Firms eye return to Capital Markets boom times

As the world awaits the roll-outs of the various vaccines at varying rates of distribution, variable according to region, optimism is returning to the Asian markets. In some minds cautious optimism is being favoured following the devastating consequences of the global pandemic and its ongoing fallout, others report a return to regular compensation distribution levels and bonus payouts thanks to belatedly strong deal activity as the world got to grips with the new reality. Talk of a “coiled spring” market reaction to the downturn may be overly optimistic but the skies are certainly bluer.

Amid this recovery has been an interesting trend in hiring in capital markets. Previous indications were that major firms outside the Magic Circle and established US players had all but given up on trying to make Hong Kong IPOs a viable source of profitable income, with US firms such as Davis Polk, Milbank, Shearman & Sterling and others allowing their practices to fade following key departures in recent years, finding increasingly competitive pricing too burdensome to factor into budgets and turning their attention to the perceptibly higher margins of, for example, private equity.

But recent hires may show a resurgent confidence in the sector. Kirkland & Ellis welcomed back Mengyu Lu after six years at Sidley Austin, while Sidley themselves made the surprising hire of Dominic Tsun who could be viewed as moving in the opposite direction if not for the fact that he had left Kirkland, and seemingly practice altogether, in 2017. Two swallows do not a summer make but these are sufficiently high-profile moves to catch the attention of the market and maybe encourage others to start betting big again on what was once a highly popular and lucrative sector.

Indeed, PRC firms have been ramping up capability in the sector for a couple of years now, enticing high profile names from seemingly disenchanted international firms to ride the wave of Hong Kong listings emerging from the mainland. Their more flexible pricing structures, cultural and physical proximity to clients, and vast and cost-efficient personnel resources all justify this willingness to attack the gap in the market and make a success of it. Indications are that those firms still with an eye on this market are seeing the sense in building up the staff numbers in Beijing in preference to Hong Kong, where overheads are smaller. Davis Polk’s extremely recent hire of Jason Xu from Freshfields is an example of this, and an indication that the firm remains committed to maintaining activity in HK IPOs, albeit with a different approach than previously.

Low margins will seemingly remain a factor on deals outside the top bracket and firms on the sponsor side were for a time prepared to take those on in an effort to penetrate the market or maintain visibility and prestige. Time will tell if this is a market blip or a major shift.

Tips To Take You To The Top

For many law students and attorneys, becoming a top law firm partner is the ultimate career milestone. What does it take to make partner? Certain things you can learn in law school, but the path to partnership is forged in the workplace. Nowadays, delivering very high-quality legal work and being a rainmaker may no longer be enough by themselves to get you promoted to partner. The partnership measure is a test of both business and personal acumen. Individuals looking to become a partner will need to be a real business asset to the firm as well as a mentor to junior staff.


You need to be well-prepared when the opportunity knocks. We share six essential tips to prepare yourself on work and personal requirements on the path to becoming a Partner:


On a Professional Level

  • Be client-centric to make yourself into a business asset. The ability to perform good quality technical work is primary. In doing this, you should also spend time understanding your clients’ businesses and learning to hone the delivery of your legal advice accordingly. Also, associates need to keep in mind there are always business development opportunities. You can focus on institutional clients at the firm while attempting to generate more business from them, and beyond.


  • Don’t just network but forge genuine relationships with clients. “Growing your network” seems to be a golden rule for any associate who is gunning for partnership. But networking is not just a matter of building a stack of business cards on your desk. Law firms want partners who can build substantial relationships with clients. Developing a genuine relationship creates trust and a strong bond that involves connections of honesty, commitment, loyalty, and being culturally sensitive, respectful, and wise. In other words, you are someone clients want to hire. Especially if you are at a large firm where the perceived potential to bring in business is an important consideration.


  • Take on greater responsibility. Don’t avoid responsibility because you see something as unimportant. Firms want to see that you will commit to the execution of something from start to finish even if it does not benefit you directly. If a firm can’t trust you with the small details, why should they trust you with the huge complex deals? We see many superstar associates waste their careers by not growing beyond a certain level. You must push forward in your position so you can move to the next rung on the ladder by showing that you are a leader capable of handling responsibility and making strong recommendations and decisions.


  • Be a team player and role model. Law firms will endow you with responsibility because they are confident in your integrity and skill, and there is no better way to honor that than by showing the firm you are a team player who will always “muck in”. The best way to build strong, supportive, and collaborative teams is to be a good role model for junior teammates.


On a Personal Level

  • Seize opportunities to learn. To be a partner, you cannot just rely on existing legal knowledge, but embrace a willingness to continue to expand capabilities in other areas. With the rapid advancement in technologies and telecommunications, associates must also have the drive to learn new methods of communication, research and outreach to achieve targets and objectives.


  • Dare to be bold. Lawyers are inherently conservative people. Risk aversion is at the core of client advice. But it is very easy to stagnate if you remain in your shell professionally. Engage with colleagues, supervisors, HR and (yes!) recruitment consultants frequently to monitor your career progression, measure yourself against contemporaries and ensure you are meeting the firm’s requirements. A path to partnership is not always possible directly from a traineeship, and often this will not be a reflection of the capability of the lawyer. There is a window to partnership and you should be aware of when this opens – and when it closes – so you can look at alternative firms which offer a more realistic chance of success.

Asia LegalTech Overview, Singapore

Singapore has a thriving LegalTech industry more advanced than most of its Asian neighbors, as LegalTech startups and programs have received substantial government backing in the past few years. We believe nowhere else in Asia has the same level of sovereign investment in LegalTech and innovation as Singapore. LegalTech initiatives are supported as part of the Singapore government’s commitment to creating a first-class Smart Nation. In this article, we highlight the LegalTech development in Singapore and the associated challenges.

Why Singapore?

Singapore’s government has been open about its commitment to making the nation the regional hub for LegalTech in the past few years. Unlike other countries in the region, Singapore develops the LegalTech industry through a top-down, government-led approach.

Singapore government’s commitment is exemplified by the Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP)[i] launched in 2019 by the Singapore Academy of Law. It aims to drive innovation and encourage the adoption of new technologies across the legal sector. Global Legal Innovation and Digital Entrepreneurship (GLIDE), as part of FLIP, is Asia’s first LegalTech startup accelerator program. It is intended to help both local and international LegalTech startups scale and improve in-house legal capabilities by facilitating innovative solutions. Since the GLIDE launch, there have been 6 LegalTech projects launched: Anduin, Briefbox, Checkbox, LegalFAB, LexKnights, and Remedium.

In 2020, Singapore’s Ministry of Law had launched a 10-year sector-wide plan, the Technology and Innovation Roadmap (TIR)[ii], intending to promote new technology and innovation adoption and development in Singapore’s legal industry on existing government initiatives and grants available. The plan includes working with LegalTech companies to help law firms assess their digital readiness and identify technology they can adapt, enabling qualified lawyers to count LegalTech upskilling programs as part of their continuing professional development, infusing relevant technology or digital skills law schools’ curriculum.

The Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & the Law (TRAIL)[iii] was launched by the National University of Singapore (NUS) in Dec 2019 as a think tank to explore legal and regulatory issues associated with the deployment of AI, IT, data analytics and robotics in the practice of law. The Centre seeks to contribute to the conversation on how they harness and integrate technology into the legal sector in a useful and equitable way.

Singapore LegalTech Companies to Watch

Encouraged by government support, a handful of Singapore-based LegalTech companies have launched. Here are four key LegalTech startups/projects:

Alpha LegalTech has developed CompareNow[iv], a text comparison or mark-up tool for legal professionals, through Clifford Chance’s LegalTech innovation lab, Create+65. Supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and in collaboration with the FLIP, Create+65 identifies, incubates, tests, and pilots new legal technology solutions to enhance client services. CompareNow is one of the most successful projects in Create+45 by saving an average of 75% of time previously spent on email/text comparison and an average of 41% of time on longer, more complex documents.

Rajah & Tann Technologies (RTTech)[v], a digital arm of Singapore’s Big Four legal firm Rajah & Tann, was set up in 2018 to offer a suite of technology-enabled legal solutions, including electronic innovation, cybersecurity, and data breach response. Covid-19 has accelerated companies’ and individuals’ reliance on digital data, and the startup has spotted a much-needed service on cybersecurity at this most challenging of times. Last December, they joined with cybersecurity service provider Resolvo Systems to establish Rajah & Tann Cybersecurity (RTCyber), a platform to integrate legal and cybersecurity expertise to help clients mitigate against cyberattacks or security breach disruptions.

VanillaLaw[vi], a Singapore’s boutique law firm, launched its own web-based platform VanillaLaw Docs, in 2016. It is an interactive web-based platform that allows their clients to insert relevant information to prepare the first draft of legal documents in return. Clients, especially SMEs, can reduce legal costs and streamline the legal process.

LawCanvas [vii]is a legal startup that offers a cloud-based contract management platform for small businesses in Asia, launched in 2014. They provide a virtual library of free legal templates, with a smart editor that their clients claim makes editing clauses easy. In 2016, LawCanvas expanded its services into three more jurisdictions – Australia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.


What’s holding them back?

