Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - January 2021

(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

HONG KONG

Happy New Year! We wish everyone a prosperous and healthy 2021. The Hong Kong lateral associate recruitment market got off to a busy start in 2021 with several international law firms having already engaged us to support new searches. Whilst some of these newly open positions are replacement positions, it is encouraging to note that most are growth positions.

Most of the roles are at the mid-level to senior level with a few junior roles also available. Some of these positions do not require Chinese language skills, and some firms are open to relocating the right candidate to Hong Kong. The active areas for recruitment include data privacy, FCPA, corporate and finance.

We have received an unusual number of enquiries from associates in Hong Kong about salary increments given the breathless reporting about the matter in recent months. We can share that some firms have frozen salaries for this financial year and only selected teams will be given performance bonuses. Should you have specific enquiries I am happy to set up a confidential meeting or call. Overall, we foresee recruitment activity to remain active through Q1.

CHINA

Beijing and Shanghai recruitment had a busy start in 2021. Many firms have received headcount approval for the new year and have been actively reaching out to us throughout January. Most hiring is occurring within the corporate, banking & finance, and FCPA sectors at the mid- to senior level. Chinese language requirements remain critical for the roles in Beijing and Shanghai.

Law firms are particularly open to hiring overseas PRC nationals looking to return to China. Lawyers with overseas experience from common law jurisdiction are in demand at cross-border practices in Beijing and Shanghai with candidates with three years of post-qualification experience holding an advantage.

SINGAPORE

At the time of writing, although the world remains in the grip of a new strain of COVID-19, vaccines are being rolled out and there is a greater degree of optimism in the world. In Singapore, the streets are busier, and for the first time since April last year, we have seen men and women in business attire at MBFC and Raffles Place! We’re still not at pre-Covid ‘busy-ness’ levels; however, the roads are certainly busier, the restaurants are full, and we sense more economic confidence in Singapore & Southeast Asia.

Globally, most of our law firm clients had a very strong year – with profits significantly improved on 2019 and revenues at par or marginally better. This strong financial performance has emboldened our international law firm clients to begin hiring again, and they are, indeed, going to market with greater confidence and stronger plans than mid-way through last year.

In Singapore, we saw some interesting partner level moves in the final quarter of 2020, and while approvals for associate hires are still required, hiring partners and HR managers are more readily inclined to go to market now than they were 3–6 months ago.

The transactions sector has been particularly active these last few months. Our clients with well-developed regional finance teams, energy/infrastructure (development and finance) practices, and M&A/private equity offerings have been busy, and this will translate into hiring in 2021. We currently have active hiring needs into PE/VC and into construction/projects.

Although it’s still only the dawn of 2021, our law firm clients are planning for growth and a more fluid market in the second half of the year.

SINGAPORE - Interim Legal

It has been a busy start to 2021 for the Singapore Interim team. Clients have new budget to hire interim legal contractors to assist their legal departments. Several clients had resignations at the end of last year and now are urgently looking for an interim solution. We continue to see that the interim talent model is ideal in this current economic climate where budgets are tight and the future is uncertain. In-house counsel are likely to make decisions that will allow them to operate leanly and maintain the option to engage legal talent on an as-needed basis, which helps address critical legal matters while staying within their budgetary constraints.

SOUTH KOREA

Despite ongoing COVID-19 concerns and precautions, law firms appear to be operating mostly business as usual in Korea. Recruitment appears to be somewhat picking up with limited opportunities at major international and Korean law firms for highly qualified bilingual corporate and litigation associates.

JAPAN

With the newly announced State of Emergency, many lawyers have returned to working principally from home. Despite the continuing uncertainty, there are quite a few associate level recruiting efforts starting to move forward in areas such as project finance, capital markets, and M&A. Strong language skills and credentials are a must for most roles. The in-house sector also continues to be active.

AUSTRALIA

The Australian legal market has picked up where it left off in 2020, full of momentum and with encouraging signs that it will be an active year for the sector, and in turn, for legal recruitment.

