Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary January 2018


(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


It was a mix market for Hong Kong in 2017 with the first and fourth quarters being the busiest for the year. Global events affected recruitment needs across UK and US firms. Corporate, finance and dispute resolution were the areas where we saw the most recruitment activity. Firms made associate hires across all levels.

2018 kicks start with high level of activities. Law firms are active in recruiting junior corporate lawyers who have a mix corporate finance background. Senior M&A and funds lawyers with Chinese language skills are also in demand. We foresee the recruitment market will remain active this year.


In 2017, China was busy largely in corporate and finance. FCPA was also a hot area and remains very busy into 2018. We saw a number of clients representing relatively new and young Chinese companies. We also saw a number working with a diverse range of other clients, particularly those looking to list in Hong Kong and encourage strong connections with their respective offices in the region.

The China market is having a slow start to the year in anticipation of the upcoming New Year festivities. Most activity has focused around corporate opportunities at the mid-senior level, although there is some activity in the FCPA space, too. We anticipate an increase in new roles toward the end of this quarter.


It was a slow year for Singapore. We have seen teams diminish and firms being more reserved in lateral hires. Capital markets, finance and corporate M&A were the areas where firms were slightly more actively recruiting. Singapore-qualified candidates were in high demand while Singaporean returnees with couple of years of experience in the UK, US or Australia are still in need.

We foresee the recruitment market will remain steady in 2018. A few ambitious Singapore-qualified lawyers are seeking opportunities to work outside of Singapore and hoping to be in a busier market. High-profile deals’ exposure is the number one priority, and this seems to be a trend for 2018.


The Tokyo associate recruitment market remained steady throughout 2017, with continued demand for associates with more than two years of post-admission experience working outside Japan. Top firms are always on the look-out for associates with a combination of business-level Japanese language skills and strong experience in M&A, capital markets, project finance and investigations work. Mid-level M&A associates are particularly of interest, and there are opportunities for entry-level lawyers as well from time to time. We expect this to continue in 2018.


Seoul was a steady year overall, looking back in 2017. There were a few lateral moves in the market both locally and within the regional Korean practices. Corporate remains the dominant area with some firms slowly looking to expand their reach.

Korea remains steady with opportunities focused around corporate M&A and PE. There is still a strong preference for US-qualified talent with fluency in Korean looking to return to Seoul with a small handful of firms open to candidates being based in Hong Kong. English fluency is important for drafting, sometimes preferred over Korean fluency. High-quality training and academics are essential for the market at the moment.


2017 saw a strong and constant demand for corporate and banking & finance lawyers with excellent opportunities presenting themselves with most major law firms across Australia. The Sydney market started the year with a high demand for real estate lawyers though demand eased in the second half. Interest in IT and property finance lawyers was high across the larger firms whilst demand for energy lawyers was relatively low with less opportunities presenting themselves compared to years past.

In 2018, we believe there will continue to be demand for M&A, private equity and capital market lawyers. Demand for real estate lawyers may have peaked along with the market, specifically in Sydney; however, an uptick in construction activity may mean higher demand for construction lawyers. Demand for IT and investment fund lawyers will continue to grow and banking & finance lawyers will continue seeing a high demand for their services.

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Recent Partner Moves in Asia Pacific






Meng Ding


Kirkland & Ellis

Davis Polk (Associate)

Hong Kong

Damien Whitehead

Finance Restructuring


White & Case

Hong Kong

Evelyn Chan

Civil Litigation


Wilkinson & Grist

Hong Kong

Nick Dealy

Business Litigation



Hong Kong

Mark Stevens

Real Estate

Berwin Leighton Paisner

Mayer Brown

Hong Kong

Elvis Zhou

Construction and Infrastructure Projects


Hesen Law Firm


Yang Tiecheng

Financial Regulatory

Han Kun Law Offices

Clifford Chance


Jin Xinghui



Kobre & Kim (Legal Consultant)


Terence Wong

Dispute Resolution

Winston & Strawn

Hogan Lovells


Huang Xuhua


Allen & Gledhill (Senior Consultant)

King & Wood Mallesons


Rupert Burrows


Mayer Brown

Ashurst (Managing Partner)


Seiji Matsuzoe

Capital Markets

Baker McKenzie

White & Case


Andrew Crook

Private Equity

Clifford Chance

Hogan Lovells


Mark Currell

Private Equity

Clifford Chance

Herbert Smith Freehills


Gavin MacLaren


Corrs Chambers Westgarth (CEO)

Freshfields (Managing Partner)


These listed partner moves are obtained from both public sources and Major, Lindsey & Africa. This list is not intended to represent Major, Lindsey & Africa as the consultancy involved in the moves, although some moves may have been brokered by Major, Lindsey & Africa.


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