Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - February 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


Recruitment has been slow in Hong Kong in response to ongoing COVID-19 developments. Many law firms have implemented flexible working arrangements, which include associates working from home.* Several partners who travelled for the Chinese New Year holiday have extended their trips abroad and deferred their return to Hong Kong given the situation. The firms that are actively recruiting are doing so via video conference or phone calls.

Most of the active openings lie within the corporate, litigation and FCPA space. These firms are seeking lawyers with one to seven-year PQE. Law firms are exhibiting heightened selectivity in the current market and require every candidate to tick every box.

*accurate as of 26 February 2020


The period following the Chinese New Year is usually quiet on the recruitment front. This fact, coupled with the COVID-19 outbreak, have made for a slow, albeit steady, February. Following the closure of all offices across China prior to Chinese New Year, some offices reopened on 10 February, though many lawyers continue to work from home.* Despite the challenges, experienced commonwealth qualified bilingual lawyers with solid banking and finance, FCPA, and M&A remain highly sought after. Most of the recruitment processes are taking place by video conference.

*accurate as of 26 February 2020


The general feeling in Singapore remains positive, with a busy start to the year—particularly in the M&A and energy/projects space. Our clients with expertise in this area have been busy with regional RFPs and business travel, which will turn into demand for associate talent in Singapore this quarter and next. In addition, commercial technology and ‘fintech’ remain strong areas of growth, and in the finance space, our clients are talking about restructuring and insolvency.

Regionally, Thailand and Vietnam saw strong growth in 2019 and this continues in 2020.

There are always commercial challenges in these markets, but the macro story remains a positive one in Singapore and South East Asia.


We have seen an appetite for candidates who have spent a couple of years working overseas and are looking to return to Seoul. Partners are looking for associates with an ‘international’ mindset and work style. These opportunities are available for senior lawyers with at least five years of post-qualification experience, overseas qualification and native Korean language skills.


Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, Japanese companies are still actively looking to markets overseas for investment opportunities. The market is driven by a keen interest in international expansion to outside markets in the US, EU, South East Asia, China and India. There is a strong appetite for transactional lawyers across the board. Japanese lawyers and bilingual foreign-qualified lawyers with at least 1–2 years of post-qualification experience are highly sought after.


As we move through February, top-tier and global law firms continue to seek corporate/M&A and litigation lawyers with three years of PQE up through senior associates with nine or 10 years of PQE. Regarding corporate skills sets, law firms are keen on lawyers with public M&A experience. The demand for litigators is mostly for those with experience in the financial and banking sectors either with specialised regulatory investigations experience and/or defence of class actions.

There also remains steady demand for antitrust/competition lawyers as well as banking and finance, infrastructure and construction (both front end and contentious), and technology/TMT lawyers.

Demand is largely limited to Australian or New Zealand-qualified lawyers; however, firms will look to sponsor top-tier corporate or finance foreign-qualified lawyers with interest to work in Australia.

Partner Moves

Partner Practice To From Location
Samuel Ngo Disputes Jones Day K&L Gates Hong Kong
Zhao Rong Ooi Litigation Ince Hauzen Hong Kong
Jason Kuo Capital Markets King & Wood Mallesons (Counsel) Paul Hastings Hong Kong
Stephen Wong Litigation DLA Piper Stevenson Wong & Co Hong Kong
Jonathan Leitch Bankruptcy Hogan Lovells DLA Piper Hong Kong
Khin Voong Finance Watson Farley & Williams  King & Wood Mallesons (Counsel) Hong Kong
Jeremy Lightfoot Litigation Carey Olsen Campbells Hong Kong
Jonathan Crandall Capital Markets Duane Morris Selvam Clifford Chance Singapore
Harpreet Singh Nehal Litigation Audent Chambers  Cavenagh Law Singapore
Wei Cui Finance Jingtian & Gocheng Hylands Law Firm Shanghai
Jae-Hyon Ahn Projects Baker McKenzie Orrick (Of Counsel, Tokyo) Seoul
Nicole Wearne Insurance Clyde & Co  Norton Rose Fulbright Melbourne
Ganga Narayanan Insurance Clyde & Co  Norton Rose Fulbright Melbourne
Mark Attard Insurance Clyde & Co  Norton Rose Fulbright Melbourne


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