The Singapore government has invested heavily in fostering the LegalTech industry. The Covid-19 pandemic has given a strong push on tech adoption across the industry now more than ever. Despite this, Singapore’s legal sector as a whole has yet to make substantial investments in LegalTech and many law firms remain “old school” in practice. What is holding them back from embracing LegalTech development?

The willingness to retreat from the foundation of the “billable hour” is the main barrier for LegalTech growth in Singapore. Lawyers at most law firms are used to be paid based on the time invested, but offering efficient yet convenient technological solutions as part of lawyers’ services cuts directly into profit. This creates a paradigm shift in pricing from the working time invested to the services’ value/quality. Let us take Rajah & Tann partnership as an example. When its legal tech unit (RTTech) was founded in 2018, they had difficulties convincing their partners to participate in the tech transformation[viii].

Lawyers are generally too busy to have spare time to understand, analyze, and learn the new technology solutions that best-suited their practices. They are not trained with new technology at law schools. With time constraints and limited resources, legal professionals have been slow to adopt technology and innovation.

Cost is an issue, especially when law firms are cash-strapped in the post-Covid-19 period. Law firms, notably local or small firms with limited budgets and are less willing to make substantial investments as well as potentially huge maintenance costs. Maybe an upturn in the markets in 2021 will see this change.


[i] ‘The Future Law Innovation Programme’, flip.org.sg, Singapore Academy of Law, 2019, https://www.flip.org.sg/about (accessed 19 January 2021)

[ii] Jacqueline So, ‘Singapore Ministry of Law unveils technology and innovation roadmap for legaltech adoption’, thelawyermag.com, Key Media, 2020, https://www.thelawyermag.com/au/news/general/singapore-ministry-of-law-unveils-technology-and-innovation-roadmap-for-legaltech-adoption/235323 (accessed 19 January 2021)

[iii] Hariz Baharudin, ‘NUS launches new think tank to explore legal issues surrounding the use of technology’, straitstimes.com, Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co, https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/nus-launches-new-think-tank-to-explore-legal-issues-surrounding-the-use-of-technology (accessed 19 January 2021)

[iv] ‘Clifford Chance partners with Singapore start up Alpha LegalTech to launch CompareNow in Asia Pacific’, cliffordchance.com, Clifford Chance, 2020, https://www.cliffordchance.com/news/news/2020/03/clifford-chance-partners-with-singapore-start-up-alpha-legaltech.html (accessed 20 January 2021)

[v] Aparna Sai, ‘Rajah & Tann tech arm launches cybersecurity platform’, legalbusinessonline.com, Thomson Reuters, 2021, https://www.legalbusinessonline.com/rajah-tann-tech-arm-launches-cybersecurity-platform (accessed 20 January 2021)

[vi] Mark Goh, ‘3 business lessons I learned from running my own firm for 24 years’, techinasia.com, Tech in Asia, 2018, https://www.techinasia.com/talk/3-business-lessons-24-years (accessed 20 January 2021)

[vii] ‘Singapore-based legal startup LawCanvas expands into Australia, Malaysia and Hong Kong’, asialawportal.com, Asia Law Portal, 2016, https://asialawportal.com/2016/02/22/singapore-based-legal-startup-lawcanvas-expands-into-australia-malaysia-and-hong-kong/ (accessed 19 January 2021)

[viii] Jessica Seah, ‘Lawyer Mindset Still Barrier for Legal Tech Growth in Asia’, law.com, American Lawyer Media International, 2020, https://www.law.com/international-edition/2020/10/08/lawyer-mindset-still-barrier-for-legal-tech-growth-in-asia/ (accessed 20 January 2021)

Leaders in Law: Interview with Lian Lian

Lian Lian is the Managing Director, APAC at Kobre & Kim, an international law firm specializing in cross-border disputes and investigations.  She started out as an associate at international law firms focusing on cross-border transactions and corporate practice, then worked her way up as in-house counsel at Honeywell through various APAC General Counsel roles until she became the Global General Counsel of Honeywell Technology Solutions. For the last decade, Lian has been a leading lawyer in the Chinese legal community. Sherry recently sat down with Lian to talk about Lian’s career development path, her keys for success, the difference between in-house and private practice roles, and her advice for young lawyers.

Sherry:Sherry Xu (Director, Hughes-Castell)

Lian:Lian Lian (Managing Director, APAC, Kobre & Kim)


After graduating from Fudan University, Lian started her career in Otis’s Shanghai HR department the year Otis sponsored the Special Olympics. Lian was given the opportunity to work on the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Organizing Committee. Inspired by her international experience, Lian decided to explore overseas opportunities to broaden her education and experience, and concluded that the United States was the place to go. She initially studied in Boston to obtain an undergraduate degree with a major in political science.  This laid a strong foundation for her later Juris Doctorate study. During her law studies, she actively participated in legal aid activities working with the local Chinese community and also undertook an internship at a law firm in her 2L in the law school. For the next two years, she worked non-stop during the day and then rushed to her study courses after work. Her dedication paid off because by the time Lian graduated, she was already a well-known “practitioner” in Boston’s legal community concerning US/China affairs. She had attained the profile of a professional who knew the Chinese legal system and business culture, spoke Mandarin and English fluently, and had client connections as well as a US law degree and US legal practice experience.

Lian’s profile and background helped her attain an associate position at a regional firm in Boston’s highly competitive legal market. She focused on China practice right after her graduation. As a first-year associate, apart from legal practice, she worked closely with the partners on business development matters. At that time, Lian, who was still under 30, was interviewed by both the Boston Globe and the New England In-house Counsel Journal as a leading China cross-border practitioner. However, Lian worried that staying on her current track would only utilize her China connections and enhance her business development skills, whereas she was keen to get back to the nitty-gritty of practicing law. In 2008, Lian decided to return to China and joined Jones Day’s Shanghai office.  This helped strengthen her track record in cross-border M&A, private equity investment, and related corporate practice.

Although Lian loves business, being in a pure sales role is not something that she enjoys. Lian nevertheless observes the increasing importance of sales as part of a partner’s duties in a law firm. She also realized that, as an external advisor, she was not able to fully understand a client’s underlying business rationales as well as the methodology of the internal decision-making process. She observes that, as an external lawyer, “we tend to offer conservative legal advice rather than offer business driven solutions”. Given this perspective, Lian decided to move in-house and accepted an offer from Honeywell where she would spend the next decade.

Sherry: Lian, you were in Honeywell for 10 years and worked in various positions. Would you share with us insight into your opportunities and career growth in Honeywell?


Lian: When I first joined Honeywell, I started working in Honeywell APAC Corporate Legal Team, assisting the Asia Pacific General Counsel Gerard Willis. He was and continues to be a wonderful mentor to me.

I joined Honeywell at the perfect time. When I started, Honeywell had just obtained a substantial Aerospace contract, to act as a major supplier for China’s first commercial jet, C919 of COMAC. At that time, Honeywell won four supply contracts. Under Chinese law, we had to establish a joint venture under each contract. Gerald asked me to take charge of the Wheels & Brakes joint venture.

This 50/50 joint venture project was not easy to negotiate, especially when many negotiation partners were university professors and scientists. They are excellent in engineering science and technology field, but they had never done any business JV negotiation with international companies like Honeywell. The negotiations were particularly challenging in terms of differences in business and legal concepts, practices and culture. As a world technology leader, Honeywell was quite aggressive in the negotiations, especially on IP matters. Looking back, this was probably the most difficult project I have worked on in my career. I needed to build international bridges between legal, business culture and technical engineering issues to close the gaps that had opened. It was indeed a challenging task and I was very proud of handling and successfully delivering one of the most important projects in China for Honeywell. After this project, my capability was noticed internally and I was recognized as someone of “high potential” at Honeywell, and put into their executive development program.

During my following two years at Honeywell APAC Corporate, I had been working on the joint ventures for the C919 project and was a board director of the Wheels & Brakes JV company. In the meantime, a second key opportunity emerged when Honeywell established its High Growth Region corporate division. I worked with Gerald to provide legal support for new business on all market-entry matters in high growth regions, specifically Asia, Russia and South America.

With my successful track records at APAC Corp, I was promoted to become APAC General Counsel of Honeywell Performance & Material Technologies Group (“PMT”).  The PMT business has many technology components and grew rapidly in APAC.  We had many joint venture projects with Chinese state-owned enterprises, and many significant supply contracts with Japanese and Korean OEMs. During this period, my team and I worked very closely with our PMT business colleagues, who understood that my legal team and I would always try to help them achieve their business goals. We identified and mitigated risks but also came up with creative and innovative solutions. PMT is a tech-oriented business group, with many valuable patents and extensive know-how. During those three years I came to realize how a creative legal professional could help an innovative business. This period was also the peak of our Asia Pacific PMT business.

