Sidley Associate Writes Tell-All About Legal Life in the Forbidden City

china high.jpgIf you like the fast life, look out for opportunities in your firm’s offices abroad. Judging from the Russian tales of Deidre Dare and the new memoir, China High, by the pseudonymous “ZZ,” life in Biglaw’s foreign offices is full of drugs, sex, and nonstop clubbing.
Of course, these two are no longer with their firms, Dare fired from Allen & Overy and ZZ no longer on the payroll at Sidley Austin. Which leads us to suggest that you not serialize your wild adventures — Dare’s downfall — or get caught running food delivery business or smoking opium-laced hashish in public — ZZ’s sins.
Now ZZ is pursuing a new career: writing. He has spun his adventures and misadventures into a memoir, called China High. From Bloomberg:

The seat of China’s age-old civilization is as seamy on the inside as it looks imposing from the outside, judging from “China High,” a memoir scribbled under the nom de plume ZZ by a Shanghai-born, U.S.-trained lawyer in his 20s.
Written before the global credit meltdown, “China High” lifts a curtain on a side of Beijing seldom seen by tourists. ZZ captures the nocturnal buzz of a city where rave parties in derelict factories are a staple and orgies have become a rite of passage. Then there’s the pot, which locals call the Big Numb….
A Chinese national, ZZ graduated from Brandeis University and Boston College Law School, says his publisher, St. Martin’s Press. Then he went to Hong Kong in late 2000 to work for Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP (now Sidley Austin LLP) and transferred to its Beijing office in late 2001.

That bio is detailed enough that we don’t imagine ZZ is going to stay anonymous for long.
Those who have been to Beijing know that it is super cheap. Anyone living there with a $250,000 salary gets to live like a king. A sex-having, drug-doing, dumpling-eating king. More on ZZ’s indulgences and “flings with models, Mrs. Robinsons, kept women and what he delicately terms ‘local girls with jungle fever’,” after the jump.

According to the Far Eastern Review, Sidley fired ZZ for running a food delivery business on the side. That doesn’t make complete sense to us, but we haven’t read the book. According to the Review, ZZ went on to act as a free-lance lawyer, and continued to find trouble:

[The] licensed lawyer [is] willing to write candidly (albeit anonymously) about purchasing hookers and dope, interrogations with Chinese police, illegal motorcycle importation, his contempt for the common man, faking an entire legal office, starring in a TV racing documentary, and his washboard abs. That he comes off, in the end, as reasonably likeable is perhaps the greatest miracle of all–unless, again, you’re counting the fact that the book is good.

The reviews do indicate that the book is good. We read a few pages thanks to Amazon and found them a bit dry. He uses the expression, “for Mao’s sake,” which struck us as not funny enough to justify its clunkiness.
But the rapidly transforming China is like the Wild West for adventurous entrepreneurs. And sprinkled in among tales of the sex and drugs are worthwhile insights into the workings of modern China, says Bloomberg:

ZZ offers tips on how to navigate Beijing, right down to what the worst swear words mean and how to use them to best effect. He exposes the hidden high costs of doing business in labor-rich China by describing his struggle to start a food- delivery company staffed by locals with little English and no inkling of quality service.
He also challenges the assertion that the key to getting anything done in China is “guanxi,” or connections. In prison, guanxi got him little more than a few extra dumplings, he says.
What does work wonders is being a foreigner, he says, rightly observing how the Chinese, long cut off from the world, now revere all things from abroad. An expatriate, he says, draws praise, envy and opportunity just for being different.

Is it just us, or does that last sentence sound like a line from a fortune cookie?
Assuming it does, we’ll do what we would do at a Chinese restaurant. ‘An expat draws praise, envy and opportunity just for being different… in bed.’ Yup, it works.
Live Fast, Die Young in Beijing on Free Sex, Strong Pot: Review [Bloomberg]
China High: My Fast Times in the 010: A Beijing Memoir [Far Eastern Economic Review]

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