Asia Legal Market Summary and Partner Moves



(As excerpted from our monthly Associate Newsletter - Asia)

         China                Hong Kong                Korea               Singapore


China

Andrew Ng spent a week in Shanghai in mid January to meet with firms, associates and partners. He found the market to be quite active with firms looking to expand strategically at the partner level, in addition to associate hiring for associate replacements and incremental expansion hiring. The normal practice areas such as FCPA and investigations are still in expansion mode, but firms remain selective in their hiring. We are seeing some corporate associate hiring needs for associates that are only PRC trained and admitted, and also those with only overseas qualifications.

Another finding from Andrew's Shanghai visit is the variance in recovery rates for firms working with privately held Chinese companies and SOEs. Some of our clients report recovery on only 40-60% of their fee, while other firms are able to collect 80-90%. We also have heard that some domestic Chinese law firms accept 10-20% of the overall fee, particularly on engagements with SOEs. In general, we hear that working with the privately held Chinese companies is a better business proposition. Although Chinese clients can be demanding, the general consensus among foreign law firm partners we meet is that this is the future for foreign firms, and the investment needs to be made.

Based on collective feedback, firms report that, generally, firms in Shanghai fared better in the second half of 2014 than expected. One direct benefit of this is that firms now have the green light from headquarters to make up new partners, replace departing associates, and more broadly, expand associate ranks in Shanghai.

Looking to Beijing, anti-trust and competition remain the hot practices that foreign firms look to expand in over the near term. We also anticipate in-house hiring of PRC lawyers to pick up after the Chinese New Year.

Hong Kong

Litigation remains steady and corporate practices have been very busy, especially at the mid-to-senior level where most of the roles require a mixture of corporate M&A and IPO work. The finance sector also is active, including project finance and asset finance. In what seems to indicate the making of a stronger, if not strong, associate hiring environment, a number of US and UK law firms are open to hiring from overseas. This is a striking departure from recent years where associates essentially had to have Asia experience or be based in Asia to merit an interview. Interestingly, these cross-border roles tend to exist at the junior-to-mid level.

Another hiring development that has not been seen since the winter of 2011 is the noticeable absence of a slow down of lateral associate hiring activity during the Christmas season. Traditionally, the time period beginning in early December through the week following Chinese New Year has been a very slow period for associate hiring. However, with the exception of the actual week that Christmas 2014 fell in, interview activity and offers have been robust. This strong hiring activity seen at the end of 2014 is expected to continue through the foreseeable future, if not through the end of 2015, which is welcome news to Hong Kong's legal market!

Korea

MLA's Korea team saw a strong close to the year, with a senior partner placement into a US firm which will soon to be announced. We continue to receive various corporate and disputes mandates at both the associate and partner levels. Project finance has seen growth recently, and Seoul has a new market entrant, Los Angeles-based Lee Hong Degerman Kang & Waimey which opened its office late last year. We project that strategic partner and associate hiring in corporate and litigation practices will continue in the New Year, and we are likely to see a few new foreign firms make their way into the Korea legal market.

Singapore

In keeping with recent media reports, Singapore is increasingly becoming Asia's litigation/arbitration hub. Legislative changes in Hong Kong's arbitration center coupled with parties looking for a more neutral forum that will not "favor" a Chinese client seem to make Singapore a viable venue for arbitration matters.

Generally, we see more associate roles at the mid-to-senior level with more opportunities in general banking, asset finance, and project finance. In contrast to Hong Kong, firms in Singapore have historically been more open to hiring from overseas, and this continues to be the case with many firms open to relocating strong associates with a compelling and long-term commitment to Singapore.

Of some note, law firms continue to develop their "Indonesia practices" and we will continue to monitor opportunities there. In all, Singapore is offering many opportunities to the right candidates at the moment, particularly, project finance and disputes roles, and we forecast that this will continue for, at least, the near future.

* * * * *

Partner Moves

Partners

Practice

To

From

Location

Vincent Sum

Structured Finance

Mayer Brown JSM

Bingham McCutchen

Hong Kong

Ed Sheremeta

Real Estate

Ropes & Gray

DLA Piper

Hong Kong

Michael Liu

Corporate

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft

Latham & Watkins

Hong Kong

Jane Ng

Corporate

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft

Latham & Watkins

Hong Kong

Stephen Chan

Corporate

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft

Latham & Watkins

Hong Kong

Sarah Catchpole

Aviation

Kennedys

Norton White, Sydney

Hong Kong

Ruixue Ran

IP

Covington & Burling

Jun He Law Offices

Beijing

Zhaofeng Zhou

Competition

Bird & Bird

Taylor Wessing

Beijing

Ma Chen

Antitrust

Han Kun Law Offices

Fangda Partners

Beijing

Ron Xie

Antitrust

Gaopeng

Microsoft (Counsel)

Beijing

Christopher de Souza

Intellectual Property

Lee & Lee

WongPartnership

Singapore

Yang Yen Thaw

Corporate

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing

Dacheng Wong Alliance

Singapore

Christopher James (Jamie) Thomas

Finance

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

White & Case

Singapore

Matthew Gorman

M&A, PE, JV

Reed Smith

Stephenson Harwood

Singapore

Iain Sharp

Arbitration

Rodyk & Davidson

Bryan Cave

Singapore

Seow Hui Goh

Employment

Bird & BIrd

Braddell Brothers

Singapore

Rachel Foxton

Commercial Litigation

20 Essex Street

Cavenagh Law

Singapore

Mark Cooper

Corporate

Hogan Lovells

Linklaters

Singapore

Peggy Lim

Aviation

Kennedys

Clyde & Co

Singapore

Anita Quy

Aviation

Kennedys

Clyde & Co

Singapore

Sherroy Ong

Corporate

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing

ANZ Banking Group Ltd

Singapore

Lisa Valentovish

Corporate

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius

Bingham McCutchen

Tokyo

Tsugumichi Watanabe

Corporate

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius

Bingham McCutchen

Tokyo

Chis Mizumoto

Intellectual Property

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius

Bingham McCutchen

Tokyo

Tomoko Fuminaga

International Investment Management

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius

Bingham McCutchen

Tokyo

Christopher Wells

International Investment Management

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius

Bingham McCutchen

Tokyo

Eiji Kobayashi

Corporate

Norton Rose Fulbright

Nishimura & Asahi

Tokyo

James Robinson

Corporate

Morrison & Foerster

Herbert Smith Freehills

Tokyo

These listed partner moves are obtained from both public sources and Major, Lindsey & Africa. This list is not intended to represent Major, Lindsey & Africa as the consultancy involved in the moves although, some moves may have been brokered by MLA.

* * * * *

Andrew NgAndrew Ng is a Consultant in the Private Practice Group of Allegis-BN, China affiliate of Major, Lindsey & Africa. He is based in Beijing. Andrew focuses on placing private practice lawyers whether based in greater China or overseas into international law firms operating in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

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