After accumulating all the valuable experience I have described, another opportunity arose and I seized it. There was a vacancy as Honeywell Technology Solutions Global General Counsel. Taking this role would be a good promotion for me although I was concerned at the beginning that working in this business unit seemed limited to only dealing with engineers. Later, after further study and communication internally, and especially after I assumed the role, I realized that this position actually was the most rewarding and this is the role that also most helped me fully achieve my goal of becoming more than just a typical lawyer. In the past, every one of Honeywell’s products had been developed within Honeywell. We came to understand as a company that if we stuck to this module, our development may not keep ahead of our competitors. Therefore, our Honeywell Technology Solutions (HTS) decided to adopt an open innovation approach — we would collaborate with world-renowned universities, customers and industrial players on innovation and product development. My role was to tailor-design and implement different cooperation structure modules and IP strategies according to each parties’ requirements. I also helped set up the Honeywell In-House Start-up process as an internal incubator to encourage engineers to build their own “start-ups.” During the 3-years I was the Global GC of HTS, we incubated more than 20 projects in China alone, with an adoption rate of 25%, and external venture capitals successfully invested in other projects. Later, we applied this successful model to our operations in the Czech Republic, Mexico and India. My role was to design and implement legal business concept models and train the local engineers to become entrepreneurs, converting their technological innovations into viable businesses.

Sherry: Many of our clients are now ask for relevant industry experience while hiring. You have served various industries at Honeywell, from Aerospace to chemical and then to R&D, without prior relevant industry experience. You thrived in those positions through learning on the job. Could you share your tips for success?


Lian: As long as you are curious enough to learn the business and related industries, and know how to partner with your business team, you will be a good General Counsel in the end. Instead of merely being a lawyer, you need to be a business advisor. So when I had already been with Honeywell for a while and had acquired some institutional knowledge of the company, changing industry focus was not too difficult for me to continue being both a good lawyer and leader for the business. Especially in Honeywell, we had the culture that senior management and business units’ staff are always willing to involve legal in projects and business ideas from an early stage.  It is because the legal team touched every aspect of our businesses, including compliance, transaction structure, and so on. I think the legal team should be the center of the wheel, backed by business trust and thorough communication from other teams. We should certainly build and earn trust from the different business teams when switching roles – I always tell my team that we would not simply say “No” to our clients but instead help find a solution. We should never be a deal killer, but a facilitator, providing the necessary legal structure and facilitating the business to succeed.

Sherry: What have been the most critical moments in your career? What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced? How did you overcome them?


Lian: Since I started as a transactional lawyer, I found it smooth to transfer from the Corporate Legal arena to the PMT business unit, where my primary duty was still transaction-centric. When I moved to the R&D business unit from PMT, I faced some unique challenges. I had to work directly with engineers on innovation processes and technical-driven procedures. The key at that time was to find out a way to leverage company resources. I was glad that I had an excellent Head of Intellectual Property colleague at that time, Jerry Xia, in our corporate legal team. Then I went back to the basics of the in-house legal work: I need to understand my clients, the engineers. I think that I overcame the challenge that is not to confine Legal Department in a technical IP process and function support but instead to guide engineers to connect their innovation with market demands and commercial value and deploy much more proactive and protective IP strategies in a R&D organization.

Sherry: While you were serving in different business units, what qualities were you more keen to see when recruiting? Does each business unit hire for its specific requirements?


Lian: No. First of all, the required legal skill sets are pretty basic. As long as you already are a well-trained and polished lawyer, I would be more concerned with business acumen, even now I am working in private practice.  Even for a private practice lawyer, if you cannot run your business well or cannot satisfy your clients, then you will fail. For an in-house lawyer, internal clients are your business. If your client is trying to avoid you, that means you are not a successful in-house lawyer. On the other hand, if your client takes the initiative to look for your help/assistance, this is a good indicator that you have succeeded in being partners with them. If your clients think of coming to you and asking “is this plan on the right track?” or “does this make sense?” before they kick off any new projects, this indicates that you have been very successful in building a trusted relationship. Second, I think communication skills are vital. Lawyers ultimately serve as guardians for their clients. But how can you convince others to accept your constructive advice and follow your instructions without doubts? It is not easy. You need to use your personality, cogency and influence to convince them take your advice wisely and willingly. Third, high EQ is necessary. If you plan to work for a large company or a leading law firm, you must have high EQ. This will be manifested in various communication channels such as the way you speak on the phone and write emails. You must be part of the team and be likable; otherwise, everyone in the team will suffer. It is essential to make clients and team members feel comfortable with you and your advice.

Sherry: Lian, you have been chosen for many internal promotions benefiting from Honeywell’s great talent development schemes. While nowadays not many young talents they have chances working in a company like Honeywell. Do you have any suggestions for them? How can they fight for opportunities and stand out from the competition?


Lian: First of all, I think you should be willing to speak up, work hard and work smart, and make your voice heard across the table. Don’t be too humble, especially when you are sure you are making the right call. When you are given a chance to shine, you must then seize it, not hide it. But remember not to claim any credit. Credit comes to you; it should not be claimed by you. You should work “smart”, know what exposure you are getting from each project and try your best when you are given an opportunity to thrive.


Sherry: Now you are at Kobre & Kim, having returned to private practice from in-house. Any unique experiences you have accumulated from the in-house world that you can pass on to the associates to be a good client-serving lawyer?


Lian: Firstly, nowadays law firms are no longer doing business in a captive client market.  Therefore, we must reform and should not operate in the traditional model. We should not offer legal services as a commodity. Nowadays you may see negative issues of private practice in the market, such as fierce competition, price “wars”, etc. This is definitely unhealthy. I aim to apply my background and experience to innovate the firm’s operations, making sure the products we offer match our clients’ needs and expectations and upgrading our products through their feedback and changes in market demand. Also, I’d suggest external lawyers be more business orientated and practical. You can talk about millions of laws, but if your advice doesn’t address business issues, it’s useless. This is key advice I would pass onto the young lawyers I can reach.

Sherry:  Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today.  Your career is incredibly inspiring for all of us.

Lian:  Thank you very much.

India In-house Legal Market Overview – 2020

India has one of the largest legal profession set-ups in the world, fittingly sitting alongside the world’s largest democracy. Which means disruption, doubts, and delays caused by Covid-19 were exacerbated in this market more than most others. Hiring activity remained busy throughout, however, and it will be fascinating to see whether such activity continues in a more stable economy.

The pandemic is also throwing up new areas of work as companies grapple with supply chain complications, revisit contractual obligations that cannot be met, exercise force majeure clauses and come to grips with derailed deals. Legal advisers and their clients, like others, are adapting to this rapidly changing environment and its accompanying challenges – working from home, pushing transactions across the finish line, and attending virtual court hearings.

India’s central government has announced a series of relaxations and stimulus packages to help vulnerable sections of the population and ease the burden felt by India Inc. However, since May, the government has devolved power to the states and union territories, which are free to impose whatever restrictions they believe are necessary in order to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of the virus. Indian and international companies with a presence across India are struggling as a result to decide the way forward, as one state could ease restrictions while another introduces new limitations to tackle the crisis. Indian businesses and their legal advisers are finding ways to cope – familiarizing themselves with new regulations, reducing overheads, reprioritizing business goals, and thinking innovatively about possible strategies to survive the pandemic and all the uncertainty it brings.

Recent Senior Moves in India – 2020 (In-house)

Moved from 
Moved to
Tejal Patil
GE - Group GC South Asia
Oyo - India/ South Asia Legal Head
Parveen Mahtani
Tata Housing - Head Legal & Compliance
Mahindra Lifespaces - Chief Legal Officer
Vinayak Mishra
Algo Legal - Partner
Lightspeed India - SEA Legal Chief
Aditya Bhardwaj
IDFC - Vice President of Legal
Link Legal - Partner
Alice George
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas - Partner
Essar Ports - General Counsel
John Thaliath
GE Research - Senior Counsel
GE - Group GC South Asia
Devdas Baliga
GSK - EVP Legal, India Subcontinent
Bayer - Country Group Head Legal
Varsha Choudhary Jain
GSK - General Manager - Legal
Unilever - Head Legal, Nutrition
Ishita Kapur
Diageo - VP Legal
Roundglass - GC
Shruti Zota
Talwar Thakore & Associates - Partner
GSK Pharma - General Counsel, EVP Legal
Ami Parikh
AZB - Partner
Experian India - Head Legal & Compliance
Sapan Gupta
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas - Partner
ArcelorMittal Group - General Counsel
Vedant Shukla
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas - Partner
Aditya Birla Group - Head Global M&A, Legal
Raju Dodti
L&T Finance - GC
L&T Finance - CEO

Contributor: Mudita Valakati (Senior Researcher, Hughes-Castell)

Embracing 2021 with positivity and aspirations

Dear Friends, Candidates and Clients, I hope this message finds you and your families safe and healthy.

We all have experienced the challenging year of 2020, globally or locally, personally or professionally. Pay cuts, layoffs, furloughs, and compensation freezes were everywhere last year. Many in the legal industry were unclear whether things will return to normal. But as 2021 starts, we’re determined to leave behind the bad memories and focus on the good to come. Let us embrace the upcoming year with positivity and shining aspirations for the future. We should vow not to let the negative, difficult times affect us in looking forward to meaningful changes as innovation, technology, and entrepreneur-minded practice drive growth in the legal industry, but usher 2021 with hopes and happiness.

