Asia Pacific Legal Market Summary And Partner Moves - March 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

While many law firms in Hong Kong resumed working in the office in mid-March—with some firms dividing their teams to work in the office on alternate weeks—the emergence of a “second wave” of COVID-19 infections in the latter days of March resulted in several firms going back to working from home.* A handful of partners who had extended their holidays after the Chinese New Year holiday, however, have generally returned to their offices. Amidst these developments, we have seen a nominal increase in recruiting activities in some practice areas such as private client, litigation and asset finance, whilst recruitment in corporate and banking remains tepid. We can also report that some firms have shifted their interview strategies from video conferencing to meeting in person, which may be taken as a positive sign of things in Hong Kong, though that likely may revert to interviewing through technology media again.

As a general update on COVID-19, the Hong Kong government recently exercised extra precautions to stem the spread of COVID-19 infections thought to have increased in mid-March due to Hong Kong citizens returning from overseas. As a temporary measure, on 19th March, Hong Kong began requiring a 14-day quarantine for any Hong Kong citizen entering the city from a foreign country, and Hong Kong planned to close its border to non-Hong Kong citizens effective from 25th March 2020, which would also include any passengers who transit through Hong Kong.

*accurate as at 24th March 2020

CHINA

Some active openings and interview processes have been frozen due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in western countries. This has had an impact on the China legal market in that a plurality of headquarter offices have made the decision to suspend hiring in China, among their other markets, while they assess strategies. Still, while some firms have chosen to defer recruitment for new roles, others continue with their active hiring processes.

Despite the uncertainty, some partners in China report a workflow increase. Chinese corporate clients— especially large Chinese state-owned renewable energy and natural resources enterprises—are now ready to push through deals with the full backing of the Chinese government to the relief of firms.

The Chinese government has enforced stricter measures in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. They have just announced to temporarily suspend entry of foreign nationals with visa or residence permits starting from midnight on 28th March.

SINGAPORE

The Singapore government has implemented stricter social distancing measures and stopped all non-essential visitors (including those on an Employment Pass or Dependent Pass) from entering the country.

As many international law firms in Singapore are headquartered in the United States and United Kingdom, many of these firms are now implementing work from home policies. Business has and will slow to varying degrees as the internal challenges increase for overseas headquartered law firms, with partners and Human Resources teams scrambling to address their own business continuity matters and often de-prioritising recruiting efforts and hiring approvals in their Asian offices.

There are many moving parts that are complicating recruiting efforts, but there are still opportunities. Most of the opportunities are available to lawyers who are already in Singapore. Many of these roles are available at the junior level, although we generally see an appetite to make replacement hires at the senior level following the departure of senior associates. We have also seen a few lateral partner moves, which may create additional opportunities at the associate level.

SOUTH KOREA

Recruitment has been slow in Seoul in response to ongoing COVID-19 developments.

JAPAN

Although the number of searches has not decreased, the hiring process has slowed down the pace due to uncertainties caused by COVID-19. Interviews are moving from traditional face-to-face meetings to video or telephonic meetings as many firms have implemented flexible working arrangements. There remains a strong appetite for corporate, M&A and antitrust Japanese-qualified lawyers with at least 1-2PQE+ experience.

AUSTRALIA

As of 20th March, large law firms across Australia jumped into action to manage their respective employees amid the coronavirus outbreak. Most firms have mandated that all their lawyers and staff work from home.

Recruitment has continued for urgent needs; however, firms are being cautious and being highly selective. As of now, firms are still interested in litigators (at all levels) with regulatory investigations and/or defense of class actions experience. Restructuring and insolvency lawyers as well as employment lawyers will also be well placed to explore options across a variety of firms.

Partner Moves

Partner Practice To From Location
Melody He-Chen Corporate/M&A Ashurst DLA Piper Hong Kong
Jason Kuo Capital Markets King & Wood Mallesons (Counsel) Paul Hastings Hong Kong
Zhao Rong Ooi Litigation Ince  Hauzen Hong Kong
Samuel Ngo Disputes Jones Day  K&L Gates Hong Kong
Yuan Shiye Taxation Han Kun Law Offices EY Beijing
Jiang Tao Intellectual Property Twelve Tables Law Firm Lung Tin Law Firm Beijing
Li Yang Intellectual Property Twelve Tables Law Firm Lung Tin Law Firm Beijing
Wei Cui Finance Jingtian & Gocheng Hylands Law Firm Shanghai
Debby Lim Restructuring and Insolvency BlackOak (Director)  Shook Lin & Bok Singapore
Jonathan Crandall Capital Markets Duane Morris Selvam Clifford Chance Singapore
Maureen Poh Disputes Helmsman (Director) Ince  Singapore
Damian Adams Corporate Watson Farley & Williams  Simmons & Simmons Singapore
Jeremy Tan Technology and Communications Bird & Bird  Holborn Law Singapore
Glenn Cheng Disputes Kennedys  K&L Gates Straits Law Singapore
Charles McConnell Banking White & Case  Linklaters (Counsel) Singapore
Jake Robson Corporate/M&A King & Wood Mallesons Morrison & Foerster Singapore
Michihiro Nishi Corporate Clifford Chance Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (Counsel) Tokyo
Peter Smith Restructuring and Insolvency Johnson Winter & Slattery  Herbert Smith Freehills Brisbane
Alex Ninis Information Technology and Telecommunications DWF  Macpherson Kelly Melbourne
Harry Kingsley Capital Markets K&L Gates Holding Redlich Melbourne
Simon Adams Corporate Squire Patton Boggs Holman Fenwick Willan Perth
Caroline Brown Corporate Squire Patton Boggs Holman Fenwick Willan Perth
Jae-Hyon Ahn Projects Baker McKenzie Orrick, Tokyo (Counsel) Seoul

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