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A Conversation with One of World's Most Formidable Trial Lawyers

Ep #45 With John B. Quinn (Quinn Emanuel Uruquhart & Sullivan)

John B. Quinn is the founder and chairman of the nearly four-decade old Los Angeles law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. The firm has been voted the world’s "most-feared law firm" ten times by independent research provider BTI Consulting, which surveyed over 300 key legal decision-makers at the world’s largest organizations. 


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In fact, in BTI’s annual survey - when respondents were asked the law firm that they least wanted to face as opposing counsel – Quinn Emanuel is consistently ranked number one as the world’s most feared litigation law firm. 

Since 1986, John and his partners have built the largest law firms in the world devoted solely to business litigation and arbitration – which The Wall Street Journal called a “global litigation powerhouse.” In that time, Quinn Emanuel has grown to 35 offices in 12 countries on four continents, with over 1100 lawyers, generating more than $2 billion in revenue annually. In recent years, the firm has recovered over $80 billion for plaintiffs. 

John also has ties to Hollywood, where, for 33 years, he served as General Counsel to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars.  An avid mountain climber, Ironman triathlete and father of five, he is also the host of the popular podcast "Law, disrupted" -

In this episode of Regulatory Ramblings, he chats with host, Ajay Shamdasani, about how he found his way into the legal profession, his representation of the Bank of China, Alibaba, AliPay, and Ant Financial – juggernauts on the mainland Chinese banking and fintech / digital payments scene – as well as his belief in Singapore's importance as a dispute resolution centre for the Asia-Pacific. He also comments on how Hong Kong stacks up against the Lion City in that regard. 
The conversation also covers the business rationale for Quinn Emanuel Urquhart’s focus on purely litigation and for not to representing the world’s largest money centre banks, notwithstanding the deep pockets for premium legal services that the world’s biggest financial institutions possess. It is an approach that has won the firm many plaudits amongst the plaintiffs’ bar writ large. 

John also shares his candid thoughts on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) concerns at a time when such considerations in corporate operations and investing are under attack – often from prominent figures in the business world. He also comments on what can be done on the level of policy and legal reform to lure more foreign direct investment to the Middle East and Asia Pacific. 

The discussion concludes with John commenting on his commitment to the arts and philanthropy and the importance of giving back to society when one attains a certain level of success – such as his longstanding service to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, opening the Museum of Broken Relationships in Los Angeles.

Podcast Discussion

The full conversation, marked with key topics/chapters on the player, spans about 48 minutes.


2:41 From Greenwich to Harvard: A Lawyer's Path

5:07 The Competitive Nature of Litigation: Balancing Aggression and Strategy

6:52 Banking and Fintech in China - Insights

8:41 Litigation as a Last Resort: The Role of ADR and Mediation

10:35 Expanding in Singapore: Strategic Growth in International Arbitration and Regional Markets

14:57 Choosing Litigation Over Representing Major Banks

20:04 Do Investors Understand ESG? Challenges and Definitions

25:38 Common Law vs. Civil Law: Perspectives on Legal Systems and Business Growth

27:46 Passion for the Arts and Giving Back

31:57 Faith in L.A.: Embracing the Lifestyle Amid Economic Challenges

34:34 The Hollywood Incident: Will Smith and Chris Rock in the Spotlight

37:15 The Intersection of Law and Life: The Importance of Broad Interests in Litigation

39:51 The Best Preparation for Becoming a Lawyer

43:01 The Importance of Verbal Skills and Writing in Legal Practice

45:45 Burnout: Recognizing When Law Isn't the Right Fit

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Regulatory Ramblings podcasts is brought to you by The University of Hong Kong - Reg/Tech Lab, HKU-SCF Fintech Academy, Asia Global Institute, and HKU-edX Professional Certificate in Fintech, with support from the HKU Faculty of Law.

Useful links in this episode:

  • Connect or follow John B. Quinn on LinkedIn

  • Visit the law firm, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan on the Web

  • Check out John B. Quinn's podcast, Law Disrupted

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Regulatory Ramblings Podcast


Welcome to Regulatory Ramblings, a new podcast from a team at The University of Hong Kong on the intersection of all things pertaining to finance, technology, law and regulation. Hosted by the HKU Reg/Tech Lab, HKU-Standard Chartered FinTech Academy and the HKU-edX Professional Certificate in FinTech, join us as we hear from luminaries across multiple fields and professions as they share their candid thoughts in a stress-free environment - rather than the soundbites one typically hears from the mainstream press.

Regulatory Ramblings is a forum for those that appreciate long-form conversation. While it is something that may be regarded as lost art of an older time, it is nonetheless sorely needed in an age when glibness and flippancy pass for analysis in conventional journalism.

Having said that, we are grateful to be able to avail ourselves of modern technological resources to bring you chats with people you are probably not going to hear from elsewhere.



Ajay Shamdasani is a veteran writer, editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. He holds an AB in history and government from Ripon College, JD and MIPCT degrees from the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce Law School, and an LLM in financial regulation from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law.

His 15-year long career as a financial and legal journalist began as deputy editor of A Plus magazine – the journal of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants. From there, he assumed the helm of Macau Business magazine as its editor-in-chief, and later, joined Asialaw magazine as its deputy editor.   More recently, he spent close to seven years as a senior correspondent with Thomson Reuters’ subscription-based trade-wire service Regulatory Intelligence/Compliance Complete (previously called Complinet) in Hong Kong. While there, he covered regulatory developments in that city, as well as Singapore, India and South Korea.

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