Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - October 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


Most firms in Hong Kong remain cautious about hiring despite some firms experiencing high levels of deal activity. Active areas include FCPA, HKIPO and banking. Most of the roles require lawyers with at least three years of post-qualification experience and training gained from an international law firm.

We continue to receive enquiries about relocation opportunities in London, Sydney, Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul and the United States. Whilst it is an uneasy time to travel, some firms in these locations remain open to candidates from overseas despite ongoing COVID-related travel restrictions and new immigration realities that may have an impact. Lawyers with strong academics, solid technical skills and international law firm experience are in demand.


Recruitment activity in Beijing and Shanghai has been unexpectedly high over the last month. There is active recruiting in the corporate and FCPA practices. Teams report being very busy. Recruitment processes that previously had been put on hold are now moving forward. These newly active job openings represent both new headcount and replacement hires.


The Singapore ‘thaw’ continues to gather momentum as offices begin to open again and employees begin a slow and deliberate return to working from the office. This well-managed easing of restrictions has seen greater confidence returning to most sectors of society and the business community here—although hiring remains cautious. The pent-up demand caused by business stopping in March has seen a return to significant increases in activity for most practice areas.

While partners and HR professionals continue to report hiring freezes and ‘special permissions’ for hiring at the associate level, we have certainly seen increased confidence and activity across all sectors. It is certainly not at pre-pandemic levels, but it is unquestionably moving in the right direction. Our clients with developed energy/infrastructure (development and finance) practices are beginning to ask for CVs again, and there is renewed demand for junior corporate professionals, disputes and finance lawyers.

Geographically, Southeast Asian markets traditionally serviced from Singapore also are beginning to see increases in activity—Vietnam and Thailand have both experienced a busy month.

Although Raffles Place and MBFC remain quiet compared to their pre-pandemic levels, the rest of Singapore is certainly out there again and busy. Sadly, the morning and evening traffic and commuter jams are returning, but the restaurants and hawker centres are busy again, as are the malls and the supermarkets, which all signal a move towards normalcy.

Overall, while the markets remain challenged, the confidence of our clients grows daily as do activity levels.

SINGAPORE - Interim Legal

As we enter the final quarter of the year, we can report a steady increase in demand for interim roles in Singapore as clients are expecting a busy end to the year. Industries such as healthcare, technology, financial services and consumer goods continue to drive hiring needs. We also see high demand in niche areas such as Data Privacy and the need for Mandarin language capability. Unfortunately, we saw a recent wave of layoffs in September that have driven more candidates to explore the job market. While candidates express a preference for permanent roles, more and more candidates are entertaining interim roles during this period of uncertainty. Please let us know if you have been affected by COVID-19 and are now available to work immediately. Candidates with or without in-house experience are welcome so please reach out.


Despite ongoing COVID-19 concerns and precautions, law firms appear to be operating mostly business as usual in Korea. Recruitment remains slow, but there are some opportunities for highly qualified bilingual corporate and litigation associates.


While most lawyers are partially back in the office on an optional basis in Tokyo, there are still concerns about a resurgence of COVID-19 cases this winter. Given the continuing uncertainty, many associate level 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.


The overall health crisis in Australia has improved significantly in the past month. Although the State of Victoria is still working its way out of lockdown, the rest of the country is largely doing well with low level cases being reported across all other states.

The improving situation is being reflected in the economy and, in turn, the legal recruitment market. There are significant numbers of new openings being released by a wide range of law firms, most based in Sydney. Since the start of October, we have seen top-tier and mid-tier firms report heightened levels of deal activity and increased demand for additional headcount. This has been particularly true for corporate/M&A and dispute resolution/commercial litigation practice teams with multiple firms currently seeking top-talent with skill sets in these areas.

Unfortunately, at least for now, the roles we are presently working to fill are reserved for Australian-qualified lawyers with Australian citizenship/permanent residency as law firms are unable to process working visas due to the Australian Government’s current position on allowing foreign workers into the country. It is, however, a fluid situation, so watch this space.

As we approach the middle of Q4 of the calendar year, we expect hiring demand from law firms to remain strong across several practice areas, especially in corporate, litigation, infrastructure, restructuring and financial services.


Partner Moves






Malcolm Kemp

Dispute Resolution and Insolvency

MB Kemp

Stephenson Harwood

Hong Kong

Yeeling Wan

Dispute Resolution and Insolvency

MB Kemp

Stephenson Harwood

Hong Kong

Timothy Haynes

Disputes Resolution

Kobre & Kim


Hong Kong

Jingzhou Tao


Arbitration Chambers (Independent Arbitrator)

Dechert (Managing Partner)


Zhao Pei


Dahui Lawyers

Shearman & Sterling


Anthony Patten


King & Spalding

Shearman & Sterling


Lachlan Clancy


King & Spalding

Shearman & Sterling


Craig Paynter

Private Wealth

Rajah & Tann

Bedell Cristin (Senior Associate)


Gavin Margetson


Mishcon de Reya

Sharpe & Jagger


Ng Yi Wayn


Oon & Bazul



Nick Williams


Hogan Lovells

K&L Gates


Lijun Chui

Dispute Resolution

Bird & Bird

Clifford Chance


Yvonne Foo

Construction and Engineering

Harry Elias Partnership

Clyde & Co (Legal Director)


Mandi Jacobson

Life Sciences and Regulatory

Hogan Lovells



Craig Chapman



The Bank of Queensland (General Counsel)


Aldrin De Zilva


White & Case

Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills



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