Getting to know the network… Buren

Date: Monday, October 22nd, 2018 by Michaela Hickson.

This week we interviewed Jan Holthuis and Li Jiao , partner and counsel  in member firm Buren, which has offices in the Netherlands and China. 


While Li Jiao (pictured above) has moved to Amsterdam for Buren, partner Jan Holthuis has travelled in the other direction and now lives in Beijing.  We found out what life is like with Buren in both cities.

  1. How did you get to this point in your career?

Li Jiao: I am a qualified Chinese attorney.  I started my career in China and moved to Amsterdam in 2009, where I have lived for a decade now.

Jan Holthuis: I qualified in Amsterdam and in England & Wales. After commuting since 1995 I moved to Beijing  full time in 2009 – although I still visit Amsterdam every 2-3 months.

  1. What is your job now?

Li Jiao: I am Head of the Litigation Practice Group for Buren in Amsterdam.

Jan Holthuis: I am Buren’s Resident Partner in China.

  1. Can you describe your firm in 50 words?

Buren’s Chinese business has four offices in two times zones (Beijing, Shanghai ,Amsterdam and The Hague).  We work regularly with agricultural, media, IT, chemical and of course insurance clients.  There are 16 of us in the whole team, so we have to work closely together to deliver for our international group of clients.

  1. How did you get involved with GILC?

Buren already knew BLM, and had partnered with them informally for a dozen years.  We have a good connection with English  law, and much common ground, so it seemed natural to join the network when it was founded. Our Chinese team has two lawyers who are solicitors in England and Wales.

  1. What do you find yourself doing in a typical day at the office?

Jan Holthuis: Each morning I see an inbox full of overnight emails from my European colleagues, and the morning is always spent catching up with these.  Lunch in China never consists of just a sandwich.  The Chinese consider lunch too important to be rushed over a desk.  We will often go out to eat, typically noodle soup or dumplings.  In the afternoon I will deal with local cases, and then when Amsterdam wakes up, there will be a new wave of responses and queries from my colleagues.  When I decide to call it a day, I can walk home, even if sometimes I have to wear a mask because of the pollution.

Li Jiao: I start work early, to take advantage of Chinese working hours, so I usually work over my breakfast, answering emails at 7am.  In Amsterdam I bicycle to the office, dropping my son at day care on the way. I generally use the morning to catch up with Chinese colleagues, before lunch – which can be Chinese or Dutch in style.  In the afternoons I will meet with Dutch clients, but I always have to escape at 6.15 to pick up my son.  In China, families look after children, so the daycare system was a shock to me when I arrived in the Netherlands.

  1. What do you see outside your office window?

Jan: Every morning I look out of my office window and check the pollution levels.  If it is high pollution, I can see nothing, while on some days I can see for miles – all the way to the mountains.  I recently spotted these window cleaners outside my office – not something you would see in Europe…

Li Jiao:   The Buren office is in Zuidas, the most expensive area in Amsterdam, so my view is a costly one!

  1. How does the practice and business of insurance law differ between your two countries?

The Dutch legal system is strictly independent of government, and separate from the judiciary.  In China, there is much more of a perception that Chinese law is the law of the government.

Chinese insurance market is still maturing and has significant room for growth. While the market, in particular the life insurance sector, is mostly dominated by the local insurers, the Chinese government is further opening the market to foreign investment with the expectation to promote the development of more sophisticated products Currently there are very few Chinese firms who focus on insurance law and a very  limited number of  Chinese attorneys who have sufficient expertise to handle complex insurance disputes, especially foreign-related cases

  1. What do you get up to when you are not at work?

Jan Holthuis: One guilty pleasure that I can indulge easily in China is watching very old European films and documentaries on DVD.  Lots of films are available that would be hard to find back home.  I recently watched Kenneth Clark’s ‘Civilisation’, and I have found all sorts of classic movies on sale in the market here.

Li Jiao: I have lived in the Netherlands for almost ten years, but we still don’t know it well.  So every weekend we pick somewhere to visit at random from the map.  We drive out there and have a drink and see what we find.  The Netherlands also has over 600 museums, and I am wondering if I will ever manage to visit all  of them.

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