A Day in the Life
Imagine a time, maybe three generations from now. The stories passed down will likely be narratives that depict a time of prosperity floating up through years of poverty. The Chinese Dream, a fresher cliché than the American version, will tell of people like Joseph Chow and his contemporaries.
“I was born in a farming family,” Chow said with youthful energy and a sly smile. He’s open and easy to talk to, dressed well and quaffed with slicked hair and long, sweeping sideburns. Life in China had to change a lot to bring this together. “When I was young … we don’t have industry. We don’t have so many buildings.”
To Chow, these days are long gone. He is a representative of the Guangdong People’s Congress, the discipline supervisor for the Guangdong Police Bureau and a director for the Lawyers Association of Dongguan, but he says he doesn’t want his three children to follow in his footsteps.
“We need more judges in this city; the undeveloped city doesn’t need too much, so I suggest the government create a quota to move toward a developed city,” said Chow
His path was enabled by a father making good on changes in economic regulations. After 1975 factories began to arrive, and Chow’s dad made money trading electrical appliances, but he hasn’t forgotten when he helped village elders sow the land. “It’s not like America, they can use the farming machines. In China, in the 70’s and 80’s, all the farming they do by hand.”
Chow worked, in the rice patties, and in the classroom. The path up the ladder in that era was singular in direction. He knew that after graduation, he would seek employment in the government. He knew there was little other choice for success.
There came a time when that ladder hit the ceiling, and he jumped off to go into private practice, ending up a partner and director at Kingda Attorneys and Counselors. In billable hours, Kingda is the largest law office in Dongguan, but Chow doesn’t consider himself successful, yet. “I’m not a professional. I’m just a lawyer now; I have some investment, I have to run part of my family enterprise, but we have a long distance to success.”
Of course, Chow is speaking of bringing his law firm into the top ten for the nation, and hopes to see his family enterprises as a Fortune 500, but he is also talking about personal accomplishment and making a better life for his children.
“Most important is a happy life, I don’t think they need to take over all my business. If they want, maybe they can be a professor in college or university or something they want to do.”
Benefit of Experience
Chow has already discussed with his partners a time when he will leave Kingda and the law profession to focus on his business interests alone. For now he shares his responsibilities across a wide berth. As a congressional representative over the past eight years he says he is most proud of a law passed to keep factories off of the East River (Dongjiang) and fighting for judicial reform.
“We need more judges in this city; the undeveloped city doesn’t need too much, so I suggest the government create a quota to move toward a developed city,” said Chow, speaking of the idea to increase the number of judges and improving their salaries.
China is changing still. It’s part of why his agency has been successful, accessing risk and putting together handshakes. Today, Chow says, there is still much risk, but how that is handled is changing. “The officers in the government, we still have something that will affect the judgment, but most of our society follows the law now—and even we have to pay the taxes accordingly.”
His advice? Anybody doing business in China needs three things: a good lawyer, a good accountant and a certified tax agent. Times are changing and wiggle room is closing up.
Director – Kingda Attorneys & Counselors
Q: Chinese view of lawyers?
A: Some of the people, they think maybe a lawyer work for money, not for justice; I think that the lawyer job is a kind of surface to protect the risk in the commercial area and in life. So we are not devils. We are also not an angel.
Q: Craziest courtroom story?
A: I think it is very crazy, that at that time, we don’t have so good conditions as now. The court building was three [rooms] together, in the middle is the court. On the right hand side is the lawyer, on the left side is the procuratorate (prosecutor/investigator). We don’t have to go over, we just opened the window on each side and that is the court.
Q: Favorite toy?
A: I love cars. Several years before I had a boat, but I sold it. I don’t have a favorite toy, I don’t have so much interest in this kind of thing. What I want is a kind of life, a life I want to live. It’s not a toy, maybe I want to live in Australia for several months and in the U.S. for several months and maybe Germany.