Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - September 2021


(As excerpted from our monthly Associate Newsletter - Asia Pacific)

Associate Newsletter – Asia Pacific is a monthly resource that reports current legal market news, trends, partner moves and active opportunities in the Asia Pacific legal markets.
Legal Market Summary


The Hong Kong legal recruitment market has remained active over the past month. Whilst some of the newly open positions are replacement roles, it is encouraging to note that most are growth positions.

Firms are hiring across the junior to senior levels, primarily in the TMT, M&A, IPO and finances practices with most positions requiring Chinese language skills. Some firms continue to remain open to relocating the right candidate to Hong Kong.


Recruitment activity continues to remain steady in Beijing and Shanghai. We are having conversations with multiple law firms that report hiring plans stemming from replacement opportunities.

Our team reports an increasing number of inquiries from Chinese lawyers presently working in the U.S. who are looking to relocate back to Asia, especially to Beijing and Shanghai. These lawyers with overseas experience – particularly those with capital markets, litigation and M&A experience – remain highly desirable. Holding PRC citizenship continues to be a critical decision-making factor for firms due to the ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions and the long delays attending visa applications.


Although COVID-19 (and the associated restrictions) remain at the forefront of everyday life in Singapore, and while cases continue to rise, the Singapore government is using nuanced strategies to ensure the ‘new normal’ can continue to exist and move forward here.

Activity levels in Singapore have continued to grow in the last few months and all of our international clients are keen to hire strong legal talent. This is the result of pent up demand to get deals done along with simultaneous ‘COVID attrition,’ which results in the current mix of both growth and replacement hiring in the associate ranks. Moreover, we are witnessing some major partner moves – such as Latham & Watkins hiring from Shearman, Freshfields and Kirkland (HK) – which will create demand in both the firms the partners have departed and the firms that they are joining.

The corporate and energy sectors seem particularly busy with clear demand for high-quality M&A and PE talent as well as associates with strong project and project finance skills and experience. As ever, strong academics and practical experience within top firms are important, and most of our clients remain open to seeing high-quality lawyers from outside of Singapore in addition to strong locally based associates.

SINGAPORE - Interim Legal

As we enter Q4, we are experiencing a high volume of clients looking for contract staff in Singapore. The motivations for hiring interim staff range from parental leave coverage, end of year business spikes, bank IBOR projects and bridging staffing gaps following the resignation of permanent staff.

We are actively recruiting legal professionals in Singapore who are open to short-term, mid-term and long-term contracts with MNC clients. We also are open to candidates from private practice with no in-house experience. Please reach out for a confidential discussion.  


Law firms are operating mostly business as usual in Korea although international business travel remains difficult. There are currently limited hiring opportunities at major international and Korean law firms for highly qualified bilingual associates as well as open in-house positions. For associates, three or more years of prior US experience is particularly helpful. Litigation associate hiring has been more active than corporate in recent days.


With Tokyo under yet another state of emergency, most lawyers are still working principally from home. Nonetheless, many firms are getting busier, and there are quite a few associate-level recruiting efforts underway for capital markets and M&A associates. Firms are finding it difficult to fill new positions given the inability to get visas for lawyers currently working outside of Japan. Strong language skills and credentials are a must. The in-house sector also continues to be very active with lots of great roles open for bilingual lawyers with five-plus years of experience.


During August and September, firms – particularly those in Sydney – have continued to show a significant appetite for lateral recruiting across a wide range of practice areas. The market continues to be a heavily candidate-driven.

Corporate/M&A practices have the greatest demand to hire, followed closely by banking and finance. Financial services and regulatory lawyers, as well as litigators with experience in defense of class actions and regulatory investigations, are also in demand by many of the top-tier and large global law firms.

Regarding the Australian border, the State of NSW is on track to hit an 80% vaccination rate in its adult population, which may spur the reopening of Sydney airport to international travel closer to the new year. With this news, Sydney-based law firms are hoping to soon be able to consider foreign-qualified lawyers for a wide range of openings.

Partner Moves






Karen Cheung


Holman Fenwick Willan

Li & Partners

Hong Kong

Tom Pugh

Liquidations and Restructuring


Mayer Brown

Hong Kong

Michael Chik

Litigation and International Arbitration


Bird & Bird

Hong Kong

Karun Cariappa

Corporate and Commercial

Khaitan & Co.

Morgan Lewis Stamford


Benedict Eoon

Dispute Resolution

Oon & Bazul

Covenant Chambers

(Associate Director)


Nicola Yeomans

Mergers and Acquisitions

King & Wood Mallesons

Herbert Smith Freehills


Alfred Chia


McDermott Will & Emery

Squire Patton Boggs


Edward Bennett


K&L Gates

Morgan Lewis Stamford


Ivan Chia


Squire Patton Boggs



Hazel Brewers


Squire Patton Boggs



Julie Cheeseman

Dispute Resolution

Bird & Bird

Ashurst (Special Counsel)



Partner moves are obtained from both public sources and Major, Lindsey & Africa market intelligence. The list is not intended to represent Major, Lindsey & Africa as the consultancy involved in the moves, although some moves may have been brokered by Major, Lindsey & Africa.


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