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Vietnam's law firms: the best guides for foreign investors

Setting up shop in Vietnam is no easy task. Thankfully for foreign investors, there are several multi-awarded, full-service law firms with extensive knowledge of the local legal framework and business customs. While they all specialize in similar fields, such as M&As, banking and financing, capital markets, infrastructure, energy, real estate, and dispute resolution, each of these firms claim to have their own expertise.

Established in 1998, VILAF is one of Vietnam’s oldest and largest law firms. It is known for having overseen landmarks deals, like Vincom Retail’s IPO, SCG’s acquisitions, ANZ’s sale to Shinhan Bank, and other mergers that earned it “Most Innovative Law Firm” by the International Financial Law Review or IFLR in 2018. Looking ahead, the firm is focusing on deals involving privatization, oil & gas, city development, real estate and renewable energy.

With VILAF Chairperson Vo Ha Duyen

VILAF Chairperson Vo Ha Duyen is positive about the country’s efforts to attract foreign investors, particularly from its neighbors Korea, Japan, Singapore and China.

“Everyone’s been telling us, especially foreign companies, that when you invest in Vietnam, it’s not just for five years. It’s really for the long-term when you invest here,” she said.

Meanwhile, YKVN is the only Vietnamese law firm with an office in Singapore, Southeast Asia’s financial center. Specializing in deal-making, YKVN works with government and multinational corporations in crafting complex contracts and sorting out financing.

The firm represents some of Vietnam’s largest local firms, like Masan Corporation and Big C, as well as global giants like, Intel and Pfizer. In 2017, YKVN grabbed all four of the “National Law Firm of the Year” awards and has consistently won “Best Law Firm” award from IFLR.

In regards to investing in Vietnam, YKVN Partner Eli Mazur said that the health, education, pharmaceutical, agriculture, and real estate industries will remain the main drivers of the Vietnamese economy.

“The biggest risk an investor will ever take in Vietnam is the decision to invest in the country. Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, all the other risks are fundamentally theoretical, regulatory, and can be mitigated,” Mazur explained. 

On another front, LNT & Partners works not only with foreign and local businesses but also with the government in changing the country’s laws to facilitate business and investment. Its close collaboration with the Ministry of Planning and Investment has provided a very deep understanding of the local legal system.

“Vietnam is still a developing country and at the same time, our legal system is also on the way to be developed,” said LNT Managing Partner Tran Thai Binh.

As the country pursues privatization and modernization, Binh said infrastructure, transportation and flood management will receive the largest attention in terms of investment.

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Vietnam 2018 was prepared for and originally printed in Foreign Affairs magazine.

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