Despite Covid-19 having a hugely disruptive effect on both the legal industry and world’s economy, I can see 3 valuable lessons from 2020. A key takeaway from this difficult period is the importance of planning for long-term periods of disruption. We have opted to adopt agile pandemic response plans to deal with longer-term disruptions and outages experienced during the pandemic. We believe thorough continuity plans are essential for companies to be resilient during challenging times while protecting our employees. Our employees have always operated in a remote and flexible working model with sufficient technological supports. Our experience can also help our candidates and clients cope with fast-changing conditions by being more agile and flexible.

Arguably the biggest takeaway from this challenging time is to remain resilient. We have strengthened our market analysis when we saw a significant drop in new permanent jobs earlier in 2020. We kept monitoring the legal markets to identify changes in demand in terms of sectors and locations for our clients and candidates. With our market analysis insights, we were creating content for our friends to be resilient during the crisis, for example, with video interview tips, advice on lawyers’ adaptation skills, and mental well-being hints. Our consultants were also proactively contacting our clients to understand how they are adapting their recruitment process and using this knowledge to adjust our talent solutions and support our candidates. Since we have observed good recruitment activities since August, we could respond quickly with a strong bounce back in the second half of 2020.

Last but not least, is the importance of entrepreneurship in times of crisis. Entrepreneurs worldwide are pivoting within their businesses to navigate the challenges created by Covid-19. Survival entrepreneurship, a case of staying engaged and motivated, has become a lifesaver in the pandemic-struck economy. Although Covid-19 has badly hit us, we remain resilient and actively engaged with our clients and candidates. We have been revamping business models, reconnecting with clients, providing proactive career coaching with candidates, and developing comprehensive digital presences amongst changes businesses are required to implement to stay connected within the markets. 2021 is the beginning of a new wave of business that involves stronger connections and a pivot away from the past’s traditional talent search.

A BIG thanks to our Hughes-Castell’s friends, clients, and candidates for collaborating in interviews, giving us mandates to work on, and taking our career advice during this difficult time – all through your appreciation and trust. 2021 will witness our renewed commitment to making Hughes-Castell better each and every day for our friends and partners.

Katherine Fan

Managing Director, Hughes-Castell

Are you ready? Legal hiring trends to look out for in 2021

Markets expect the world’s economy will bounce back once vaccination programs are underway. Once economic activity increases in the post-vaccine period, we believe that hiring activities will go back to the pre-Covid-19 level.  We have continued to see good levels of recruitment activity in Asia since Q4 2020. Both recruiters and jobseekers should be well-prepared to embrace a busy year. Let us wrap up 3 new hiring trends in the legal industry expected in the year 2021.

New Talent

The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the legal industry due to the social distancing requirements. Law firms and companies may move client-facing and back-office functions to the Cloud, virtual assistants and remote employees will become more common. Digital, data privacy, and cybersecurity lawyers will continue to play a critical role this year. Also for law firms, non-lawyer hires will move beyond the traditional focus on paralegals; IT and tech administrative/supportive staff will be in huge demand.

Pre-recorded Video Interviews

Under tight social restrictions, law firms and companies are searching for an interview system that can reduce the cost of hiring, personal contact risks, and increase time-efficiency. Video interviews are the new norm of today’s recruiting process. Candidates are increasingly invited to take videos of their answers to pre-set questions at their own pace to test their techniques, which are reviewed by recruiters as well as assessed by hiring personnel. Instead of traditional in-person/phone interviews, firms and companies no longer need to schedule a specific date and time for a specific interview. This offers a much easier, more flexible and faster way to get additional data on candidates to make for a better screening process.

EQ monitoring

Whether you like it or not, live/recorded video interviews will not go away soon. With the extensive growth of use of digital tools in the hiring process, demand for recruiters to be able to gauge emotional intelligence levels in video interviews is evident. Candidates in general feel more casual in video interviews than in-person one they may feel more comfortable answering tough interview questions in such a scenario. Recruiters need the skillsets to evaluate each of self-awareness, self-control, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

Since firms and companies have been more selective and strategic about engaging external recruiters, several hiring managers confirm that they only use recruiters to assist with difficult-to-fill business-critical roles. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we have seen many clients cease recruiting or at least reduce activity significantly. Many good candidates are waiting for new positions. When supply starts to outweigh demand, law firms or companies will turn to a select group of trusted search firms to satisfy their needs in a modern fashion.

Should you have any recruitment needs, please feel free to contact our well-versed consultants at hughes@hughescastell.com

Legal Move Updates (January – March 2021)

Editor’s note: This is an ongoing list.

February 2020 

18 Feb – Sidley Austin (Hong Kong, China)

Former Kirkland & Ellis partner Dominic Tsun has finally landed himself a new role at Sidley Austin in Hong Kong, four years after resigning from his previous firm. (from http://www.law.com)

18 Feb – O’Melveny & Myers (Seoul, Korea)

O’Melveny has hired a new partner, Daniel S. Kim, and co-head of its Seoul office from Paul Hastings, the firm has announced. (from http://www.law.com)

18 Feb – DLA Piper (Sydney, Australia)

DLA Piper has hired the head of Minter Ellison’s technology practice, as the firm continues to ramp up its hiring in the region. Anthony Lloyd is set to join DLA Piper’s Sydney office imminently, according to a partner at the firm.(from http://www.law.com)

18 Feb – Link Legal (Delhi & Bengaluru, India)

Link Legal India Law Services has snapped up two partners from HSA Advocates. Aditya K Singh is now joining Link Legal in Delhi in its electricity regulatory practice, according to a press release from the firm. Singh had been promoted to associate partner at HSA a year ago, while Sahay had joined from Kochhar & Co in 2019 to re-build HSA’s then-recently-decimated Bangalore office. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

17 Feb – Squire Patton Boggs (Sydney, Australia)

Squire Patton Boggs adds Sydney employment team as global expansion continues. The team is led by partner Nicola Martin, who will be joined by director Erin Kidd and associate Elisa Blakers. Kidd was at McCabes for almost three years prior to its merger with Curwoods in 2018. She stepped up to special counsel after the merger, working alongside Martin in its employment practice. Prior to that she spent almost nine years at Australian firm Holding Redlich. (from http://www.globallegalpost.com)

17 Feb – HBA Legal (Brisbane, Australia)

U.K.-based law firm DWF has lost another partner in Australia, with workplace health and safety partner Damian Hegarty following the firm’s Australian chairman and managing partner out the door. (from http://www.law.com)

16 Feb – Ben McQuhae & Co (Hong Kong, China)

Ben McQuhae, a former partner at Jones Day, has set up a boutique firm called Ben McQuhae & Co in Hong Kong that focuses on ESG and technology. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

15 Feb – Thomson Geer (Sydney, Australia)

Australian law firm Thomson Geer has hired a commercial litigation partner from Dentons, six months after it poached 20 staff from Dentons in 2020. Emma Hodgman joins Thomson Geer’s Sydney office and will focus particularly on disputes in the banking and finance industries, the firm said in a statement. (from http://www.law.com)

9 Feb – HWL Ebsworth (Sydney, Australia)

Three more partners have left Australia’s HWL Ebsworth in the wake of its failed plan to float on the share market last year, bringing the number of partner departures to at least eight. David Ulbrick has left to join the Perth office of multinational law firm Pinsent Masons as an infrastructure partner; transport and trade partner Chris Sacré has joined local firm Hall & Wilcox; and Nina Morgan has left the firm to become head of regulatory response at fund management and investment company AMP, according to her LinkedIn profile.  (from http://www.law.com)

9 Feb – Paul Hastings (Seoul, Korea)

Paul Hastings has bolstered its securities and capital markets practice in South Korea. Iksoo Kim joins from Greenberg Traurig where he had been a shareholder in the Seoul office for four years. A former investment banker at Lehman Brothers, Kim began his legal career as an associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. (from http://www.law.com)

9 Feb – Maples and Calder (Hong Kong, China)

Offshore firm Maples and Calder has expanded its global dispute resolution and insolvency practice after hiring Nick Stern and Quentin Cregan as partners in its Hong Kong and the Cayman Islands offices, respectively. Formerly a counsel at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Stern acts on multi-jurisdictional insolvency, restructuring-related and shareholder disputes and schemes of arrangement. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

9 Feb – HSA Advocates (Delhi, India)

Indian law firm HSA Advocates has hired Madhumita Kothari, formerly the managing partner of disputes boutique Juris International, as a partner in Delhi. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

4 Feb – K&L Gates (Singapore, Singapore)
K&L Gates has hired two lawyers in Singapore, making its office in the city-state the firm’s largest by head count in Asia, overtaking Hong Kong. Marius Toime joins K&L Gates as partner and advises multinational corporations and funds on corporate transactions and specializes in sustainable energy, natural resources and infrastructure projects across Southeast Asia. (from

3 Feb – CMS Holborn Asia (Singapore, Singapore)

CMS Holborn Asia, the Singapore foreign law alliance (FLA) of CMS, has hired Daniel Tan as the head of its banking and finance practice. Tan was earlier a counsel at Clifford Chance. Tan, who had been with Clifford Chance since 2006, advises on transactional and regulatory matters across multiple areas of finance, including leveraged and general syndicated finance, asset finance, trade finance and project finance. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

