Effie Vasilopoulos is a member of Sidley’s Executive Committee and a co-leader of the global Investment Funds practice area. Effie is based in Hong Kong and recognized as a leading authority in the funds area in Asia, having been involved in a number of groundbreaking deals in the Asia region over the last few years.
“[My work on the Limited Partnership Fund Ordinance was] a unique opportunity to write an entire body of new law that could establish a new industry…and bring an estimated 20,000 new jobs to Hong Kong.”
What attracted you to the practice of law and what aspect of your practice do you enjoy the most?
We had a tax accountant back in the day that liked to help prepare our family’s tax returns at our dining room table with my father; they were good friends. Our accountant spent most of any session lamenting the fact that he hadn’t become a lawyer, mainly based on a direct comparison to his best friend from university who had become a lawyer. He described his best friend’s life spent doing interesting work, traveling the globe, and playing this outsized role in important causes. I was about 10 years old at the time, and it inspired something. It’s also possible that my father egged on his friend behind the scenes—he denies it.
Nowadays, I am based in the firm’s Hong Kong office, and I assist fund managers to establish new investment funds and fund management operations in Asia and other regions of the world. It is an interesting, multi-faceted practice that allows me to build close relationships with clients who are also friends – and to indulge my love of travel – while doing valuable and challenging work with people that I care about. The fact that our clients are rich in diversity coming from many different cultures and walks of life around the world has changed my perspective in all kinds of positive ways.
Tell us about a professional goal you are proud of achieving, and what (or who) inspired you to go for it.
In 1997, I was a young partner in an Australian law firm based in Sydney. It was always the professional dream to practice in a major international financial center and travel the world working on interesting transactions for interesting clients. At the time, it was a very big change on every level to leave my island home (with two babies in tow) to start a new job at a new firm in a new country that I had travelled to only once before, while also setting up a new home at the same time. Taking this dramatic leap of faith out of my comfort zone made everything else that followed possible.
When I had the opportunity to join Sidley in Hong Kong, my best friend at university inspired me to go for it. She was from Hong Kong and described it as a magical, mysterious place that would be the adventure of a lifetime. She is still my best friend, we still like to travel to new places together with our families—and the adventure is still evolving.
What is the most memorable deal you led and what made it so memorable?
Several years ago, I was approached by the Hong Kong Government with a very ambitious agenda to develop a new law that would create a domestic private investment fund industry. Hong Kong is an international financial center that relies on financial services to drive the economy, so this was considered an important, high-stakes, and high-profile project. It would provide the foundation and framework for an area of law that would directly affect the private equity, venture capital, real estate, infrastructure, credit and hedge fund segments of the market. It was also a unique opportunity to write an entire body of new law that could establish a new industry where one had not previously existed and to bring an estimated 20,000 new jobs to Hong Kong.
The last law that had been framed in this area was in 1912, so the new law was intended to provide a historic impetus and represent a sea change in how private funds could be structured in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Government previously had attempted to introduce a similar law, but there had been no real uptake or engagement by industry so the attempt came off as an embarrassing misstep. It was made clear to all concerned that a similar outcome this time around would end careers for those involved.
Following a multi-year commission, the new law was enacted on 31 August 2020 as the Limited Partnership Fund Ordinance (Cap 637), and over 100 new funds have been registered under the scheme in the past few months alone. I am thrilled that the Government and industry were happy with the result and that we helped to create so many new jobs and opportunities for others (and were able to keep our jobs)! Giving back to the communities that we work and have prospered in is extremely important on many levels. Being able to do so with a Sidley team that I trust and have such enormous faith in has been the most memorable career highlight to date.
On a personal note, what has been your go-to self-care activity in this remote work environment?
Baking with the family. Regardless of outcome, it makes for a great bonding experience.
Can you share with us a saying or quote that gives you inspiration or helps you stay centered?
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Winston Churchill. The right thought for the COVID year that was, and one I hope none of us ever have to see again.