Tweet Share Whatsapp Email Written by Katherine Ng, Consultant at Lewis Sanders Katherine is a Consultant at Lewis Sanders, specializing in recruiting lawyers at associate, counsel and partner level for both private practice and in-house markets in Hong Kong. The legal market has remained relatively stable for the third quarter of this year. Summary With the number of daily Covid cases remaining at four-digit figures and social distancing measures remaining stringent in Hong Kong for much of the quarter, firms have been looking for talent to assist with their expansion into other markets such as Singapore, as many financial institutions and global conglomerates have now relocated their businesses to other Southeast Asian markets. For example Goodwin Procter has just launched in Singapore. Efforts are also being made to cater for potential clients in the Greater Bay Area (GBA). For example, Baker Mckenzie has hired veteran arbitrator Ronald Sum as a Hong Kong-based partner earlier this September, to seize more opportunities in disputes services from the GBA. In light of the above, a surge of legal professionals ranging from junior associates to partners continue to consider options overseas, or even relocating with their families before securing a new role. This quarter we witnessed Ashley Alder, chief executive of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) for the past 11 years, stepping down to chair Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority from January next year. We have also seen various partners relocating from Hong Kong in order to maintain their client-base in Asia, whilst having the privilege of travelling more flexibly. Partner recruitment Given the amount of partners having relocated, partner recruitment in Hong Kong remained active. We have also seen long term in-house lawyers making the move back to private practice. For example, Brian Ho, the former executive director of corporate finance at the SFC has joined Kirkland & Ellis’ transactional group as a partner and Niel Liebenberg, GC of China Aircraft Leasing Group has joined Bird & Bird in Singapore. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison has also moved to rebuild its Hong Kong office with the hire Bosco Yiu from Goodwin Procter. There have also been hires within litigation – Howse Williams have hired Janie Wong and her team following the closure of Addleshaw Goddard this year and Reed Smith have grown their arbitration practice with the hire of Matthew Townsend from Fangda, where he was Counsel. Investigations Partner Yuet Ming Tham has returned to Sidley Austin following a short stint at McDermott Will & Emery. A number of international firms remain keen to hire at Partner level within employment, litigation, arbitration, finance, and corporate M&A/PE. Associate recruitment The funds area has remained strong during this third quarter. Given the lack of talent in Hong Kong, we have seen firms being open to relocating candidates to Hong Kong and covering their relocation costs. However, the interest in candidates wanting to move to Hong Kong is limited. To remain competitive, some UK firms are also open to providing US rates to stellar candidates. Although 2-3PQE candidates are preferred, candidates across all levels have various options they can consider. We have also seen a number of the leading offshore firms actively hiring across litigation and corporate as well funds. In line with the global market sentiment, Hong Kong’s IPO activities have slowed recording a 92% year-on-year decrease during the first six months of the year in terms of total proceeds raised. A significant number of capital markets associates have therefore been required to focus on general corporate advisory work and ongoing listing rules compliance matters during this period. Whilst we have not seen wide scale redundancies being made, the majority of capital markets associates are either adopting a “wait and see” approach, or in search of opportunities to retool themselves. For M&A associates, the market has picked up slightly. In addition to new headcounts, some openings are replacement positions for those relocating overseas. Other areas we have seen an increased need this quarter included senior litigation associates, particularly with experience in the insolvency and restructuring. Associates with expertise in construction and real estate finance are also highly sought after. With the inauguration of Mr. John Lee as Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive and September finally seeing a loosening of travel restrictions with the implementation of a 0+3 policy, it is envisioned that recruitment activities in Hong Kong will start to pick up particularly by the start of 2023. I hope this is helpful. Feel free to reach out to me on my email email@example.com for a strictly confidential discussion about how I can help with your career goals moving forward.