. In 2007, the firm also added former CIETAC deputy secretary general Ming Kang.

Nowadays, the firm says the dispute resolution team consists of around 40 lawyers. Besides handling CIETAC work, it frequently teams up with leading foreign firms for ad hoc and institutional arbitrations under the major rules and provides expertise on Chinese law in overseas proceedings. It is also one of the few Chinese firms to have independently and successfully represented both Chinese and foreign clients in international arbitrations in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Increasingly, clients are using it in arbitration-related court proceedings in China.

Prominent members of the practice group include Daniel Huang, the firm’s first specialised partner, who has handled dozens of cases about foreign investments; US-trained senior corporate lawyer Xiang Ji, who is said to be a household name in China for his skills in public debate; and veteran litigator and expert in construction arbitration Nuo Ji.

In addition, Helen Shi is an internationally experienced CIETAC specialist, while Benjamin Miao has spent six years with a UK magic circle firm in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Network

The firm has offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzen.

Who uses it?

Some recent clients are Guthy-Renker, the TV shopping company, in a CIETAC arbitration against its distributor; and Citibank. It has also represented China National Offshore Oil Company, Deloitte, GE, JPMorgan and Texas Pacific Group.

Track record

The firm was famously the adviser to leading Chinese beverage company Wahaha in a CIETAC arbitration with French dairy company Danone, which was settled on terms that were widely regarded as favourable to the French company.

It also acted for a Chinese business celebrity in a US$100 million Hong Kong-seated ICC arbitration against an international mobile service network arising from a share purchase agreement. The case was again settled in favour of Fangda’s client.

In 2010, the firm was engaged by a Chinese airline in a contractual dispute with a Canadian pilot academy under ICC rules and before a New Zealand arbitrator. English was the arbitration language, meaning that until Fangda’s engagement the Chinese airline had been disadvantaged. With the firm on board, the client won (Fangda lawyers provided four rounds of written submissions and cross-examined witnesses in English).

Its performance in the Chinese courts include enforcing the first ever Hong Kong-made ICC award for a European client in Shanghai in 2009, soon after the ICC Court opened its Asia office.

Recent events

In 2009, the firm recruited Arthur Ma – who is qualified in China, the US and England and Wales – from Freshfields’ China dispute resolution practice. Ma has also worked at leading US firms and the ICC Court of Arbitration in Paris and assisted arbitrator Neil Kaplan on an ICSID case against Hungary, experience unheard of in other Chinese law firms.

The firm’s lawyers have also become much more active participants on the conference circuit. In 2011, for example, the firm was well represented at the IBA Arbitration Day in Seoul and ICCA’s 50th anniversary seminar in Geneva. It also participates in events in China.

New work includes acting for China State Construction Engineering Corporation as Chinese co-counsel on a London-seated UNCITRAL arbitration against the Tanzanian National Road Agency over the construction of a highway, alongside a UK magic circle firm. The client is seeking damages of around US$25 million. The firm’s current arbitration portfolio is now worth more than US$1 billion.

Client comments

Judy Zhang, chief financial officer of M+W Shanghai engineering and construction company, says the company has worked with Fangda Law Firm for over 10 years. She says the firm places “high emphasis on excellence of their services, a commercial attitude to transactions, efficiency of costs and, most importantly, speed of response”.

“We trust their professional services and have always valued their insights during the course of our working relation”.

Insight

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