Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - December 2021


(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


As we approach the end of year holidays, the lateral associate recruitment market continues at a healthy pace. As US law firms tend to their financial year end closing in December, these same firms are actively interviewing lawyers to bring onboard in the first quarter of 2022. UK law firms also are cautiously planning their 2022 recruitment. Though, to nobody’s surprise, most firms continue to employ high utilization rates across all practices, which is keeping associates very busy, especially those in the TMT and life sciences practices.

Despite the undercurrent of uncertainty, especially around limited travel across the APAC region, firms report and are exhibiting practices that suggest associate (and overall general legal) hiring will remain robust through the first half of 2022.


The end of the year sees little change for legal hiring at the associate level in Beijing and Shanghai as opportunities abound for the right candidates. Still, due to ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions, holding PRC citizenship will continue to be a threshold hiring requirement in 2022 for law firms contemplating the relocation of lawyers from overseas legal markets.

The most active practices of 2021 in mainland China were FCPA and corporate/M&A and they continue to remain strong as reflected in the demand for growth in these areas. This will not change in the foreseeable future. International firms, as a general rule, are preparing for an uptick in recruitment activities in the first quarter of 2022.


As we close the chapter on 2021, Singapore is experiencing significant levels of new and growing business activity and firms expect this to translate into strong associate hiring in the new year. With hindsight, 2021 was another busy year for our international law firm clients as reflected in the business travel of many lawyers after nearly two years of strict travel restrictions.

While there is caution about the Omicron variant, Raffles Place and MBFC are definitely livelier than they have been for a while. And the roads are busy with traffic again!

The past year has seen particularly strong demand for high-quality associates in banking and finance and M&A/PE, although there generally has been strong activity in all practice areas. In the latter half of the year, we also saw the resumption of permit approvals, so our clients are once again open to expanding their hiring reach to access high-quality associates from outside of Singapore as well as those in the local market.

As we move into 2022, it looks like the legal market will remain active across all sectors. We predict growth in the disputes space and continuing demand for strong-credentialed corporate associates across a range of disciplines – with the PE and funds sectors projected to be particularly busy next year.

As ever, strong academics and practical experience within top firms is important.

If you would like a confidential discussion about what we are seeing in Singapore, please do not hesitate to contact us.

In the meantime, we would like to take the opportunity to thank you all for your support in 2021 and to wish you all Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year!

SINGAPORE - Interim Legal

In Singapore, the end of the year sees the interim legal market experiencing a substantially higher volume of clients looking for contract legal staff than earlier in the year. The motivations for hiring interim staff range from parental leave coverage, end-of-year business spikes, bank IBOR projects and bridging staffing gaps following the resignation of permanent staff. Given strict immigration and hiring regulations, Singapore nationals often are preferred over foreign legal talent. Present staffing demand is coming from the banking, technology, FMCG, e-commerce and healthcare sectors. Candidates with SaaS and general commercial experience are in high demand. Please feel free to contact us to learn more and have a wonderful holiday! 


Despite an unfortunate recent increase in COVID cases, law firms are operating mostly business as usual in Korea. The spike in cases, however, is making international business travel more difficult due to quarantine rules. There are currently a number of mid-level corporate associate hiring opportunities at major international and Korean law firms for highly qualified bilingual associates. As litigation associate hiring was more active than corporate associate hiring in the past six months, many of those roles are now filled. With bonus season upon us, more roles may open up in both areas as we move into 2022. Increasing outbound deal flow suggests that a strong 2022 for law firms is likely.


Japan had just started issuing business visas when the arrival of the Omicron variant prompted the government to reverse course. Foreigners without visas are once again banned from entry into Japan, with a growing number of foreign jurisdictions being added to the hotel quarantine list daily. Nonetheless, law firms remain as busy as ever, with both foreign and Japanese firms looking to add to their associate ranks across several corporate practice areas. Demand for Japanese bengoshi with corporate/M&A experience is particularly acute, on both the law firm and in-house side. Remote starts may be possible for candidates already in the APAC region, but will remain difficult for those elsewhere until Japan’s immigration policy becomes clearer. Firms are capping off a strong 2021 by identifying hiring needs in a number of areas, promising a busy hiring season over the next few months for lawyers at all levels.


The war for talent within the Australian private practice legal market continues through December as law firms across the country continue to battle for lateral latent. I personally have not seen a year where demand for lawyers was so high. As reported a few months ago, the high levels of demand continue to place upward pressure on salaries, especially in the Sydney and Melbourne markets. Law firms are hopeful that the gradual re-opening of state and national borders will allow greater interstate and international movement of talent, easing recruitment pressures felt by all firms – big and small – throughout 2021.

Corporate/M&A and capital markets lawyers continue to be the main groups in demand followed closely by those working in banking and finance. Financial services and regulatory lawyers as well as litigators with experience in defense of class actions and regulatory investigations are also in demand by many of the top-tier and large global law firms. There are strong job opportunities across most practice areas, with some requiring experience as low as 1PQE up through Special Counsel level.

We expect 2022 to show many of the same characteristics as 2021, beginning with high levels of demand for lateral talent at all levels, especially across corporate and banking and finance, financial services and regulatory, and litigators. Infrastructure lawyers along with real estate and technology (TMT) lawyers also will remain in high demand. Given this strong appetite to hire, an increasing number of law firms in Australia are looking abroad to attract commonwealth-qualified lawyers, particularly NZ and UK-qualified lawyers with transactional skill sets and an interest in relocating to Australia. We would be happy to share our view of the market and the opportunities in Australia – and abroad – so please do not hesitate to contact us. Happy holidays and have a safe and successful new year!


Partner Moves






Jessica Li

Debt Capital Markets


Allen & Overy


Hong Kong

George Wu

Capital Markets

DLA Piper

Herbert Smith Freehills


Hong Kong

Dominic Geiser

Commercial Litigation

Latham & Watkins

Herbert Smith Freehills

Hong Kong

Roger Zhou

Capital Markets

Eversheds Sutherland

Morgan Lewis & Bockius

Hong Kong

Rachael Shek


Herbert Smith Freehills

Clyde & Co

Hong Kong

Hong Zhang

Private Equity

FenXun Partners

Clifford Chance


Sayak Maity

Private Equity Funds and M&A

White & Case

AZB & Partners


Vivek Kathpalia


Cyril Amarchand


Nishith Desai


Parveet Singh Gandoak

Corporate, Finance and Investments

King & Spalding

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom


Anne Wood

Government Practice

Moray & Agnew

Kott Gunning


Catie Moore

Projects and Infrastructure

Hall & Wilcox

Mills Oakley


Michael Debney



Herbert Smith Freehills



There is currently no related content for this person
No More Results