Interview: Tom Tong


By: Straton Papagianneas & Lin Liu / On: December 1, 2021

Number of Words

  • Approximately 2500
kai Stachowiak, Background,

Tom Tong

Founder, Lawmato
International Partner, Locke Lord LLP

Tom Tong has been an International Partner at the international law firm Locke Lord LLP since 2011.  At Locke Lord LLP, Mr. Tong has focused on China-related transactions and dispute resolution matters.  Mr. Tong has advised Chinese buyers in their acquisition of U.S.-based companies in manufacturing, distribution, engineering, real estate, and other industries, with total transaction value in excess of USD 4 billion.  His dispute resolution practice is marked by his representation of renowned Chinese companies and individuals in U.S. lawsuits relating to breach of exclusivity, fiduciary duties, payment obligations, quality defects, non-competition, shareholder disputes, investment fraud, and other contractual and tort claims.

Mr. Tong’s close relationship with Locke Lord LLP began in 1999, when he joined the firm’s predecessor, Locke Liddell & Sapp LLP, after his completion of the JD program at Vanderbilt University School of Law.  He quickly built a strong China practice, and his experiences ultimately led him to establish The Tong Law Firm in 2006, while continuing to provide assistance to his former employer in China-related matters.  His continuous working relationship with Locke Liddell & Sapp LLP and expanded client base eventually led to his return to the firm.

Drawing from his breadth of experience in managing client relationships with companies large and small and his pro bono services to individuals locally and globally, Mr. Tong founded Lawmato in January 2021.  Developing this innovative online legal service platform, Mr. Tong is on a mission to allow individual consumers, small businesses, and even lawyers to have convenient and reliable access to experienced U.S. attorneys while enabling these attorneys to expand their own client base.

Mr. Tong received a B.A. from Shandong University, China, in 1987, an M.B.A. from Rollins College, Florida, in 1993, and a J.D. from Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, in 1999.

Mr. Tong, you began as an associate attorney back in 1999 at Locke Liddell & Sapp LLP and quickly built a practice to represent major U.S.-based companies in the negotiation of joint ventures and manufacturing contracts in China.  Fast-forwarding to today, you are an international partner at Locke Lord LLP, in which you handle matters between U.S. and Chinese parties.  According to your extensive experience, is there anything in common in disputes between U.S. and Chinese parties, even though the exact legal issues involved are different?


“[…] communication is the most significant part of lawyering, especially when it comes to cross-border legal advice because of the existence of different cultures.”


In your more than 20 years of experience acting as liaison between U.S. and Chinese firms, you must have observed different challenges in doing deals in China and in the United States.  What are they?  We are also curious to know how U.S.–China relations over the past decades have affected your role as a lawyer and in what ways you have had to adapt to the changes in U.S.–China relations.


You were raised in China and undertook your undergraduate courses there until you set out on your legal career in the United States.  Your perception of the U.S. legal system and your comparison of this system with its counterpart in China should be of great interest to our readers.  We would, therefore, like to ask you two questions.

First, “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW” are the words inscribed on the facade of the United States Supreme Court building.  Reflecting on your many years of working as a lawyer in the United States, what is your perception of access to justice in the country?

Second, what are your insights on the similarities and differences between the Chinese and U.S. legal systems?  We are particularly interested to know what role technology has played in assisting with dispute resolution.  In China, with support from the government, online dispute resolution seems to have gained traction, especially during the pandemic.  How about the United States?


In early 2021, you founded Lawmato, an online legal service platform enabling individual consumers and small businesses to have access to experienced attorneys, who, in return, can quickly expand their client base.  It seems that online legal service platforms like Lawmato can improve access to legal guidance and can help people to identify and manage legal risks before they intensify.  What role do you think online legal service platforms such as Lawmato can play in changing the legal services industry?


“Lawmato has the potential to change the legal services industry by offering a platform that connects consumers and lawyers located in different jurisdictions and that gives individuals and small businesses more control over their search for excellent and affordable legal advice […]”


Given China’s strong interest in seeing its citizens resolve their disputes by affordable and efficient means, do you think that legal service platforms such as Lawmato could take root in China or at least select cities in the country?


For the young lawyers out there who have similar backgrounds like yours, what advice do you have for them in terms of developing a legal career amidst a complicated international situation and rapid technological changes?


Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us!

The citation of this interview is: Straton Papagianneas & Lin Liu, Interview: Tom Tong, SINOTALKS.COM, SinoInsights™, Dec. 1, 2021,

The original, English version of this interview was prepared by Straton Papagianneas, Lin Liu, and Jennifer Baccanello; it was finalized by Nathan Harpainter and Dr. Mei Gechlik.  The information and views set out in this interview are the responsibility of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the work or views of SINOTALKS.COM.

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