Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - June 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

HONG KONG

We are seeing positive developments in the lateral associate recruitment market in Hong Kong after several months of relative quiet. In the last month, more firms have reached out to us for recruiting assistance for both expansion and replacement hiring opportunities. With Hong Kong largely reopened for business, the majority of law firms continue to carry out face-to-face interviews with associate (and partner) candidates. Most of the activity lies in the disputes sector including FCPA, insolvency and restructuring litigation, construction arbitration, and commercial litigation. Most roles are at the mid- to senior-level. 

Transactional practices remain slow in their recruiting efforts. Whilst teams are busy on active deals, partners are cautious about hiring and are focused on optimizing utilization of existing associates. Still, we foresee the market will pick up in the next few months. 

CHINA

Economic activity in the China market is picking up steadily, and this is reflected in associate recruiting activity as well. Most law firms report that they are operating as usual. We have heard reports that some lawyers who hold valid work visas to work in China are still not able to return to China, however.  Fortunately, law firms have made arrangements that have allowed these lawyers to work remotely while overseas, which, apparently, is working seamlessly.

On the interviewing front, law firm partners in China are increasingly open to meeting candidates face to face after months of conducting virtual interviews by video conferencing. This is an encouraging sign on the way back to normalcy, although recent developments in Beijing may result in a slight backslide. 

As for current opportunities in the associate market, there are openings in the FCPA, litigation and corporate space. A handful of firms have let us know that they prefer candidates with dual bar qualifications and overseas experience.

SINGAPORE

As Singapore moved out of the circuit breaker and into Phase 1 of easing restrictions surrounding the COVID crisis, we’ve seen small behavioural changes and some green shoots around the region but nothing substantive yet. A further easing of restrictions (Phase 2) has just been announced, and at the time of writing, there is a palpable sense of relief that things might return to some sense of ‘normality’ soon.

As Singapore still relies heavily on global conditions, the news coming from our law firm clients in the UK and the US has been positive, while our international law firm clients with well-established Asian offerings are seeing improvements around the region. As regional travel restrictions ease off, we will see further positive change in business conditions.

The disputes sector continues to be busy, with predictions for significant activity towards the end of the year as the pandemic subsides and organisations begin to count their losses and try to recover them.

Tech, funds, disputes and restructuring remain active areas in Singapore and around the region, and in the projects arena, renewables is also seeing positive growth.

SOUTH KOREA

Recruitment remains somewhat slow in Seoul due to the COVID-19 situation, but there are signs of increased activity in both the private practice and in-house sectors of the legal recruiting market.

JAPAN

Since the end of the Japanese government state of emergency at the start of June, some lawyers are starting to head back into the office on an optional basis. While COVID-19 remains a developing situation, firms and companies are adjusting well to the new normal. Given the continuing uncertainty, however, many recruiting efforts have been on hold since March. The good news is that we are starting to see some key hiring processes moving forward again.

AUSTRALIA

Major law firms across Australia continue to report high levels of activity across most practice areas; however, firms remain cautious regarding recruitment. Litigation, regulatory, employment, construction and competition are practice groups with highest reported levels of activity.

June has seen the reopening of many law firm offices across the country including in Sydney and Melbourne. Still, most staff continue to work from home with many firms only allowing up to 30% of staff to work from the office at any one time. We expect further relaxation of rules in the months to come.

Partner Moves

Partners

Practice

To

From

Location

Derek Poon

Private Equity

Baker McKenzie

Kirkland & Ellis

Hong Kong

Alex Tao

Capital Markets

Milbank

Allen & Overy

Hong Kong

Adrian Yip

Disputes

Han Kun

Morrison & Foerster

Hong Kong

Jade Tang

Corporate and Commercial

Hugill & Ip

Oldham, Li & Nie

Hong Kong

Barbara Li

Corporate

Rui Bai

Norton Rose Fulbright

Beijing

Benjamin Szeto

Wealth Management

Atlas Asia Law Corporation (Director)

RHTLawTaylor Wessing

Singapore

Evan Lam

Financial Regulations

Ashurst

Allen & Gledhill

Singapore

Astrid Beemster

Real Estate

EY

DLA Piper

Sydney

Nic van der Reyden

Shipping Litigation and Dispute Resolution

Clyde & Co

HFW

Sydney

Alinta Kemeny

Restructuring

Ashurst

Weil, Gotshal & Manges

Melbourne

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