After a year of cancelled deals and pandemic damage control, law firms across Australia are off to a busy start in the new year, particularly in corporate/M&A, building on the momentum created by the emergency capital raisings of 2020. This year, the focus for many firms will be supporting clients with their new growth opportunities, with healthy amounts of M&A activity particularly forecasted within the infrastructure, energy & resources, and technology sectors.

Aside from continued heightened demand for corporate/M&A lawyers at all levels, dispute lawyers with 3–7 years of PQE will also be sought after, especially those with contentious financial services/regulatory investigations experience. We also expect demand for TMT and infrastructure lawyers to remain steady in the upcoming months.

With Australia’s border remaining closed, foreign nationals and foreign-qualified lawyers will need to continue to wait until travel bans are eased (there are hopes this will occur in the first half of the year) before law firms can seriously consider their applications.

Partner Moves

Partners

Practice

To

From

Location

Andrea Randall

Employment

Reynolds Porter Chamberlain

Gall

Hong Kong

Matthew Durham

Employment

Gall

Simmons & Simmons

Hong Kong

Neeraj Budhwani

Mergers and Acquisitions/Private Equity

Milbank

Clifford Chance

Hong Kong

Andrew Whan

Mergers and Acquisitions/Private Equity

Milbank

Clifford Chance

Hong Kong

Davide Mencacci

Banking and Finance

Milbank

Linklaters

Hong Kong

David Chu

Dispute Resolution

Bird & Bird

Proskauer Rose

Hong Kong

Ray Ng

Dispute Resolution

Charles Russell Speechlys

Ogier

Hong Kong

William Ho

Aviation

Watson Farley & Williams

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

Hong Kong

Jackson Chow

Aviation

Watson Farley & Williams

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

Hong Kong

Yue Song

Debt Capital Markets

King & Wood Mallesons

Clifford Chance

Hong Kong

Gary Yin

Dispute Resolution

Simmons & Simmons

Jingtian & Gongcheng

Hong Kong

David Swain

Intellectual Property

Lewis Silkin

Deacons

Hong Kong

Voon Keat Lai

Corporate

MB Kemp

Stephenson Harwood

Hong Kong

Fan Yang

Dispute Resolution

Stephenson Harwood

King & Wood Mallesons

Hong Kong

Janice Yau Garton

Real Estate

Stephenson Harwood

DLA Piper

(Of Counsel)

Hong Kong

Shaolin Luo

Mergers and Acquisitions/Private Equity

Han Kun Law Offices

Simpson Thacher

Beijing

Manoj Purushothaman

Corporate

Reed Smith

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

Singapore

Simon Spells

Asset Finance

Reed Smith

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

Singapore

Sean Murphy

Investment Funds

Cooley

Shearman & Sterling (Counsel)

Singapore

Peter Zaman

Transactional and Regulatory

Holman Fenwick Willan

Reed Smith

Singapore

Kate Sherrard

Finance

Squire Patton Boggs

Clifford Chance

Singapore

Tim Fourteau

Project Development and Finance

White & Case

Latham & Watkins (Counsel)

Singapore

Jamie Franklin

Project Development and Finance

White & Case

Latham & Watkins (Counsel)

Singapore

Chan Wai Chong

Banking and Finance

Harry Elias Partnership

Withers KhattarWong

Singapore

Pearl Lim

Banking and Finance

Harry Elias Partnership

Withers KhattarWong

Singapore

Ivan Cheong

Family Law

Withers KhattarWong

Harry Elias Partnership

Singapore

Richard Chew

Technology

K&L Gates

Sparke Helmore

Sydney

Kelly Davies

Energy

K&L Gates

Norton Rose Fulbright

Sydney

Damian Watkin

Projects and Construction

Clyde & Co

Bracewell

Sydney

George Borovas

Projects

Hunton Andrews Kurth

Shearman & Sterling

Tokyo

Clara Shirota

Debt Finance

White & Case

Clifford Chance

Tokyo

Tony Andriotis

International Arbitration

DLA Piper

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

Tokyo

Hiroaki (Hiro) Takagi

Mergers and Acquisitions

Latham & Watkins

Nishimura & Asahi

Tokyo

Mori Inada

Real Estate

Greenberg Traurig

Morrison & Foerster

Tokyo

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