Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - July 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


Associate recruitment activity in Hong Kong has increased in the last month, specifically, in the litigation and corporate practices. The recent spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong has resulted in a number of law firms offering their employees the option to work from home. Correspondingly, law firm partners have returned to interviewing associate candidates via video conferencing.

As a general COVID-19 update, the Hong Kong government has taken extra precautions to stem the spread of infections that surged in mid-July. As a temporary measure, on 15th July, new social distancing measures were put in place including limiting social gatherings to four people. Restaurants will remain open, but during 6pm to 5am only takeaway service will be allowed. On 19th July, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong also announced that masks must be worn in all indoor spaces and that civil servants were given the option to work from home.

*accurate as at 20th July 2020


Law firms in Beijing have been advising their lawyers and staff to work from home during the month of July due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Otherwise, most law firms in Shanghai are operating as usual.

Current associate-level opportunities lie within the FCPA, M&A and finance space. These openings are available to mid-level to senior-level lawyers. The preferred candidates are those with a foreign bar qualification and those who do not require visa sponsorship to work in mainland China. Given the visa realities, we are seeing Chinese national lawyers relocating back to mainland China from the US for new job opportunities while others transfer internally to join the China office of their current law firms.


Recent reporting by the Ministry of Trade and Industry on the impact of COVID-19 reflects that Singapore’s economy entered a technical recession after contracting by 41.2% (as measured by GDP) in Q2 compared to Q1. Amidst these developments, we have seen a nominal increase in recruiting activities in some practice areas such as corporate M&A, US capital markets and asset finance.

In mid-June, Singapore entered phrase 2 of re-opening the country. Legal professionals are still mainly working from home, but we have seen some litigation lawyers and junior lawyers returning to the office. Surprisingly, a top 25 UK law firm decided to close its Singapore office. The question of the stability of international law firms in the Singapore market has been commonly raised during our conversations with associates this past month.

We also are receiving increasing enquiries from associates on opportunities outside of Singapore. Lawyers with at least three years of post-qualification experiences are best placed to make this cross-border transition.


Recruitment is starting to pick up again in Seoul despite COVID-19. We are assisting international firms now on both corporate and litigation associate roles, which is a welcome sign in this legal market.


While most lawyers are at least partially back in the office on an optional basis in Tokyo, there are concerns about a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. Given the continuing uncertainty, many recruiting efforts remain on hold, but we are seeing some key hiring processes moving forward again. The in-house sector is more active than private practice, so it is a good time for lawyers looking to move in-house.


As we begin a new financial year in Australia, major law firms across Australia continue to report higher levels of general business activity while continuing to exercise caution on the recruitment front due to uncertain market conditions.

That said, the majority of the major law firms across Australia reported much better revenue figures at the end of June than anticipated. This helped drive confidence moving into July where these past several weeks we have seen a growing number of major law firms increase their recruitment efforts at the junior, mid and senior associate levels. The partner market remains very active.

Partner Moves






Manas Chandrashekar

Debt Finance

Kirkland & Ellis

Latham & Watkins

Hong Kong

Cliff Chow



Allen & Overy

(Of Counsel)

Hong Kong

Lex Guo

Media and Entertainment

Baker McKenzie

Latham & Watkins

Hong Kong

Keith Han


Oon & Bazul

Cavenagh Law

(Senior Associate)


Nicholas Hanna


Pinsent Masons

K&L Gates


Mark Tan


Pinsent Masons

K&L Gates


Costa Koutsis





David Walter


Allen & Overy

Baker McKenzie


Matthew Spain

Dispute Resolution

DLA Piper

King & Wood Mallesons

(Senior Associate)




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