Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - January 2022


(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


Happy New Year and we hope the Lunar New Year, which is almost upon us, brings you prosperity and good health!

As of 24 January, Hong Kong returned to strict border controls and local social-distancing regulations in its bid to contain an outbreak of the Omicron variant. In what appears to be a growing view of law firms that business needs to learn to live with COVID-19, despite the new COVID-mitigation measures, we continue to see robust legal recruitment activity in Hong Kong in the early days of the new year.

Multiple law firms have reached out to us to assist them to fill both replacement positions – to fill roles left by departing associates – and increasingly more growth positions. The positions are available across all PQE levels and many do not require Chinese language skills, which is unusual. The more active practices include capital markets, corporate M&A, finance and TMT.

Despite the short time period between Christmas and Chinese New Year this year – which typically would reflect an even greater slowdown in general business activity than in years with a greater time period between the two holidays – recruitment activities show no sign of slowing. We foresee the market will remain active at least through Q1 and likely beyond.


With the Chinese New Year landing a bit earlier than usual in 2022, many Chinese professionals have started traveling within China (and, indeed, from overseas) for the holiday.

Generally, as has been the case throughout the COVID-19 era, law firms remain more inclined to recruit lawyers who are already in mainland China given the ongoing challenges of international travel, especially for foreign nationals, and prolonged visa application processes. Material delays in hiring due to the ever-evolving border controls and quarantine requirements naturally create a disincentive for hiring from overseas.

Current active practices looking to hire include FCPA, capital markets and corporate M&A with openings at the junior-level to mid-level.


As we write this, it’s still early in the year and most folks are trickling back to Singapore and back to work. The short time between Christmas and Chinese New Year means that we will likely see the usual slow start to the year in Singapore – especially as travel has become a thing again and families are taking the opportunity to connect with loved ones after a very tough two years.

The strong business activity that closed 2021 will continue in 2022, as our global law firm clients have had another record financial year. Many law firms will look to invest in Asia to hire the best talent they can find up and down the food chain.

2022 will see strong growth in Singapore in the funds space with activity crossing over into M&A/PE and tech work.

We also predict a renewed interest in Asia from global firms who increasingly will be looking at Singapore as their potential APAC HQ given evolving dynamics in the region, which have tended to result in Singapore’s favour.

So, there will be a demand in Singapore for associates at varying levels and in a variety of practice areas. We have already seen strong demand for associates in finance (particularly associates from a common law background), projects, corporate (M&A, PE and funds), and disputes.

To that end, we would like to hear from associates with strong academics and law firm backgrounds who are either already in Singapore or are keen to consider a move to this part of the world. We would be happy to tell you more about the nuances of the Asian markets and how things work in Singapore.

SINGAPORE - Interim Legal

It was a busy and fulfilling 2021 for our Singapore Interim Legal practice and we would like to thank all our clients and candidates for their partnership in the past year! We’re projecting a strong 2022 that we predict will hold even more opportunities.

The Singapore legal community has been abuzz following a recent article by the new Law Society president. The article stated that a record number of lawyers left the profession in 2021 with the number of departures representing an "alarming” year-on-year increase of around 30 percent. On the interim front, we saw a lot of candidates leaving private practice at an early stage and using the interim platform to gain exposure and experience within an in-house setting.


Despite an unfortunate recent increase in COVID-19 cases due to Omicron, law firms are operating mostly business as usual in Korea and feeling positive about 2022. The spike in cases, however, continues to make international business travel more difficult due to quarantine rules. There are currently several mid-level corporate associate hiring opportunities at major international and Korean law firms for highly qualified bilingual foreign qualified associates. There are also roles for international arbitration associates with strong experience and language skills.


After several months of record low numbers of new COVID-19 cases, the arrival of Omicron has unfortunately ignited a rapid uptick in case numbers since early January, prompting the Prime Minister to announce that borders will remain closed to foreign nationals without visas until at least the end of February. Most law firms in Japan have not announced clear return-to-office policies, and we expect that will continue to be the case for the next few months considering the new outbreak. Now that law firms and their clients are fully equipped to work remotely, however, the arrival of Omicron does not appear to have slowed down business. Japanese and foreign firms remain busy, with continued strong demand for junior and mid-level corporate Bengoshi with strong English skills. In-house opportunities for mid-level and senior Bengoshi are likewise plentiful.


Although it is still too early to see how the current wave of Omicron infections across Australia will affect law firm hiring, all signs point to the war for talent continuing well into 2022. Law firms throughout the country continue to have a high number of lateral recruitment needs across practice groups, with particularly high demand for corporate/M&A lawyers at all levels, as well as banking and finance and dispute lawyers with 2–7 years PQE. We expect demand for financial services and regulatory, TMT and infrastructure lawyers to remain steady in the upcoming months as well.

Once again – very best wishes to you all in the coming year!


Partner Moves






Steven Hsu

Corporate and Finance

Sidley Austin

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer


Hong Kong

Justin Lo

Construction Arbitration and Dispute Resolution

ONC Lawyers

King and Wood Mallesons

(Senior Associate)

Hong Kong

Joy Lam

Virtual Assets

Baker McKenzie

Sidley Austin

Hong Kong

Betty Yap



Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

Hong Kong

Lisa Wong

Family Law

Charles Russell Speechlys

Cohen & Collins

Hong Kong

Paul Jebely



Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Hong Kong

Peter Kwon

Disputes and Securities Regulatory



Hong Kong

Koh Tien Gui

Hotels and Hospitality

Withers KhattarWong

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner


Simon Dunbar


Gateway Law Corporation

King & Spalding


Kevin Lim


Gateway Law Corporation

King & Spalding



Tim Pitrelli

Capital Markets


Goldman Sachs

(Executive Director and Senior Counsel)


Katie Mead

Dispute Resolution

Jones Day

King & Wood Mallesons



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