3 Feb – O’Melveny & Myers (Hong Kong, China)

O’Melveny & Myers has appointed Nima Amini as the managing partner of its Hong Kong office in place of James Ford, who moved to Allen & Overy. Amini, who has been with the O’Melveny for 14 years, advises on private equity and multi-jurisdictional public and private M&A matters. He was named Young Lawyer of the Year at the ALB Hong Kong Law Awards 2016. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

3 Feb – Fieldfisher (Shanghai, China)

Fieldfisher has recently hired Xiaoli Shi, an expert in tax and bond capital market, as a partner in its Shanghai office from Shanghai Kewei Law Firm. Shi holds law practice certificates in China and Pennsylvania, U.S. She also has bonds and securities practice qualifications. Shi has extensive experience in bond capital market, with expertise in bond-related dispute resolution and litigation in such area. She has also advised a number of companies on related legal matters.  (from http://www.sohu.com

2 Feb – Herbert Smith Freehills (Sydney, Australia)

Herbert Smith Freehills has added to its global competition, regulation and trade practice with the appointment of Clayton Utz longtime partner Linda Evans in Sydney. Evans, who was a partner at Clayton Utz for 20 years, will advise clients on all aspects of trade practices and competition law. She started at the firm Feb. 2. (from http://www.law.com)

2 Jan – Ashurst (Singapore, Singapore)

Ashurst has added a project finance partner in Singapore from Latham & Watkins. He represents lenders, sponsors, and governments on projects in the oil and gas, petrochemicals, power, mining and infrastructure sectors. In 2017, he advised the sponsors on a $1.74 billion financing of the Cirebon coal-fired power plant expansion project in Indonesia. He’s also worked on deals in Bangladesh, Philippines, Malaysia and across Southeast Asia. (from http://www.law.com)

2 Jan – CNPLaw (Singapore, Singapore)

Singapore law firm CNPLaw has hired corporate lawyer Low Wee Siong as a partner from local rival Wong Tan & Molly Lim. A director at his prior firm, Low advises clients on corporate finance and governance, takeovers, M&A, banking and finance and capital markets. He was also formerly an investment banker and auditor.  (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

2 Jan – Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (Hong Kong, China)

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) has grown its real estate offering in Hong Kong with the hire of Wayne Ma as a partner from DLA Piper. Ma, who had been a partner at DLA Piper’s Shanghai office since 2016, advises on real estate transactions including acquisitions and dispositions of various types of property, joint ventures and private equity. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

2 Jan – Khaitan & Co. (Mumbai, India)

India’s Khaitan & Co. has strengthened its technology, media and telecoms practice with the hire of Tanu Banerjee as a partner in Mumbai from IndusLaw. Banerjee represents media platforms and production houses on commercialisation of intellectual property, content production and partnerships. She also advises on corporate and commercial laws. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

2 Jan – Lantai Partners (Beijing, China)

Lantai Partners has hired commercial compliance expert Fu Qianming as a senior partner in its Beijing office from Beijing Fangzheng Law Office. With experience in judicial departments and as corporate legal counsel, Fu has expertise in both complex non-litigation and litigation cases. He has been focusing on ecological and environmental protection legal services over the last decade. As one of the few lawyers in this area in China, Fu has extensive experience in environmental resources and energy, construction engineering and infrastructure, green finance, commercial compliance and environmental litigation. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com

1 Feb – Clyde & Co (Sydney, Australia)

Global law firm Clyde & Co has hired its third partner in Australia this year, with the addition of digital law, data protection and privacy lawyer Alec Christie. Christie will join Clyde & Co’s resilience practice in Sydney and will work with the cyber risk practice, the firm said. He has a national and cross-border Asia Pacific practice that emphasizes data privacy, cybersecurity, privacy compliance, digital transformations and blockchain, smart contracts and cryptocurrency. He has expertise in pre-incident support and helping clients enhance their privacy and cyber resilience. (from http://www.law.com)

1 Feb – Pennington Manches Cooper (Singapore, Singapore)

U.K. firm Pennington Manches Cooper has hired its first corporate partner for the Singapore office. Nick Dingemans joins Pennington Manches from Watson Farley & Williams, where he was a partner in the oil & gas practice. Dingemans advises on M&A, joint ventures and broader commercial matters with a particular focus on energy, natural resources, commodities, technology and financial services sectors. (from http://www.law.com)

1 Feb – Hogan Lovells DNFP (Jakarta, Indonesia)

Hogan Lovells has hired a new partner for its Jakarta office, Hogan Lovells DNFP. Mochamad Kasmali joins the firm from local Indonesian firm Soemadipradja & Taher, where he had practiced for over a decade. Kasmali specializes in the mining and oil and gas sectors, and advises on corporate and employment matters in relation to major infrastructure and energy projects in the region. (from http://www.law.com)

1 Feb – Allen & Overy (Hong Kong, China)

Allen & Overy has hired O’Melveny & Myers’ former head of investment funds James Ford, following failed merger talks between the two global firms in 2019. He is based in Hong Kong. Ford, who was also the U.S. firm’s managing partner in Hong Kong, advises private equity firms and other investors on fund formation and investment transactions. He’s represented Asia-based sponsors on raising funds for various strategies as well as on acquisitions, disposals and on capital markets listings. (from http://www.law.com)

1 Feb – Global Law Office (Shanghai & Shenzhen, China)

Global Law Office has added corporate and M&A experts Philip Zhang and Tony Zhang as partners in its Shanghai office, with capital market lawyer Haojia Zhuang joining the Shenzhen office as a partner.

Philip Zhang’s main practice areas include corporate and M&A, business operators’ declaration of anti-monopoly, domestic and foreign bonds issuing, private funds and equity investments. He has advised a number of well-known multinational companies and domestic enterprises since 2006, involving various industries like manufacturing, real estate, retailing, energy and education. Prior to joining GLO, Philip Zhang was a partner at AllBright Law Offices.

Tony Zhang has expertise in corporate and M&A, business operators’ declaration of anti-monopoly, domestic and foreign bonds issuing and labour law. He has advised a number of multinational companies and domestic enterprises. Tony Zhang also has experience in restructuring and liquidation, compliance and commercial agreements. Prior to joining GLO, Tony Zhang practiced in AllBright.

Haojia Zhuang’s practice areas include capital market, M&A, private equity investment, involving industries like biomedicine, medical equipment, IoT, real estate and new energy. Zhuang has extensive experience in domestic and foreign IPO, corporate M&A, investment and finance, asset restructuring. Zhuang previously was a partner at Zhong Lun Law Firm.  (from http://www.sohu.com)


January 2020

29 Jan – Lang Yue (Beijing, China)

Disputes partner Melody Wang leads the team and will head up Lang Yue’s litigation practice. Leading the group is partner Melody Wang, who formerly led the Beijing office disputes practice for Fangda. Wang will now be litigation head for Lang Yue, a Chinese firm that jointly operates with Allen & Overy in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. (from http://www.law.com)

28 Jan – Jingtian & Gocheng (Beijing, China)

Jingtian & Gongcheng has hired Zhao Bojia, Zhao Yulai and Li Xinqian as partners in its Beijing office.  (from http://www.china.legalbusinessonline.com)

28 Jan – Clyde & Co (Sydney, Australia)

Clyde & Co has hired a Sydney-based partner, Patrick Boardman, to bolster its Australian and international insurance practice—its second hire in Australia this month. Patrick Boardman, who joins from local Wotton + Kearney, focuses on financial lines insurance, primarily in directors and officers and financial institutions PI insurance. (from http://www.law.com)

28 Jan – Clifford Chance (Sydney, Australia)

Magic circle law firm Clifford Chance is strengthening its Australian and global leveraged finance practice with the hire of partner Elizabeth Hundt Russell. She will join the firm’s Sydney office in late March from Australian-Chinese firm King & Wood Mallesons. (from http://www.law.com)

28 Jan – RPC (Hong Kong, China)

RPC continues to rebuild its Asia disputes team with the hiring of employment lawyer Andrea Randall from Gall. Randall acts on high profile and complex contentious and non-contentious employment matters. She also advises on regulatory issues, representing clients who are the subject of investigations by external regulators including the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Securities and Futures Commission. (from http://www.law.com)

27 Jan – Hai Run Law Firm (Beijing, China)

Hai Run Law Firm has hired Wu Huizhong and Yang Liu respectively as senior partner and partner in its Beijing office. (from http://www.china.legalbusinessonline.com)

27 Jan – Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (Mumbai, India)

Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, India’s third-largest law firm, has expanded in Mumbai with the hire of partners Lalan Gupta from Dhruve Lildhar & Co. and Amruta Kelkar from Economic Laws Practice.

Gupta specialises in dispute resolution, with a focus on litigation on both the original and appellate jurisdictions and domestic arbitrations, mediation and conciliation.

