In 2003, the staff at the American Lawyer magazine led the difficult task of compiling their annual "45 Under 45" list, naming the 45 highest-performing members of the private bar who had yet to fête their 46th. The American Lawyer contacted legal luminaries, firms included in the Am Law 200, and scoured office rolodexes, Web sites, and news clippings. Among the pile of clippings were commendations for Chun Wei, an attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell, who in recent years had won the firm countless accolades, including Asia's Equity Capital Markets Law Firm of the Year and M&A Law Firm of the Year. For her work as lead lawyer on the largest IPO in Chinese history, she had garnered the aforementioned magazine's 2000 Dealmaker of the Year Award. Chun Wei has now added the "45 Under 45" award to her growing list of accomplishments since joining Sullivan & Cromwell in 1989.
Ms. Wei grew up outside Shanghai in the city of Nanjing and earned her LL.B. at Beijing University, where she later taught on foreign direct investment and public international law. On a grant from the Ford Foundation, she arrived at the Law School in 1983. She joined New York City-based Sullivan & Cromwell's foreign-lawyers program in 1985, transferring to the firm's Hong Kong office after eight years. "I was impressed with the economic reform policies of the Chinese government and thought that international lawyers might have a role in the process of China opening its door to foreign investment," Ms. Wei explained to the American Lawyer. Ms. Wei now serves as managing partner in the Beijing office she helped open in 1999.
In her role as lead lawyer in the $5.65 billion IPO of telecommunications company China Unicom Limited, she demonstrated her incredible ability to adapt throughout the transaction. At the time, completion of construction on the firm's new Beijing office was still more than six months away. From a luxury Beijing hotel, Ms. Wei, who had counseled non-U.S. entities and their financial advisers on joint ventures and other corporate and financial matters, found herself instructing her colleagues on how to delicately "unwind" 40 of Unicom's China-China-Foreign contracts (CCFs) without hampering the preparation of the public offering. Five months into the deal, the Chinese government had ruled that CCFs, arrangements that allowed for indirect foreign investment in Chinese telecommunications ventures, were in violation of the law.
Ms. Wei continues to manage some of China's most significant privatization deals, securities offerings, and acquisitions, as well as the rewarding work of raising two sons with her husband. She has published a number of articles in her field.