History Shows That We Will Rebound

As Singapore moved to a circuit breaker lockdown last week like much of the rest of the world, it’s time to reflect on the silver linings in this crisis and how this will play out.

Having been in legal recruitment in Asia for over 20 years, this is the third crisis of this nature that I’ve seen with SARS in 2003 and the Global Financial Crisis in 2008/2009. And while this does feel broader, I’m relying on my experience with the other two situations to know that this will pass, and the world will return to some form of normalcy in time.

When normalcy returns, there will be a significant rebound due to the pent-up demands in the system.

After SARS, 2004 was a great year for Singapore and the beginning of a sustained period of strong growth for the region until the Lehman crisis in September 2008. And although the financial world was a very different place for the next decade, there has been sustained growth since that time with many of our clients having record years.

Please don’t misunderstand my message — this is a serious situation and it is affecting our business, but there are green shoots and the market remains positive about the future and its opportunities.

My excellent global colleagues constantly send us information collated from all key legal markets — US, EMEA, APAC — and it is clear that there is an enormous amount of cautious optimism. Many of the firms we work with have well-organised businesses and are displaying a sensible, conservative approach currently. And there is an expectation due to anticipated legal demand that the Asia region likely will rebound before the western markets as we saw in 2009. 

Today’s business world is better prepared for a lockdown than it has ever been with the variety of various technologies and meeting apps that facilitate remote working.

In some Asian markets, we are already seeing some thawing of activity, despite the Singapore lockdown and the sheltering in place pronouncements of other jurisdictions. Our clients with significant weight in Asia are beginning to see requests for proposals again from around the region, and while all the Singapore law firms continue to work-from-home, for many, it feels like business as usual.

In the infrastructure and resources sector, our clients maintain a long-term view due to the nature of the projects that are under way. And we will certainly see further growth in ‘counter-cyclical’ practices — Southeast Asia has a burgeoning restructuring and insolvency scene, which will only grow, and the commercial disputes sector is also set for significant activity.

As the market eases here, we also will see a growth in the tech and funds sectors and a return to normalcy elsewhere.

With an emerging and hopefully sustainable sense of positivity coupled with local resilience at this time of adversity, there is a consensus that this crisis will pass with new opportunities on the horizon. While still in the midst of the crisis, one needs to show empathy for the people who work with or for you and remain the genuine business partner who is adding value. Also, do the basics well; clients will remember that.


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