Alumnus Profile: Mr Zili Shao

Going with the flow

Corporate lawyer Zili Shao (LLM 1994) heads the Chinese operations at JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Second largest US bank by assets.

Mr Zili Shao
Mr Zili Shao
Mr Zili Shao, who is based in Hong Kong, specialises in People's Republic of China (PRC) mergers, acquisitions and corporate restructuring.

It is a high-profile and high-powered field, yet the quietly spoken and determined Melbourne alumnus sees it all as accidental.

"I've never really chosen my career path," Zili explained.

"I've always just gone with the flow."

That Zili became a lawyer in the first place was similarly unplanned.

After China's Cultural Revolution he began a broad education at university in Beijing. From a legal

scholarship perspective, he describes it as a rather primitive education, and he had no prior passion or particular interest in studying law.

"The focus of the legal study there was really on history and legal theory, not the actual law, because there were no laws, as such, in China," Zili explains.

"Hardly any laws existed in China before the Cultural Revolution as the country was ruled by one man, so you didn't really study the law as you would in a Western country."

In 1986 Zili travelled to Australia as an exchange student. By this stage he had completed his "law" studies in China. Initially, he enrolled as a Master of Laws student at the University of Melbourne. He started some of the course but then decided it would be a more prudent move to set about getting the right qualifications to practise law in Australia. This meant that he had to take undergraduate law studies, and so began his journey as a law student at the University of Melbourne in the late 1980s.

"The first year was extremely difficult because of the language barrier," said Zili.

But Zili persisted, completed the Bachelor of Laws course and in doing so became one of the first Chinese lawyers qualified in Australia.

"I had such a great time hereā€¦ In fact, I would say it was one of the happiest times of my life."

As soon as he completed his undergraduate degree he then set about completing the original Masters degree he had started.

His favourite subjects at Melbourne were Constitutional Law and Administrative Law.

"After these two subjects, I could read a newspaper and understand what was really happening," says Zili.

"These subjects opened up my world to understanding Western law and politics."

At the end of his Australian education journey, a new world opened up for Zili. Since then he has developed an intense and impressive corporate career.

Zili is currently the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Chinese Operations at JPMorgan Chase & Co. He had previously served as Managing Partner of Asia at Linklaters. He serves as an Attorney in the PRC; Barrister and Solicitor in Victoria and New South Wales, Australia; Solicitor of the High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales.

Zili has also served as Partner of Allen & Helmsley Hong Kong and Sydney; Solicitor of Mallesons Stephen Jaques, Melbourne; and Attorney at Law, C&C Law Office Beijing.

Image: Mr Zili Zhao

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 4, November 2010.