Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - April 2020


(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


Recruitment in Hong Kong continues to be slow. Whilst most firms are putting associate recruitment efforts on hold given COVID-19 workflow disruptions, some firms are taking the opportunity to interview strong associate candidates. Remarkably, there is substantive interest from associates to move forward with hiring processes despite, and in some case because of, market uncertainty. Most interviews are occurring by phone or video conference, though some firms are returning to face-to-face interviews.

We are seeing hiring activity in the disputes space—especially around construction, insolvency and restructuring—and general commercial litigation. Also, most law firms continue to ask their associates to work from home, though some firms have their teams back in the office.*

*accurate as of 21 April 2020


Many law firm lawyers in Beijing and Shanghai have resumed working in the office. On the recruitment front, hiring processes are slow and steady as can be expected. At some firms, hiring will take longer than usual—especially at the final stages of the process, which typically include receiving final approvals from overseas headquarters that presently are not prioritising hiring generally.

Encouragingly, job opportunities can be found in the banking and M&A practice areas where bilingual and dual-qualified lawyers are highly sought after.

Wuhan, the city in China where the COVID-19 case outbreak was first reported, reopened on 8 April 2020 for outbound traveling. Also, following the sharp decline in the number of new cases in Wuhan, the authorities have eased traveling restrictions to revive the manufacturing and retail sectors.*

*accurate as of 21 April 2020


As Singapore set in place circuit breaker measures in the second week of April to regain control of the COVID-19 situation, more of our international firm clients have been cautious in their associate hiring processes. The effect on global markets has clearly affected hiring in the region, although there is cautious optimism about current work and the future. Disputes and advisory practices are busy, and finance practices are helping clients with restructuring deals.

For many Singapore law firms, it is business as usual with a bit more time spent at home, while our international clients with well-established regional practices are seeing some green shoots coming from regional offices. Having said that, there may still be some months until we see significant levels of associate hiring.

The last month has seen partner moves in tech, finance and corporate—with most processes having started before the pandemic took control. However, these moves do show positive long-term thinking in this market.

As the market thaws, we will see pent up demand in finance, funds, tech and corporate/projects—with a preference to hire those already based in Singapore.


Recruitment remains somewhat slow in Seoul due to the COVID-19 situation. Recent market developments tie into firms’ long-term strategies that were underway prior to the crisis. These developments include a lateral partner move between two international law firms in Seoul and the launch of an international law firm’s combination with a Korean law firm.


Since the Japanese government declared a month-long state of emergency on 7 April in response to the coronavirus pandemic, many firms started implementing work-from-home policies to accommodate social distancing measures. While COVID-19 remains a developing situation, firms are focused on responding to clients’ needs while companies are tackling their legal risks and business continuity matters caused by COVID-19. Given the uncertainty, recruiting efforts have been put on hold with a few exceptions.


Recruitment activity has slowed significantly in the last three weeks since firms across Australia moved to working remotely. Many firms across the country have put firm-wide recruitment freezes in place, while others have only partially put recruitment on hold, still seeking to fill specific openings that are strategically important. Firms are in a “watch and see” state as they assess what practice areas will continue to be busy while analysing utilisation rates across practice groups.

With the health crisis remaining fluid in Australia, we expect the recruitment landscape to change, possibly on a week-by-week basis. In the upcoming weeks, as firms begin to regain market clarity, we expect to see demand pick up for talent in certain practice areas. As of now, we believe these to include employment, commercial litigation, regulatory investigations, restructuring & insolvency, equity capital markets, funds, and insurance.

Partner Moves

Partner Practice To From Location
Ke Jiang Compliance King & Wood Mallesons Amazon Web Service Beijing
Frank Wu Customs and International Trade Dentons PwC Shanghai
Yingzhi Shan Securities King & Wood Mallesons Commerce & Finance Law Office Shanghai
Mark Cooper Mergers and Acquisitions Latham & Watkins Hogan Lovells Singapore
Sheena Jacob Intellectual Property CMS Holborn Asia JurisAsia Singapore
Danny Tan Investment Funds Ashurst  Allen & Gledhill Singapore
Toshihiko Tsuchiya Real Estate Investment Withers  Orrick Tokyo
Satoko Kuwabara M&A Gaien Partners Mori Hamada & Matsumoto Tokyo
Shin Kikuchi M&A Gaien Partners Mori Hamada & Matsumoto Tokyo
Hisafumi Sato M&A Gaien Partners Mori Hamada & Matsumoto Tokyo
Junichi Tobimatsu M&A Gaien Partners Mori Hamada & Matsumoto Tokyo
Dongho Lee Mergers and Acquisitions White & Case  Herbert Smith Freehills (Managing Partner) Seoul
Kon Tsiakis Restructuring Dentons  DLA Piper Melbourne
Charmaine Tsang Workplace Relations Holman Fenwick Willan Lavan Perth


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