Edward L. Williams, former ExxonMobil Corporation attorney, has been named resident managing partner of the China practice for Indiana-based Baker & Daniels. Williams, who has significant experience in China and the Asia Pacific region, will lead Baker & Daniels’ China strategy from the firm’s offices in China.
Williams’ career with Exxon (now ExxonMobil) began in 1985. From 1998 to 2000, he served as legal counsel for Exxon China Inc., Exxon Corporation’s lead organization for business activities in China. Previous to that, he was regional counsel for Exxon Chemical Asia Pacific, in Singapore. Williams recently served as trustee of the U.S.-China Legal Cooperation Fund, and is former general counsel of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.
“Edward has demonstrated success in opening and managing international law offices for his former company,” said Brian Burke, managing partner of Baker & Daniels. “His knowledge and experience with the Chinese culture, its language and traditions, also makes him an excellent choice for this position. We look to him to continue the positive momentum we’ve built with this emerging practice.”
Baker & Daniels is one of fewer than 40 U.S. law firms licensed to operate in China by the Chinese Ministry of Justice. The firm’s first office was established in February 1998 in Qingdao, a port city of 7 million people in the Shandong Province. In March 2002, the firm’s Washington, D.C.-based consulting subsidiary, B&D Group, Inc., opened a representative office in Shanghai. By the end of 2003 the firm expects to secure a license for a second law office to be located in Beijing. Williams is expected to be resident in the Beijing office on a full-time basis.
Though the firm began developing relationships and expertise in China in the 1980s, the decision to operate there was made in response to the opening of the China market to the U.S. and the growing relocation of U.S.-based manufacturers to the country. The firm’s presence in China enables it to provide business and legal counsel to clients who want to do business anywhere in China. Over the last two years, the firm also has seen increased business from North American manufacturers establishing Chinese plants to export products back to the U.S.
“With the growing movement of major U.S. manufacturing operations to China, many small and medium manufacturers and suppliers are currently facing a critical situation,” said Joseph Kimmell, Baker & Daniels partner and chair of the firm’s international practice group. “These companies are finding themselves forced to create manufacturing capabilities in China or risk losing their share of business with the relocated North American business. These companies typically have no international experience or internal capability of establishing international operations. It’s a phenomenon that’s growing in intensity and importance.”
Another growing demand within the firm’s China practice is intellectual property protection. Over the past several years, China has been strengthening its patent and trademark system. As a result, both U.S. and Chinese companies have been aggressively pursuing patent and trademark protection – for U.S. companies looking to market products in China and vice versa. All of this has been a growing part of Baker & Daniels’ China presence. One of the firm’s U.S. attorneys resident in China is both a Ph.D. and a licensed U.S. patent attorney.
“We took what we believe to be a visionary step when we entered the China market,” said Kimmell. “Since then, we’ve been able to leverage our knowledge of both the U.S. and Chinese legal systems to assist clients with legal and business transactions both within and between these two international powers.”
For its China practice, the firm employs a slightly different approach from others currently operating in country. The firm prefers to staff its China offices with Chinese-born and educated attorneys who also have U.S. law degrees. “We believe that staffing our China office entirely with U.S.-born attorneys doesn’t give us the cultural experience and perspective needed to effectively operate and interact in that environment,” said Kimmell. “By employing Chinese-born and educated attorneys with U.S. law and other advanced degrees, we can better counsel our U.S. clients on the Chinese business and legal system, while also counseling our Chinese clients on U.S. laws and other regulatory issues.”
Hiring Williams – a Westerner – as managing partner has its advantages, Kimmell says. “I have no doubt that Edward will represent the firm well as lead spokesperson and advocate for our China practice. His legal experience in both countries gives him virtually unparalleled perspective to serve all of our clients’ best interests.”
“I am eager to return to China and begin this new challenge,” said Williams. “Baker & Daniels has an opportunity to further distinguish itself through its international presence, and I’m excited to lead this effort on behalf of the firm.”
Williams studied at the Chinese Language Center at Fu Jen University in Taiwan. He received his bachelor’s degree from Miami University (Ohio) and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law.