Xinxing Chen, Special Counsel in M&A Practice Group, Baker McKenzie, shares with WiFA her experience with mentorship, how she keeps her competitive edge, how her firm is promoting diversity and gender equity this year, and much more.

Tell us a little bit about yourself 

I’m a Private Equity and M&A transactional lawyer who just celebrated my 10th year anniversary of practicing law. I was born and grew up in Nanjing. I went to law schools in Shanghai and New York and am qualified to practice in the PRC and the state of New York. So far, I have spent half of my PQE in Shanghai and the other half in Hong Kong. I would say that I am a bit of a weird mix of being both idealist and pragmatist, both realist and romantic — but never a perfectionist. And I am a cat owner (proudly).

Mentors play an important role in the developments of many careers. Did you have a mentor? If so, what did you look for in that person? 

I have been lucky to have had mentors at different stages of my career. Among the things that I look for are the fundamental qualities of a good lawyer — including solid legal skills, diligence, great sense of responsibility, and passion for the legal practice. On top of these, willingness to share expertise and experience, respectful attitude with respect to the profession they are in, the ability to give honest and direct feedback, reflective listening, and empathy are additional key attributes that I would look for in a mentor. 

How do you stay on top of your professional game? Any tips on how you keep your competitive edge? 

I see my professional game as a long-term thing — not a sprint, but a marathon or a triathlon. It requires strength and explosive power at one time to get in the game, but relies more on resilience and endurance to stay in the game. So, pace yourself, I guess.

Think back to when you were starting out your career. What advice would you give your younger self? 

I probably would tell my younger self to be more patient and less anxious, more courageous and less self-doubting. 

Technical skills are the foundation and cornerstone of this profession, and proficiency in skills requires training and practice in most cases, years of them, relentlessly. This probably is also the case in a lot of other professions where technicality is the key. Yet when I started my career, I was often only told how high the expectations of my seniors, partners and clients would be — how urgent the tasks are and how competitive the market is. These are all true. So while I was constantly impressed by the senior lawyers’ proficiency in what they were doing, I also often felt frustrated and overwhelmed, and I questioned myself whether I could do this and become as good. 

Looking back, I think I was less often told of the other part of the truth — that it takes time for a junior lawyer to learn the technical skills and accumulate experience, that proficiency is gained in training and practice and is not something that you could master overnight, and that most importantly, it is normal to feel frustrated and challenged at the beginning or even from time to time at all stages of this profession. It is okay and it is a process. 

This year has brought tremendous upheaval and disruption to all aspects of our lives. How are you and your company continuing to promote diversity and gender equality despite these massive changes?   

Baker McKenzie celebrates diversity of culture, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, parental and career status, ability levels, thinking styles, working styles, and other human differences! Our inclusion culture creates and sustains a workplace where everyone can be their authentic selves and be treated fairly and with respect — where people can thrive.

In our Hong Kong office, there are four I&D-related committees: BakerWomen, LGBT+, CSR and Wellbeing. All of these committees focus on providing a safe and inclusive space for diverse groups and allies to network, connect and celebrate. 

This year, our Wellbeing committee has been very active in raising awareness of the importance of wellbeing and maintaining positive mental health. Every month, the committee would arrange activities and events (such as health talks and massage, yoga and meditation sessions) to promote good personal wellbeing. These activities have certainly been super helpful, given the challenges that COVID-19 has bought on us this year.