Being Singaporean-Chinese myself, for my international secondment I chose to apply to the corporate department at Linklaters’ Shanghai office, primarily for a first-hand experience of life in this emerging economic superpower, as well as to develop my language skills.
The office is located in the Pudong district of Shanghai, just a short journey from my apartment. The city itself has a vibrant expatriate community who are well-catered to by all the familiar comforts you would expect in an international hub such as this. However, for those moments where you want to explore, Shanghai’s offering of history and Chinese tradition is second to none. One ‘must-see’ tourist destination is the Yu Garden, a classical Chinese garden first conceived in the 16th century. It is also adjacent to a large bazaar, with vendors selling just about every Chinese souvenir you can imagine.
Our Shanghai office is staffed with local Chinese lawyers and international lawyers, most of whom have trained with Linklaters. Ensuring our teams comprise a combination of international and Chinese lawyers is necessary because most the transactions we advise on are cross-border in nature – we generally act either for multinational corporations looking to invest in China, or large Chinese companies making overseas investments.
The result is that negotiations are often conducted, and contracts drafted, in both the Chinese and English languages. As a seconded trainee solicitor, my language skills have proved invaluable in helping me to support the team, as well as developing my own knowledge of the Chinese legal market.
During busy periods, a lot of my time can be spent in the office here, as would be the case back in London. Nonetheless, Linklaters always encourages us to take some time out on a Friday evening to celebrate the week. In London, this usually involves office drinks. In contrast, the emphasis here is very much on food, given China’s rich food culture. A variety of local takeout is ordered on a Friday afternoon, to accompany a selection of wine, which allows us to wind down and enjoy the social aspects of working in a team.
Anyone curious about the history, culture and working practice of such an intriguing, and increasingly important, country as China would find working in Shanghai an incredibly engaging and rewarding experience; one that I would highly recommend.
Hansel Ng is a corporate trainee at Linklaters and is currently based in Shanghai