Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - November 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


The Hong Kong Government has reintroduced stricter social distancing rules due to the outbreak of the fourth wave of the coronavirus. Despite these new measures, legal recruitment activity in Hong Kong has remained active in the last month after relative quiet in prior months.

There continues to be more recruiting activity at US firms compared to UK firms with most openings representing replacement positions. The FCPA, finance and capital markets practices are experiencing the greatest demand. Most open positions are at the mid-level to senior level. Also, whilst M&A teams report being very busy, recruiting in those teams is not, but we believe hiring will pick in the new year with that activity—as well as activity in other practices—spurred by the resolution of the US election.

Despite firms increasing their collective hiring processes, they are still moving slower than “normal,” and it is generally taking 2 to 4 months from the first interview for an associate to secure an offer. 


Recruitment activity remained steady in Beijing and Shanghai in November. Most hiring has been within the corporate and FCPA spaces. Senior-level associates with at least five years of experience are most in demand with many firms seeming to have a strong desire to hire PRC citizens as COVID-19–related travel restrictions and visa application delays have made hiring foreign lawyers more complicated.


Law firm hiring remained steady in Singapore over the last month. Law firms are expressing more confidence in local hiring, although most decisions are still controlled by their global management teams. It is, however, moving in the right direction and we expect to see more recruitment efforts within the market. There are a few new openings within the capital markets, M&A and finance spaces. Instead of hiring a permanent lawyer, a few firms have hired lawyers under a 3 to 6 months contract. We have increasingly seen more law firms in Singapore taking this approach for strategic hires. 

SINGAPORE - Interim Legal

The demand for contract lawyers in corporate legal departments and law firms is rising as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created new areas of legal work. There is an unmistakable uptick in interim legal talent. The areas representing a strong need for contract lawyers are healthcare, financial services, insurance, technology, fintech and food suppliers. Privacy and data security contract lawyers are also in high demand. Clients are looking for support ranging from 3 months to 12 months in duration.


Despite ongoing COVID-19 concerns and precautions, law firms appear to be operating mostly business as usual in Korea. Recruitment remains slow, but there are some limited opportunities at international law firms for highly qualified bilingual corporate and litigation associates. 


While most lawyers are partially back in the office on an optional basis in Tokyo, there are still concerns about a resurgence of COVID-19 cases this winter. Given the continuing uncertainty, many associate recruiting efforts remain on hold, but we are seeing some key hiring processes moving forward, particularly at the partner level. There have been three notable lateral partner moves between international law firms announced just in the last month, which is quite a lot for this relatively stable market. The in-house sector continues to be quite active, so it is a good time for lawyers looking to move in-house.


COVID-19 cases remain low across Australia with market confidence being reflected in the high number of new openings this past month across specialist, mid-tier, global and top-tier firms in Australia. Although we are not yet seeing the number of vacancies we saw at this time last year, the market seems to be moving in the right direction.

The greatest areas of demand are across corporate/M&A followed by litigation/dispute practices with firms reporting a resurgence in corporate deal flow and class action defense cases in the courts. We are also seeing increasing demand for Tech/TMT, real estate and infrastructure lawyers.

A lingering impediment in the Australian legal market is the inability of law firms to sponsor non-Australian (foreign) lawyers. With Australia’s border remaining closed, foreign nationals and foreign-qualified lawyers must wait until travel bans are eased before Australian-based law firms can consider their applications.


Partner Moves






Jonathan Chapman



King & Wood Mallesons (Counsel)

Hong Kong

Voon Keat Lai


M.B. Kemp

Stephenson Harwood

Hong Kong

Zhang Hong



Clifford Chance


Paul JP Teo

International Arbitration

Mayer Brown

Baker McKenzie, Hong Kong


Mike Chiam

Commercial and Corporate Advisory

Peter Doraisamy



Kyle Gabriel Peters

Commercial and Corporate Litigation

Peter Doraisamy

K&L Gates Straits Law


Bree Miechel



Reed Smith


Sarah Fregon


Lander & Rogers

Deloitte Legal


Kaede Toh

White Collar Defense and Investigations

Latham & Watkins

Ropes & Gray


George Borovas

Nuclear Energy

Hunton Andrews Kurth

Shearman & Sterling


Jeremy White


Morrison & Foerster

Baker McKenzie


Seung-Kook Synn


Yoon & Yang

SK Group (General Counsel)


Sung Uk Park


Yoon & Yang

Kim & Chang





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