Lucille Barale, law partner Lucille Barale, partner at international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and former head of the American Chamber of Commerce, has lived in Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei, Frankfurt, Washington, Chicago and Hawaii. Having studied Chinese in the US in the 1960s, when visiting the mainland was not an option, then having lived in Beijing through the Tiananmen Square crackdown, she says the rule of law, institutional integrity and a relatively graft-free regime are more than stock phrases to be used when lauding Hong Kong's competitiveness. When did you leave the US and where have you lived since? I came to Hong Kong in 1980 as a lawyer. I moved to Beijing in 1983 and spent the rest of the 1980s there. I moved to Frankfurt in 1993 and back to Hong Kong in 1996. What do you think are Hong Kong's key strengths, making it an attractive place to work and do business? With a number of mainland cities shaping up, what reason do businesses have to remain in Hong Kong? I think the rule of law and institutional integrity, and an anti-corruption regime are terribly important to Hong Kong. The mainland has a huge market that is very attractive to foreign companies. With the rewards of a large market, companies may be willing to take huge risks. Hong Kong does not have that. It has a small market and is not relatively low-cost. What Hong Kong does have is institutional integrity, a relatively corruption-free environment, strong rule of law and a reliable judicial system. When you look at these attributes, you see why Hong Kong is such a strong centre for financial services. On a day-to-day, practical level, how do these attributes - the rule of law, institutional integrity - affect your experience of living in a particular city? Which has been your favourite city to live in and why? I'm a speaker of Mandarin and I love the way the language is spoken in Beijing. I'm still close to Beijing. Hong Kong is a user-friendly place to live in many ways. We are enjoying high-quality police, a well-run bureaucracy, a relatively low crime rate. Hong Kong is also an international city - there is a lot of diversity in the community. On the mainland, expats have to work harder to be a part of the Chinese community. Regulation of foreign lawyers is complicated in Hong Kong, but it is a stable, well-developed, regime. When you come here and begin work, you know the rules won't change on you. Chinese laws and regulations are not always written in a way that makes them clear, but depend on how ministry officials read them - the rule of law has personal interpretations. What can we do to remain competitive and attractive as the rule of law begins to gain importance on the mainland? I think it is very important to take care of the things we have - a quality judiciary, freedom of the press - you can't take it all for granted. It is very important to be vigilant and supportive of the ICAC. It has been instrumental in helping Hong Kong become the place it is to do business. If there is one area in which we could do more, it is education. We need top skills in languages and problem-solving in our students to keep Hong Kong's competitive edge.