Kelkar primarily handles domestic and cross-border private equity and M&A for real estate, healthcare, hospitality, financial services and education sectors. (from http://www.au.legalbusinessonline.com)

26 Jan – Trilegal (Bengaluru, India)

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas real estate partner Mridul Kumbalath has left the firm to join rival Trilegal as a partner in Bengaluru. Kumbalath, who started his career at the legacy Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co in 2008, advises developers, real estate financers and funds. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

25 Jan – Reed Smith (Singapore, Singapore)

Reed Smith raids 6-lawyer team From Bryan Cave in Singapore. Reed Smith has hired two new Singapore partners Manoj Purushothaman and Simon Spells to lead the team. (from http://www.law.com)

22 Jan – Broad & Bright (Beijing, China)

Broad & Bright has hired intellectual property (IP) law expert Yu Wenzhu as a partner in its Beijing office from LexField Law Offices where Yu was a partner. Yu has expertise in IP law, with extensive experience in both litigation and non-litigation business. She is good at handling cases involving trademark, copyright, domain name, appearance design and anti-unfair competition. Yu had also practiced in Baker & McKenzie’s Beijing office. (from http://www.china.legalbusinessonline.com)

21 Jan – Withers (Singapore, Singapore)

UK firm Withers has grown its family law practice in Singapore with the additions of partner Ivan Cheong and senior associate Shaun Ho. Both join from local firm Harry Elias Partnership. Cheong’s practice focuses on family law, divorce proceedings, custody disputes, and pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

21 Jan – K&L Gates (Sydney, Australia)

An energy partner has left the Australian arm of Norton Rose Fulbright to join K&L Gates, the latest in a string of lawyers to leave the firm. The departure of Kelly Davies, who joins K&L Gates’ Sydney office, comes after 15 partners left Norton Rose Fulbright’s Australian offices last year. (from http://www.law.com)

21 Jan – Trilegal (Bangalore, India)

Delhi-based Trilegal has hired Mridul Kumbalath, a new partner for its real estate practice, from Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, where he was a partner. Kumbalath will be based in the firm’s Bangalore office. (from http://www.law.com)

21 Jan – Kirkland & Ellis (Hong Kong, China)

Kirkland & Ellis has hired capital markets partner Mengyu Lu from Sidley Austin, getting a major boost in Hong Kong listings work. Kirkland confirmed that Lu will soon return to the firm with additional members of her team. She joined Sidley in 2015 from Kirkland where she had practiced since 2011 and became a partner in 2014. Earlier in her career, she practiced with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. (from http://www.law.com)

20 Jan – JunHe (Beijing, China)

JunHe has hired Dr. Zhang Ke as a partner in its Beijing office. Dr. Zhang, whose practice focuses on capital markets, corporate and M&A, was a partner in the Corporate Group of Reed Smith before joining JunHe. (from http://www.china.legalbusinessonline.com)

20 Jan – HSA Advocates (Delhi, India)

Indian law firm HSA Advocates has grown its corporate practice with the hire of Sumit P as a partner in Delhi from Kochhar & Company. Sumit’s practice covers PE funding, FDI and exit of foreign investors, project finance transactions, FEMA, data protection and corporate compliances. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

20 Jan – Clyde & Co (Sydney, Australia)

Clyde & Co has hired partner Damian Watkin to join its projects and construction team in Sydney. Watkin specializes in major projects and is an international dispute resolution specialist, primarily in the energy, construction, infrastructure and natural resources sectors, the firm said. He will run a multi-jurisdictional practice, conducting high-stakes international arbitrations and cross-border litigations throughout the APAC and Middle East regions. (from http://www.law.com)

20 Jan – Stephenson Harwood (Hong Kong, China)

Stephenson Harwood has hired a new partner in Hong Kong focusing on real estate transactions. Janice Yau Garton joins from DLA Piper where she had practiced since 2015 and most recently as of counsel. Garton advises on commercial real estate transactions in Hong Kong. (from http://www.law.com)

20 Jan – IndusLaw (Delhi, India)

India’s IndusLaw has hired yet another partner in Delhi, with the addition of corporate specialist Pratyush Khurana from Link Legal India Law Services, where he was an associate partner. Since the start of the year, IndusLaw has hired two other partners in its office in the Indian capital – Unnati Agarwal and Shashi Mathews. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

20 Jan – AZB & Partners (Delhi, India)

India’s AZB & Partners has welcomed infrastructure lawyer Anuja Tiwari as a partner in Delhi from DSK Legal. Tiwari, who has more than 10 years of experience, handles entry- and exit-level transaction structuring, pre-dispute strategy and projects arbitration, due diligence, regulatory, negotiations and project financing. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

19 Jan – Hunton Andrews Kurth (Bangkok, Thailand)

Mayer Brown closes Bangkok office, Lead Partner, Maythawee Sarathai, joins Hunton Andrews Kurth. Sarathai joins Hunton Andrews Kurth after more than two decades at Mayer Brown. He advises on M&A and corporate restructuring transactions and has acted for both local and international clients on distressed-asset sales and acquisitions. Sarathai’s practice also includes advising clients on distressed debt situations. Hunton Andrews Kurth has 34 lawyers including five partners in its Bangkok office. (from http://www.law.com)

18 Jan – Cooley  (Singapore, Singapore)

Cooley bolsters Singapore office with Fund Formation Partner, Sean Murphy. Cooley has hired a new partner for its global fund formation practice. Sean Murphy joins the firm’s Singapore office, launched earlier last year, from Shearman & Sterling, where he was counsel based in Hong Kong. Murphy advises on private fund structuring and formation, limited partner investments in private funds, and investments in private equity sponsors across Asia and the U.S. He regularly acts for sponsors and investors and advises clients on venture capital, growth capital, private equity, infrastructure, credit and hedge strategies. (from http://www.law.com)

18 Jan – Bird & Bird (Hong Kong, China)

Bird & Bird Hong Kong hires local Litigation Head, David Chu, from Proskauer. David Chu was most recently a partner with Proskauer Rose where he led the firm’s litigation practice in Hong Kong and China. Chu specializes in internal and government investigations, and has experiences advising on securities litigation before Hong Kong courts. He’s qualified to practice in Hong Kong, the U.S. and Canada. (from http://www.law.com)

18 Jan – KPMG Law (Sydney, Australia)

KPMG Law has hired a partner, Jason McQuillen, from Big Four rival PwC to lead its Legal Operations Transformation Services in Australia. The new hire will head the firm’s Legal Operations Transformation Service, which aims to help in-house teams digitize and automate their departments in the wake of COVID-19. (from http://www.law.com)

18 Jan – HFW (Singapore, Singapore)

Reed Smith’s Singapore managing partner Peter Zaman has left the firm to join HFW. Zaman advises on structured products and derivatives, financial regulation and environmental issues including climate change, carbon trading and finance. He has substantial experience in acting on China-related transactions, with a particular focus on and offshore commodity derivatives, including regulatory aspects. (from http://www.law.com)

14 Jan – Simmons & Simmons (Hong Kong, China)

Simmons & Simmons has hired disputes expert Gary Yin as a partner in Hong Kong from PRC firm Jingtian & Gongcheng, where he led the disputes and investigations practice. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

14 Jan – Dahui Lawyers (Shanghai, China)

DaHui Lawyers has added two partners to its Corporate/M&A practice group, Jacky Zhu and Yingyuan Xue, bringing with them a combined two decades of prior work with PRC and international firms. (from http://www.china.legalbusinessonline.com)

14 Jan – HSA Advocates (Mumbai, India)

Indian law firm HSA Advocates has hired corporate specialist Saurya Bhattacharya as a partner in Mumbai from Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. He advises on domestic and cross border corporate transactions, and advisory matters across industries such as education, food and agriculture, consumer, and healthcare and pharmaceuticals. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

14 Jan – IndusLaw (Delhi, India)

India’s IndusLaw has grown its competition practice with the hire of Unnati Agarwal as a partner in Delhi from J. Sagar Associates, where she was an associate principal. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

13 Jan – DLA Piper (Tokyo, Japan)

Former Quinn Emanuel Tokyo Partner, Tony Andriotis, heads for DLA Piper After brief stint. Tony Andriotis will lead an international arbitration practice in Japan. (from http://www.law.com)

12 Jan – IndusLaw (Delhi, India)

India’s IndusLaw has hired tax disputes expert Shashi Mathews as a partner in Delhi from PDS Legal, where he was a director. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

11 Jan – Lewis Silkin (Hong Kong, China)

Lewis Silkin today announces the appointment of David Swain as partner and Head of Intellectual Property in the firm’s Hong Kong office, where he will spearhead the Asia launch of the firm’s marketing-leading Intellectual Property practice. David will oversee a significant expansion of the firm’s offering in Hong Kong, which until now has been focused on employment and immigration services, by inaugurating Lewis Silkin’s IP practice group in the Asia-Pacific market. He will sit on Lewis Silkin’s China Desk alongside colleagues in the UK, Ireland and Hong Kong, and also work closely with employment partners Kathryn Weaver (Head of the Hong Kong office) and Catherine Leung to further enhance the firm’s stature across the Asia-Pacific region. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com)

7 Jan – Wong & Partners (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Wong & Partners, a member of the Baker McKenzie network, has hired Ai Leen Tang as a partner in Kuala Lumpur from local competitor Zul Rafique & Partners, where she headed the corporate real estate practice group. With two decades of experience, including more than 17 years at Zul Rafique, Tang’s practice focuses on real estate project and end financing, advising local and multinational property developers, investors and REITs. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com

