Ngo Nhat Minh is Founder and Attorney-of-law of BLawyers Vietnam, specialized in helping foreign investors do business in Vietnam. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, Minh explains his practice focus and the work of BLawyers Vietnam, what foreign investors should consider when doing business in Vietnam, and the unique challenges he’s faced and experiences he’s had while managing an elite boutique law firm in a fast-changing competitive legal market.
What inspired the founding of the firm and what areas of law does BLawyers Vietnam specialize in?
Based on my experience in law practice for one local law firm and then an international law firm in Vietnam, I have observed that client experiment is extremely important to a law firm. That inspired me to found BLawyers Vietnam, where we focus on client services. We value each client and cultivate deep relationships to understand and anticipate their business needs. When providing our legal services, we work together with our clients as a team. We are dedicated to be a trusted legal partner of clients rather than a legal service provider.
We are specializing in the laws of Foreign Investment in Vietnam, Corporate Governance, Commerce and Contracts, Mergers & Acquisitions, Labor, Dispute Settlement, Real Estate and Construction, Energy Projects, and other legal practices.
What should business leaders be most mindful of when considering doing business in Vietnam?
As Vietnam is a developing country and our government has recently issued many policies to encourage investment, production and business in Vietnam, there are some matters that business leaders should note for proposed businesses in Vietnam:
Vietnam is primarily a civil law country. The law system has been changed rapidly as the Government has also focused on reducing administrative procedures in recent years;
Vietnam is the member of several international treaties, such as the Schedule on Specific Commitments in Services on joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA), UK-Vietnam FTA (UKVFTA), and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), etc.;
Foreign investors must register foreign investments in Vietnam and may be satisfactory of additional investment conditions or restrictions. The common investment conditions and restrictions applied to foreign investors could be: (i) limitation on foreign ownership ratio; (ii) business sector restriction; (iii) form of investment; (iv) licenses for satisfying some legal requirements; or (v) other conditions applied on case-by-case basis;
Vietnam’s investment laws have a clear incentive policy that are available for investors who invest in certain geographic areas and industries, and for high-tech and scientific/technological enterprises. The investment incentives can be in some various forms such as: (i) exemption from or reduction of corporate income tax for a set number of years; (ii) exemption from import duty in respect of goods imported to form fixed assets and for raw materials, supplies and components for implementation of an investment project; or (iii) exemption from or reduction of land rent, land use fee, land use tax, etc.
What should clients know about your firm and your colleagues experience when considering engaging your services?
BLawyers Vietnam’s slogan is “Your trust, our power”. With that, we bear in our mind that we prioritize achievement of aspirations and interests of our clients and satisfaction of their requirements. We always act in clients’ best interest and aim to continuously exceed their expectation. In addition, we have the flexibility on offering a cost-effective commercial approach in resolving clients’ legal issues.
Our lawyers understand how to navigate the complexity of Vietnam laws and talk to clients in a language that clients can relate to. We also understand the stress and struggle of having to deal with different legal aspects to get the right strategy for their case. We prepare and take every single case equally seriously to create a stress-free experience for them and get the most out of your case.
Our lawyers are also experienced, creative and enthusiastic legal experts. We are proud of excellent communication skills, extensive networks with local State authorities and industrial practitioners (i.e. accountants, auditors, tax advisors, foreign lawyers, and other professional parties).
Firm lawyers do not specialize in a single practice area but can handle a variety of legal matters — and proactively search and learn about the latest developments in their respective practice areas. Tell us more about this.
These are interesting points on the way we practice:
We have a versatile team of lawyers. Our lawyers do not specialize in a single practice area but can handle a variety of legal matters. By using our extensive knowledge and experience, we can cover a wide range of practice areas and provide comprehensive legal service.
We pursue knowledge. Training is a very important part at our firm. We often hold meetings to share expertise and experience after completing a case. Our lawyers also proactively search and learn about the latest developments in their respective practice areas.
Furthermore, we work in groups of lawyers. We often form group of 2-3 persons including qualified lawyers and paralegals to handle a case. By doing that we can share information with each other and provide our clients with prompt legal advice. If there is a complex, large-scale or highly urgent matter, more lawyers could be assigned. This approach allows us to provide optimal service by effectively leveraging the resources of the firm.
The firm actively publishes Vietnam legal updates and legal articles on the firm blog. Tell us more about what inspired you to found the blog and what you’ve learned from publishing it.
Our blog was formed to help readers catch up with the latest policies and regulations of Vietnamese laws. We also share our experience on supporting clients so that readers could apply our advice for their similar cases to get a good approach for settlement and avoid potential risks as well. For most of our updates and articles, we tried to present matters as much simple as we could so it would be easier for readers to understand.
While publishing our firm blog, we have learned a lot. Such as: (i) the way we summarize and present a complex legal case for non-lawyer readers to read and understand; (ii) we created a networking from blogging, which readers asked us questions for their cases or asked for our help; and (iii) we promoted ourselves by way of sharing valuable information to readers when they find a liable resource in the Internet or reputable newspaper. So, we are very grateful with our work of blogging and publishing.
As Founder, what unique challenges do you face in growing a business focused law firm – and what are your goals for the firm’s future?
We go from leading uncertainty to maintaining efficiency in a business focused law firm, here are 3 unique challenges we face:
- Keeping our culture intact during the business growth: We always bear in mind that our culture is embodied and maintained by our people (including current ones and new ones). Our culture was made from 6 core values of: (i) do as promised; (ii) fight for clients’ satisfaction; (iii) never give up – be persistent; (iv) company is home; (v) accept weaknesses to learn and improve; (vi) be quick and accurate.
- Demand of a growing workforce: As enlarging our workforce is a key part of scaling up our business, we have tried to find suitable lawyers to our firm. To do so, creating a working environment could attract talents is one of our top missions.
- More diverse customer needs: Acknowledging our firm growth is dependent on increasing new businesses, we need to study clients’ own unique needs and expectations. So, we have tried to establish strong customer relationships based on healthy dialogue with all clients. It could help us know what they need and how they feel about our legal services.
Regarding our future goal, as BLawyers Vietnam was founded as a client-focus law firm, it has never been our goal to become the biggest law firm in Vietnam. Instead, we work tirelessly to be a law firm that offers the best client service. We have defined this in a very tangible way called our “clear vision” and we hope BLawyers Vietnam will be clients’ “clear selection”.