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  • James Berger

Perspectives on Cross-Border Legal Practice,Politics,and Everyday Life in a World Nobody Understands

Warm greetings to colleagues, friends, current and former clients, mentors, others I have not yet had the privilege of meeting but are otherwise connected with Jia Law Group ("JLG") or through mutual connections - Also to so many more from my various "past lives" at O'Melveny & Myers, Willkie Farr & Gallagher and, of course, in Washington DC, New Haven, Deerfield, Los Angeles, Europe and Asia - altogether far too many great people with whom I have woefully fallen out of touch. That all ends -- RIGHT NOW.

So What is This Anyway? I write both to introduce (or re-introduce) myself on the occasion of completing my first year as a Partner at JLG where I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to create and build up a new cross-border/regulatory practice group especially relevant for today's interconnected but exceedingly uncertain world. As all of us consider what the rest of Q3 and Q4 2020 will bring (thinking any further than that seems almost reckless...), I've decided to begin sharing newsletters discussing the work we are doing here at JLG's New York City Headquarters (as well as in our California and China offices), and offering my personal viewpoints and experiences on wide-ranging related topics that (one way or another) also characterize these surreal times.

Lessons Learned and Remembered: The past 12 months have taught me more than I could possibly have imagined. So today I'm starting big. While my future messages will be more narrowly targeted, I'll begin with general background and then hone in on more specific topics. Importantly, this newsletter's title, "Law & The Global Citizen" isn't random. My conviction is that what produces the best outcomes in law and life was summed up brilliantly in President Kennedy's Inaugural Speech. JFK's line beginning "And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you..." was so tragically brilliant that few remember what he said next... "My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. And finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you." JFK nailed it. Strength and sacrifice are our engines for legal success.

Reflections and Accomplishments From the Past Twelve Month (a/k/a "Cross-Border Law When You Can Barely Cross Manhattan")

Upon accepting my offer to become a Partner at JLG one year ago today - a law firm focused primarily on US-China transactions, cross-border disputes, complex litigation and immigration/employment law, it's safe to say there were JUST A FEW SMALL THINGS I WAS NOT COUNTING ON...

Like an Earthquake During a Hurricane: The most significant trade conflict in modern US-China history - An explosion of political tensions in the United States exceeding even the 1960s - Multiple worldwide economic crises (numbers rivaling the Great Depression!) - Mass-protests, justified and unjustified calls for social change and, tragically, new waves of violence covering the gamut from nihilism to religious zealotry to political extremism (not only in the US, but Hong Kong, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America) - AND add to all that what nobody bothered to let me know would occur right about half way into a year I'd actually expected to spend traveling the world: Namely, The worst global pandemic since 1918, now tragically resulting in an average of more than 1000 deaths per day in the United States alone.(with nearly five million confirmed American cases, a staggeringly large share of the world's 18.8 million). With arguably the most important Presidential election in post Civil War US history less than three months away, it's safe to say the words "historic moment" don't suffice. New York Times Columnist David Brooks did indeed get much closer by analogizing the present situation to "an earthquake during a hurricane."

Despite unprecedented challenges - and sometimes because of them - I can confidently assure all of you that neither JLG, nor my practice group ("Global Enforcement") - are retreating. From New York to Shanghai - from Kuala Lumpur to Washington DC, we remain 100% committed to our clients, our values and to exploring bold new concepts about realizing the truest form of "zealous advocacy" -- not merely as attorneys but as front-row witnesses to the suffering in Wuhan, the lights going out on Broadway, mass protests met by 5:00 PM curfews in Manhattan and the undeniable fact that law firms unable to broaden their definition of the word "counselor" are becoming less relevant by the day. It's in that context I'm particularly proud to highlight a number of representative accomplishments achieved on the cutting edge of cross-border and regulatory law:

Some Thoughts About the Remainder of 2020: The Power of Imagination in an Age of Fear

While I believe that better days lie ahead, I'm also convinced that advancing toward some type of normalcy will require serious adaptation and an unfortunately large amount of patience. I'm not just talking about the new everyday realities of Zoom conferences, face masks, working from home and social distancing. Coming out of all this intact will require as yet unknown - but far more profound - acts of personal sacrifice, ingenuity from our scientific and business communities, in addition to totally new modes of interaction. Again, I couldn't be happier to point to JLG as an example of what this last point looks like in practice.

JLG's motto is: "Legal Excellence Through Global Connections." Being excellent in 2020 (whatever your business) demands thinking beyond borders, forging diverse relationships often without leaving our homes and never forgetting that no matter how often you hear accusations (correct or incorrect) about "fake news" - learning to discover and speak the truth is not only an ethical obligation but our greatest source of hope. Sound daunting? It is. But it's not impossible. After all, we actively imagined a more fearless world right here at JLG. Now, our growing stature in cross-border and regulatory affairs is proof-positive that it can be done.

On various occasions these past months, I've made the point that even COVID-19 itself teaches strangely identical lessons: Just as viruses succeed because they don't discriminate based on ethnicity, national borders, immigration status or cultural difference, those individuals, businesses and nations with the resilience to reinvent struggling businesses, the courage to fight injustice in the streets and the courtroom, and the political wisdom to recognize that real patriotism has nothing to do with heartless nationalism, will flourish. But unlike COVID-19, which one day will be defeated by science, when it comes to the ethical precepts I've highlighted, the opposite proves true: reason, logic and the quest for truth - the very essence of what it means to be a lawyer, journalist, scientist or successful entrepreneur - remain our best chance for preserving human decency against all enemies foreign and domestic. Deep down, that's what this new practice group is all about. Obviously, not all regulation is misguided or misapplied. But when it is - and especially when it's unfairly used to single out an ethnicity or nation - we're ready to perform the duty of "Global Enforcement" - Ensuring that "equal justice under law" never becomes just another phrase etched in stone (and doesn't have a disclaimer attached reading "for native-born Americans only").

Enough rambling...Some quick thoughts (not predictions) on what to be watching in the hours, days, weeks and months ahead:

If anyone is still reading (or has wisely skipped ahead), I salute you and thank you in joining me on this first step toward increasing my own level of engagement and living up to those ideals of global citizenship I addressed at the opening. Future "chapters" will generally be MUCH shorter and more closely tailored to the news cycle, important legal developments and specific groups of recipients.

Until then, I wish everyone health, peace and prosperity. (Also, I absolutely invite feedback and questions about legal issues or anything else - My contact information and personal bio are available below and at one of the links that opened this article.)

Kind regards, James Berger Global Enforcement Partner


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