7 Jan – Khaitan & Co. (Delhi, India)

India’s Khaitan & Co. has added Akshay Malhotra and Sudipta Bhattacharjee as partners in Delhi. While Malhotra was formerly with HSA Advocates, Bhattacharjee joins from Advaita Legal. With more than 10 years of experience, Malhotra advises on project development, financing, M&A and dispute resolution with emphasis on public-private partnerships. Bhattacharjee, who has more than 15 years of experience in the industry, represents clients on matters pertaining to advisory and litigation support, indirect tax and allied commercial issues. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com

7 Jan – White & Case (Singapore, Singapore)

White & Case has hired Tim Fourteau and Jamie Franklin as partners in Singapore from Latham & Watkins, where they were both counsel. Fourteau focuses on project development and finance, M&A and private equity transactions. And Franklin advises on project development and finance transactions related to M&A and private equity in the energy sector. (from http://www.legalbusinessonline.com

5 Jan – Simone Intellectual Property Services (Hong Kong, China)

China trademark veteran Christopher Smith has joined SIPS as a partner effective January 1, 2021. Chris brings decades of experience in handling PRC trademark prosecution matters for multinationals. Prior to joining SIPS, Chris worked in Beijing and Hong Kong for 25 years, during which time he helped develop the Beijing IP practice of a major international law firm.  (from http://www.sips.asia)

5 Jan – Han Kun Law Offices (Beijing, China)

China’s Han Kun Law Offices has hired a new private equity and mergers and acquisitions partner in Beijing. Shaolin Luo was most recently general counsel of YunFeng Capital, a Shanghai-based private equity firm cofounded by Alibaba chair Jack Ma. He’s advised on public and private cross-border transactions in and out of China. (from http://www.law.com)

4 Jan – Watson Farley & Williams (Hong Kong, China)

Watson Farley & Williams (“WFW”) is delighted to announce the hire of BCLP’s aviation team in Hong Kong, led by William Ho and Jackson Chow. The team are considered leaders in the Chinese aviation finance and leasing market. (from http://www.wfw.com

4 Jan – Squire Patton Boggs (Singapore, Singapore)

Squire Patton Boggs hires a Singapore-based partner, Kate Sherrard, from Clifford Chance focusing on financing work of offshore energy projects. Kate Sherrard moves as the U.S. firm continues to develop the newly launched shipping practice. (from http://www.law.com)

4 Jan – Latham & Watkins  (Tokyo, Japan)

Latham & Watkins continues Japan expansion with a hire of a local law partner, Hiroaki Takagi. He joins from Nishimura & Asahi where he’d been a partner since 2015 advising securities and corporate transactions. (from http://www.law.com)

4 Jan – King & Wood Mallesons (Hong Kong, China)

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) is delighted to announce the continued expansion of the firm’s debt capital markets (DCM) practice with the addition of Yue Song to the Hong Kong partnership. Song will be joining the Hong Kong office on 4 January 2021. (from http://www.kwm.com)

4 Jan – Harry Elias Partnership (Singapore, Singapore)

Harry Elias Partnership has today formally announced the appointment of three new partners, Pearl Lim and Chan Wai Chong to its Banking and Finance practice group and Thian Wen Yi to its Family and Divorce practice group.  Harry Elias Partnership has also promoted Wen Yi to Partner in our Family and Divorce practice group. (from http://www.harryelias.com

4 Jan – Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (Mumbai, India)

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, India’s largest firm, has boosted its funds practice with the hire of Vivaik Sharma as a partner in Mumbai from AZB & Partners, where he was a counsel. (from http://www.legallyindia.com)


Positive Outlook Amidst the Setbacks

2020 has been an unprecedented and challenging year. When the Covid-19 virus broke in January in Asia, businesses learned that remote working was no longer an option but a necessity. Companies and employees in the region were adapting in Q1; thus, we monitored a quiet market. China became the first major economy to begin to recover from the covid-19 pandemic in March. Since July, we saw a good level of hiring activity despite the 3rd and 4th wave although Covid-19 did slow lateral hiring in Asia, especially Hong Kong and Singapore. Since Q3, Australia superseded Singapore in legal lateral hiring. Here we look back on the key appointments of the past 12 months in the Asia Pacific region:



  • The numbers of key appointments in Q4 dropped 30% compared to Q3 and 12% to Q2.
  • But, compared to Q1 when the Covid-19 pandemic deeply hit the region, the numbers of key appointments in Q4 still received a 36% rise.
  • The APAC lateral market was very active from July to November when the pandemic showed easing in Asia. Unfortunately, with Covid-19 cases rising again in several regions this winter, governments tightened social-distancing rules in December. In addition to traditional festive holidays, this dramatically slowed the hiring market in December.
  • 79% of the 427 key appointments in 2020 were lateral hires. 33 out of 55 promotions were senior appointments (Regional Managing Partner, Managing Partner, Executive Member, Head of Office/Practice, etc.)




  • China led the hiring spree with 124 significant hires in 2020, followed by Hong Kong (74), Australia (73) and Singapore (73).
  • China (21), Hong Kong (11) and Singapore (11) all recorded the most key appointments in July.
  • The recurrence of Covid-19 in Singapore from the mid of July to August has a strong impact on their economic activities. As a result, Singapore reported the lowest lateral hires in August of markets surveyed.




  • The top 5 practices in 2020 for hiring were Corporate, Dispute Resolution, Banking and Finance, IPT/TMT, and Construction/Real Estate.
  • Corporate/M&A/Capital Markets practices dominated the lateral hires in 2020. In August, these practices saw the highest activity levels
  • Dispute resolutions/Arbitration/Investigations practices saw steady growth from Q1 (17) to Q2 (23) and a stable Q3 and Q4.
  • Construction/Real Estate and Restructuring & Insolvency practices saw the same numbers of key hires in the first half of 2020. Construction/Real Estate practices received an annual record-high of significant appointments in Q4, replacing Restructuring & Insolvency as the 5th most active practice in 2020.

Contributor: Fai Choi (Marketing Manager, Hughes-Castell)

Editor: Sam Kenworthy (Director – Head of Private Practice, Hughes-Castell)

2020 Review: Asia Legal In-House Commerce

2020 has been the most challenging year in decades, the Covid-19 virus has wreaked chaos across the globe and all industries, and the Asian legal services sector is not immune. To combat Covid-19 with resilience, many companies were trying hard to adjust their operations to react to the fast-changing circumstances – revenue, budget, headcount, and workload. Here we wrap up 2020 with a quick review of the Greater China, India, and Singapore legal in-house commerce markets.

Greater China

Around May time, when China recovered from the pandemic and had most of the market back to normal, we saw hiring with PRC top companies become active, in both domestic China (domestic operation-related legal support) or their offshore hubs, Hong Kong and Singapore. Since July, our multinational corporate clients restarted their strategic hiring, for both replacements and critical newly-created headcounts. Through Q2 and Q3, we did see many of our clients undergo strategic re-organization, and approaching Q4 time, we were gradually getting mandates for post re-organization replacement hires, upgraded or downgraded, and some of our clients are forecasting replacement searches commencing in Q1 next year.

In newly created headcounts worth mentioning, we see a growing need for dispute resolution and regulatory talent across both mainland China and Hong Kong markets, both in-house and private practice. For the in-house sector, apart from traditional contract disputes, we see clients seeking candidates with strong dispute resolution and/or regulatory compliance backgrounds covering the growing needs of product liability, account receivable collection, and internal investigation (compliance function). In mainland China, the demand in the employment field is a noticeable growth area throughout this year.

Another growing area is the data-privacy and cyber securities field in both mainland China and Hong Kong. These demands are not only coming from the technology or e-commerce sectors; we have partnered with our clients from the retailing, automotive, and industrial industries to acquire digital lawyers to support their business transformation.

Hong Kong had experienced a period of growth in the need for virtual bank lawyers (with experience in retail banking and technology) and compliance professionals in 2019 and had undergone a quiet 2020 due to Covid-19. Instead, toward the end of the year, with a trend of more and more Chinese companies exploring the possibility of 2nd listings on the HK Stock Market, we monitored a growing of in-house needs for HK ECM and DCM lawyers, as well as listing compliance talent (lawyers and HKICS members). Chinese companies listed in the US also have needs for similar talent.

In mainland China, tackling the international political face-offs in 2020, we saw massive demand in the following fields:

  • Export control/ trade compliance
  • The semiconductor industry, as well as the related patent and trade secret areas
  • The Pharmaceutical industry and some specific sectors in the retail industry– these two “consumer-facing” industries have been steadily growing their business and team sizes all through the year in China


The pandemic also threw up new work areas as companies grapple with supply chain complications, revisit contractual obligations that cannot be met, exercise force majeure clauses, and get to grips with derailed deals. Legal advisers and their clients, like others, are adapting to this rapidly changing environment and its accompanying challenges – working from home, pushing transactions across the finish line, and attending virtual court hearings.

