Competition for the best legal jobs continues to intensify in China as corporate expand their boundaries globally and business becomes more sophisticated. For young lawyer, the prospect of working in the fast-moving Chinese market – whether in-house or in one of the many growing firms across the country – remains a tantalizing one. The world’s second largest economy is certainly rife with opportunities.
Despite China’s slower GDP growth last year, the number of legal professionals has grown steadily. Statistics from the Chinese Ministry of Justice shows that there are more than 300,000 registered lawyers in China, marking a 9.5 percent growth from last year. With more local lawyers and hires from abroad entering the legal sector in China, what do the prospects look like for future legal eagles?
The overall job market in China looks promising in 2017. A survey by global recruiters Michael Page of nearly 1,000 employers across different industries found that 55 percent of domestic firms are set to recruit this year, with 41 percent of multinational corporations also looking to expand their talent pool. Key sectors set to hire aggressively include financial technology, renewable energy, financial payment processing, digital media and consumer electronics.
And there are a lot of firms with capital to bring in new people on board. Chinese tech companies alone have raised a record $56.1 billion in disclosed investments in 2016, according to the Tech in Asia database. This marks an impressive increase of $11 billion from the previous year. The Asset Management Association of China also reports that venture capital funds in China have more than doubled to 1,216 in October 2016 from just 552 at the start of 2015.
All this business activity naturally drives a need for lawyers, both in house at firms and external counsel at firms. Nathan Peart, a consultant at legal recruiters Major, Lindsey & Africa, believes that all markets in Mainland China are looking good for legal professionals, particularly in the finance and corporate sectors.
“Those fields (finance and corporate) have always been quite busy and steady. We’ve seen a rapid increase in the financial sector for legal work and believe that the corporate side will remain steady for the coming year,” he said.
With the increasing number of qualified lawyers on the job market, requirements for positions have also become more stringent. For most employers, Peart remarks that “quality experience is probably the biggest issue. They want people that come with good training, background and a strong brand. Also, a lot of people have Master of Laws (LL.M) in China and that is becoming an increasingly competitive space. So, candidates with Juris Doctor degrees (J.D.) are definitely valued and highly looked upon.