Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in Los Angeles
Area of Practice: International Law
Year Graduated: 1997
Paul Lin is a natural when it comes to being an attorney. He has been comfortable with the law since an early age; both of his parents went to law school, and his father served as a judge in Taiwan. After he completed his legal education, Mr. Lin's international connections made him an intuitive fit for a cross-border practice. Today, as a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld — one of the world's largest international law firms — Mr. Lin expertly navigates the complexities of cross-border corporate transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and financing on behalf of his clients. "I'm able to bridge business and culture. That's something that interests me," Mr. Lin explains. "It's one thing to be a lawyer, but it gets more complex on multiple levels when you deal with cross-border issues. It's not only legal issues that you are involved with, but it's also business and cultural issues that you have to bridge for a transaction to go through." Mr. Lin's ambition, skills, and knowledge earned him a spot among the Daily Journal's prestigious list of the "top 20 under 40" lawyers in California in 2007.
Mr. Lin received his undergraduate degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and enrolled at University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law immediately thereafter. During the summers following his first and second years at Pacific McGeorge, Mr. Lin interned at a law firm in Taiwan, where he helped with American Depository Receipt offerings, translated Chinese securities codes into English, and conducted legal research.
After law school, Mr. Lin turned down two offers for in-house positions so that he could move to Los Angeles, where he found work at Boyd and Chang, a small law firm where he had family connections. Although the position didn't pay much (he was paid on an hourly basis and only for billable hours), Mr. Lin was able to learn from the partners at the firm. When he eventually approached them about transitioning to a salaried position, the partners made him a different offer: rather than paying Mr. Lin a salary, they would give him a cut of any business that he brought to the firm.
This arrangement turned out to be quite profitable for Mr. Lin. Within a few months, he introduced two corporate clients that provided the firm with fees and stocks totaling in the millions of dollars. When those clients grew to be too large for Boyd and Chang, they obtained representation elsewhere, and that's when Mr. Lin realized that he would have to move to a larger firm if he wanted to work with the major players of the business world. Thus, Mr. Lin left Boyd and Chang to accept a position at a mid-size firm. A short time later, Sheppard Mullin acquired the firm, and Mr. Lin stayed with them for three years before transferring to Coudert Brothers LLP, a firm specializing in international law which has since dissolved. In 2005, Mr. Lin joined Jones Day as an of-counsel attorney, and less than two years later, he was named partner.
At Jones Day, Mr. Lin represents U.S.- and Asia-based businesses — including public corporations, Chinese state-owned enterprises, and privately-held companies — in all sorts of cross-border transactions (transactions that involve more than one nation's laws or companies). "What I do is manage litigation matters, M&A's [mergers and acquisitions], corporate matters — basically all legal affairs for a client," Mr. Lin says. "I also help a lot of Chinese and Taiwanese companies do business in the U.S." His work requires him to spend a considerable amount of time in meetings and conference calls, mostly with corporate heads and in-house counsel. Although much of his work can be done from his office in Los Angeles, Mr. Lin still spends about half of each year in Asia for business, most often in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Taipei. "I went to Asia ten times last year, and I expect about the same this year," he says. Whether he is working from the U.S. or in Asia, Mr. Lin frequently employs his fluency in Mandarin and Taiwanese. "It comes up on a very regular basis," he notes.
The issues that confront Mr. Lin on a daily basis are exceedingly complex. As an example, he explains, "When you have a cross-border transaction, it might involve issues in many practice areas. You might have to conduct diligence on IP [intellectual property] issues, employment issues, how stock options work before and after a merger, tax issues, and many other issues." Many issues in cross-border practice don't have any straightforward answers, and some deals are so complicated that Jones Day may have twenty or more lawyers assigned to the case. One of the key challenges associated with Mr. Lin's practice, he explains, is making sure the client understands the complexity of the issues. However, Mr. Lin notes that it is the complexity of his work that makes it so satisfying. "It's rewarding to get everything sorted out and a make a deal close," he says. And, fortunately, lawyers at Jones Day have many resources they can draw on when tough questions arise. For example, Mr. Lin can seek help from any number of Jones Day's global network of highly sophisticated lawyers. "Last year I probably used over one hundred lawyers in my firm, spread over many offices," he says. "You're able to build a big practice."
Outside of work, Mr. Lin is a member of the Dean's Business Advisory Board for the University of California, Irvine School of Law. He is also very involved in the Committee of 100, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization founded by Yo Yo Ma and Im Pei "to provide a collective voice for Chinese-American leaders to speak to both U.S. and international issues." The group is composed of prominent Chinese-Americans, including Morris Chang (Chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.), John Chiang (California State Controller), Jerry Yang (co-founder and chief of Yahoo!), Michelle Kwan, Lucy Lui, several prominent lawyers, artists, and academics, and many others. Each year, the Committee holds several events, among them an annual conference and trips to Taiwan and China. In November 2011, Mr. Lin met with the President and Vice President of Taiwan along with a small delegation of other Committee members. Students who are interested in cultivating a large, reputable international law practice like Mr. Lin's must set themselves apart, and Mr. Lin has a few words of wisdom for how to accomplish this goal: "Learn the language, learn the culture, learn how to bridge businesses. You have a skill set, but everybody has a skill set. If you understand the culture and the issues, that's how you're going to distinguish yourself from others."