Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - September 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


With government employees returning to their offices in Hong Kong, some law firms are gradually inviting their lawyers and staff back to their offices. A few firms report splitting lawyers into different groups and alternating the groups so that not everyone is in the office at once.

Recruitment in the FCPA space has been active in Hong Kong. The work has been driven mainly by the developments in the US-China relationship, and firms are particularly interested in candidates with US sanctions experience. Presently, several of our law firm clients are actively interviewing associate candidates in that space. We also have a handful of corporate M&A positions open at the mid to senior level.

Despite firms actively interviewing candidates, the interview processes have been slow. It generally takes about two weeks to schedule the next (2nd, 3rd) interview. Also, firms are meeting a high number of candidates for any given position before decisions to move forward are made.


Recruitment in Beijing and Shanghai remains steady with opportunities in the FCPA and M&A areas. Increasingly, law firms seem to be moving toward hiring PRC nationals given the lengthy processes involved in obtaining work permits for and registering of foreign lawyers.

We continue to see PRC nationals returning to Beijing and Shanghai from the US, London and Hong Kong markets. Partners are generally receptive to seeing candidates with overseas experience, especially lawyers with at least three years’ post-qualification experience and native English and Chinese language skills.


Most lawyers continue to work from home in Singapore. Only the few lawyers who are unable to work from home have returned to the office.

We are beginning to see an uptick in recruitment activity in Singapore. Partners are confident about their pipelines, which seems to be increasing demand in hiring. Recruitment in the Corporate TMT space has been particularly active with a few US firms searching for candidates across the junior to senior level. A recent announcement regarding one of the largest Chinese technology companies opening its regional hub in Singapore for Southeast Asia demonstrates the competitiveness of Singapore in the TMT space, and we anticipate that law firms are likely to continue to grow their practices in response.

SINGAPORE - Interim Legal

The current economic climate calls for short-term, immediate solutions to hiring legal talent so we have seen an increase in multinational company clients seeking interim contractors/secondees to support them. As we enter the last quarter of the year, clients are looking more actively for immediate support to close the year strongly. Please reach out to Cynthia Barnardiston for a confidential discussion if you are open to interim contract work in Singapore or want to learn more about it. It is a great way to gain new experience.


After a retreat from offices due to a COVID-19 flare up, law firms appear to be returning to business as usual in Korea. Recruitment remains slow but there are some opportunities for both corporate and litigation associates. The roles fill quickly as they are few and far between, so be ready to apply if you are interested in making a lateral move to a firm in Seoul.


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 this winter. Given the continuing uncertainty, many associate recruiting efforts remain on hold, but we are seeing some key hiring processes moving forward again at more senior levels. The in-house sector is more active than private practice, so it is a good time for lawyers looking to move in-house.


Through August and the first half of September, we saw the health crisis in Australia steadily improve with Victoria now seeing its lowest number of COVID-19 cases in several months. The consistently low number of cases across all other states is also being noted by state governments who are eyeing a reopening of state borders in the coming weeks. The openings, which will allow interstate travel to resume, will undoubtedly provide a major boost to the Australian economy and kick start hiring efforts.

With the slow easing of restrictions across each state, we can report that Australian-based lawyers who have signed overseas-based permanent employment contracts are being deemed exempt from the international travel ban placed on Australian citizens earlier in the year. This is excellent news as it means these lawyers can now make travel plans to start their new roles abroad.

Furthermore, we are beginning to see some firms unwind COVID-19 compensation reduction measures implemented earlier in the year to manage the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Back in April, many Australian-based firms implemented compensation reductions of 20 percent for all associates in addition to a 10–20 percent salary reduction for support staff, with partners taking the largest percentage reductions to their pay.

Although firms recognise uncertainty remains in the months ahead, this is a great sign of the market continuing to move in the right direction and is in line with what we have known for some time: The impact of the global pandemic on law firms has been less severe than most initially anticipated, with demand for legal services having remained strong throughout the crisis.

On the recruitment front, firms continue to take a cautious approach; however, we are seeing rising demand across certain practice areas for mid-level associates and senior associates in restructuring, infrastructure, corporate/M&A and disputes.

Partner Moves






Olivia Ngan

Corporate and Finance

Sidley Austin



Hong Kong

Andrew Bishop

Debt Finance and Restructuring

Latham & Watkins

White & Case

Hong Kong

Kevin Warburton


Tanner De Witt

Slaughter and May


Hong Kong

Gary Hamp

Leveraged Finance

Shearman & Sterling


Latham & Watkins

(Hong Kong)

London / Hong Kong

Geng Bei

Capital Markets

Merits & Tree Law Firm

Haiwen & Partners


Luo Han

Capital Markets

Merits & Tree Law Firm

Fangda Partners


Yang Jianyuan

Cybersecurity and Anti-Corruption

Haiwen & Partners

Fangda Partners


Fang Rong

Real Estate

Han Kun Law Offices

King & Wood Mallesons


Adrian Joyce

Project and Asset Finance

Nishimura & Asahi

Norton Rose Fulbright


Shaun Leon

International Arbitration


Eversheds Sutherland


Craig Paynter

Private Wealth

Rajah & Tann

Bedell Cristin
(Senior Associate)


Anthony Patten


King & Spalding

Shearman & Sterling


Lachlan Clancy


King & Spalding

Shearman & Sterling

Singapore / Tokyo

Ben Shaw

Dispute Resolution

Tucker & Cowen (Special Counsel)



Andrew Chalet

Corporate and Commercial

Thomson Geer

Russell Kennedy


Sue Williamson


Holding Redlich

Ernst & Young


Penny Stevens

International Employment

Seyfarth Shaw

Sparke Helmore


Bryan Pointon

Corporate M&A and Private Equity

Norton Rose Fulbright




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