Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - December 2019


(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


Associate recruitment remains steady in December in Hong Kong. Given the holiday seasons and partners being away, the recruitment process has slowed down however. A few firms are still busy as they try and close deals before the yearend. Most hiring arose in the mid-level to senior level.


As we approach the holiday season, we are still seeing the main focus of hiring in China being FCPA and banking. Most of this hiring arose on a replacement basis. The PRC firms are also actively growing both in the Mainland and Hong Kong, recruiting significant teams and partners in the market with a view to growth.


With the announcement from the Singapore government on civil servants’ bonus, candidates have raised their concerns about the Singapore economy. Some candidates take that as a negative indication on how the economy will be for the next year in Singapore. However, it does not seem to be a reflection on hiring among international law firms in Singapore. Most of the law firms are still recruiting for candidates. Opportunities are available as both growth and replacement needs. We have seen hiring arise in M&A, banking and capital markets teams.


Seoul remains a steady market at present. Corporate is still the preferred area to hire into, with a couple of firms speculatively open to hiring talent. Local law firms are being more active in recruitment following senior hires.


While some Japanese companies are opting to slow down M&A activities, in part due to increasing geopolitical concerns, Japanese outbound investment remains a priority. There has been a continuous appetite for M&A lawyers. Experienced Japanese-qualified lawyers with strong academic backgrounds and solid training from top firms and bilingual US-qualified lawyers with 2-3 years’ PQE+ experience are highly sought after in the market.


Recruitment across the private practice market will quite down over the holiday break when law firms close until early January. With many law firm key decision-makers taking leave over the summer school holidays, we expect the usual slow January before things pick up again in February.

In the last month, we have seen global and national law firms continue to show strong demand for commercial litigators to handle financial and banking sector regulatory disputes as well as class action defense matters. There has been an uptick in demand for antitrust/competition lawyers by the larger firms in the market while demand has remained steady for lawyers with 2–8 years’ PQE across corporate/M&A, banking and finance, infrastructure and construction (both front end and contentious) and technology/TMT.

Although firms continue to be open to sponsoring foreign (mostly commonwealth) qualified lawyers with top-tier experience, demand has slowed with the focus being put on those with Australian experience.

Partner Moves

Partner Practice To From Location
Matthew Wong Corporate Finance HFW  Locke Lord Hong Kong
Wendy Wysong Investigations and Compliance Steptoe & Johnson Clifford Chance Hong Kong
Ali Burney Investigations and Compliance Steptoe & Johnson Clifford Chance Hong Kong
Dongmei Wang Litigation and Arbitration Zhong Lun Law Firm Tiantai Law Firm Beijing
Shanshan Xu WTO/International Trade, Litigation and Arbitration Zhong Lun Law Firm Hiways Law Firm Shanghai
Yan Bo Real Estate Haiwen & Partners Allen & Overy Shanghai
James Noble Litigation Carey Olsen Harneys Singapore
Andrew Payne M&A Linklaters DLA Piper Singapore
Barry Stimpson Commodities and Shipping Squire Patton Boggs  Reed Smith Singapore
Jessica Kenworthy Commodities and Shipping Squire Patton Boggs  Reed Smith Singapore
Eiji Kobayashi Corporate Greenberg Traurig Paul Hastings Tokyo
Nozomi Oda  Corporate Morrison & Foerster Latham & Watkins Tokyo
Won Sun Jung M&A White & Case  In-house advisory role Seoul


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