India’s central government has announced a series of relaxations and stimulus packages to help vulnerable sections of the population and ease the burden felt by India Inc. However, since May, the government has devolved power to the states, and union territories, which are free to impose whatever restrictions they believe are necessary to flatten the curve and reduce the virus’s spread. Indian and international companies with a presence across India are struggling, as a result, to decide the best overall way forward, as one state could ease restrictions while another introduces new limitations to tackle the crisis. Indian businesses and their legal advisers are finding ways to cope – familiarizing themselves with new regulations, reducing overheads, reprioritizing business goals, and thinking innovatively about possible strategies to survive the pandemic and all the uncertainty it brings.


Many multinational corporations and ultra-high-net-worth Chinese families have turned their focus to Singapore by moving their companies and their money in more significant numbers there, as Hong Kong’s political unrest continued and the US ended the city’s preferential treatment in 2020. Singapore is also catching up to Hong Kong as the international arbitration center in Asia. The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) has opened an office in New York, reflecting its popularity as a centre for dispute resolution among US parties. In this regard, more lawyers are looking to relocate from Hong Kong to Singapore and the likes of Latham & Watkins, CMS and Ashurst all made hires to boost their Singapore operations.

Being an Asian tech hub, while Covid-19 has affected the economy in general, it created a unique opportunity for tech companies to prosper, given the growing need for e-commerce, telecommuting, cybersecurity, and other related services. Chinese tech giant Tencent joined Alibaba and ByteDance in picking Singapore as their Asia hub in 2020. In addition to the rise of virtual banking in Singapore, TMT lawyers and regulatory compliance professionals were sought throughout the year.


2021 will be a year of change. When the vaccines are widely available, communities, consumers, and businesses can leave the pandemic behind; we will embrace a new normal. With the lessons we learned from combating the Covid-19, businesses are looking at ways to accelerate their recovery.

Contributors: Sherry Xu (Director, Hughes-Castell); Mudita Valakati (Senior Researcher, Hughes-Castell)

Editor: Sam Kenworthy (Director – Head of Private Practice, Hughes-Castell)

2020 signs off with a bang and a whimper

If 2020 was dominated by a global pandemic, it will be interesting to see if a particular theme will hold similar sway over 2021. We have observed firms adapting to new working conditions, client interaction, marketing enterprises and observers have traded views on how far these new practices will be adopted permanently. Assuming there is a return to whatever a “normal” situation is, one would expect a surge in business travel and wining and dining – maybe for the novelty as much as anything.

Lateral hiring was an interesting aspect to observe. Once recession hit, all eyes turned to the likely busiest areas of insolvency and restructuring but with the exception of a few noteworthy moves, the sector remained relatively stable. Finance teams able to retool themselves in what seems like the distant past of the financial crisis of 2008 were again nimble enough to adjust, it seems. Other firms displayed bold aggression to strengthen in anticipation of a rebounding economy – Milbank’s  capture of three Magic Circle private equity partners in Hong Kong in late Autumn being the most noteworthy example.

An area certain to take on new levels of importance surely will be cybersecurity and data privacy, currently mostly seen as support functions to larger transactional teams, likely to move more to the centre stage (much as antitrust did in the 80s and 90s) as specific and precise legal advice becomes prevalent in such a fast-moving and constantly-evolving arena – and becomes a cash cow for firms.

International strategy will also come under scrutiny. 2020 saw a raft of firms withdraw from certain Asian countries (while maintaining outposts elsewhere in, what we assume to be, more profitable and strategically aligned jurisdictions. As travel became increasingly untenable, greater flexibility was required (as has been commented on throughout the pandemic) but firms looked to unprofitable offices in Hong Kong (for example), a jurisdiction notable for high real estate costs and high staffing costs, and decided to make radical adjustments. To name a few that come to mind immediately, Orrick and Osborne Clarke shuttered in Hong Kong, BCLP, Stephenson Harwood and Vinson & Elkins closed their Beijing offices, DWF curtailed their short-lived Asia project in Singapore and Mayer Brown will close doors in Bangkok in the new year. It is doubtful that Covid-19 was the direct reason for any of these closures but financial market crashes always prompt a review of strategy to assess where firms will haemorrhage money the most and which will struggle to recover. A lot of soul searching has been done in the past 12 months.

As we say goodbye to a very challenging year, uncertainty still reigns and lockdown restriction measures continue to fluctuate, in Asia and further afield. The availability of the vaccine means there is light at the tunnel so let’s hope this is the final hurdle to be overcome and 2021 brings an altogether sunnier outlook.

Hughes-Castell wishes you Happy Holidays

Hughes-Castell wishes you Happy Holidays and a joyful festive season!

This holiday season is unlike any other, to cap off a year that has been unlike any other. While many of us may still be separated from our loved ones this holiday season, we can move into a new year that is filled with hope and the expectation of being united again.

May the coming weeks be filled with the warmth of family near and far, and the new year bring you smiles and cheer.

Consultant Spotlight: Eve Liu

At Hughes-Castell, our most valuable asset is our people, so creating a culture of an open, inspired, and rewarding working environment for consultants to grow and thrive is our ultimate goal. With a marketing background, Eve recently joined Hughes-Castell as an experienced recruitment consultant specializing in compliance and corporate governance recruitment for international law firms, financial institutions, MNCs, professional services firms, and local conglomerates in Hong Kong. In her spare time, Eve enjoys savouring different cuisines and hiking with friends.  Want to know more about this versatile consultant? Check this out!

Three words to best describe you.

Proactive. Reliable. Dedicated.

As a former marketer, briefly describe what led you to recruitment? What would you tell other people who wish to pursue a career like you in recruitment?

With a marketing background and an outgoing personality, recruitment caught my eye because it allows me to utilise my interpersonal and communication skills to connect with people and share my industry knowledge and expertise with my clients and candidates. I also enjoy the rewarding feeling when I am able to match talents with roles that lead them to success.

What motivates you at work?

I am motivated by people’s compliments and getting the placement right. Placing the right candidate in the right place brings me to another level of enjoyment because I am definitely changing their path to a better future. Satisfaction pushes me to work harder and better.

What do you do to turn things around when you’re having a bad day?

In recruitment, we face a different level of challenges daily.  I would do meditation or exercises when I had a bad day. Meditation gives the brain a break from the work. Exercise produces endorphins and makes me feel better.

Leaders in Law: Interview with Xiangjun Kong

Today, we are happy to have Xiangjun Kong, a former Head of Legal for Sanofi China, to join us to share his legal healthcare/pharmaceutical experience and tips for young lawyers as well as his thought on the fast-changing healthcare law landscapes in China. Kong has extensive experience in the field of healthcare and life science and serves as the Deputy Director of Professional Committee of Translational Medicine, Chinese Society of Microcirculation, a professional member of Security and Assessment Committee of China Health Information and Health Medical Big Data Association, and a registered member of Beijing Health Law Society.

Kong: Xiangjun Kong (Partner, ShiHui Partners)

Sherry: Sherry Xu (Director, Hughes-Castell)

Sherry: Xiangjun, your pharmaceutical background, especially with Sanofi, began with your secondment in 2006. You are now a seasoned lawyer with more than 10 years’ experience in the industry. Could you shed light on this particular industry and market for those young legal talents who hope to get into the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry?

Kong: I was lucky to enter the industry, which I love, and am continuously given growth opportunities. It is something you can only obtain with luck, not merely by wishing for it. On that basis, I am very grateful to have a good friend who gave me such a unique chance at the end of 2006, a period that many people would say the “golden age” of China’s pharmaceutical industry has passed. The perspective made a lot of sense if you looked at it from a channel sales perspective.

However, being a witness to the compliance and innovation development of the pharmaceutical industry in China, observing the intertwinements of patients’ needs, social development, and technological innovation like the rising tide on the coast, wave after wave, retreating and stacking and coming up again, evolving, contradicting, challenging, and conquering, is already a pleasure! Having a chance to play a role in this development is a more meaningful thing to do. Actually, in China, the present is the best of times and also the worst of times for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.

The latest round of health system reform in China challenges the traditional models and concepts and has brought unprecedented impact to China’s healthcare industry. It has evolved from “Evidence-Based Medicine” (EBM)[i] to “Values-Based Medicine” (VsBM)[ii], upholding the value orientation of patient-focused, truth-oriented, pragmatic, and efficient processes. Like other industries, continuous innovations in products, business models and services are key for survival in the healthcare industry. China’s social and economic structure, as well as the general acceptance of new technologies and new trends, provide the best soil and stage for innovative activity. Facts speak louder than words; in capital markets, innovative pharmaceutical companies are always the most sought-after. The latest changes in multinational pharmaceutical companies’ rankings in China are a useful reference telling you which companies have determined to introduce more, newer and better products to the Chinese market. After all, China’s socio-economic situation is very different from that of 20 years ago. People desire a longer life span, a higher quality of life, and have the ability to afford better drugs and treatments.

For healthcare industry players, the current Chinese market is very different from a decade ago. Back then, the Chinese health system reform had just started. We lacked market experience; even an “old” drug been sold in mature markets (developed countries) for 20 to 30 years would still succeed in China due to the difference in the degrees of market and industry development. Nowadays, China’s economic growth and mass consumption upgrade are driving the increased demands for health development and spending. Chinese people are eager for more innovative and better medicines to cure diseases. In response to the change, multinational pharmaceutical companies have had to re-examine their China strategy.  Chinese pharmaceutical companies have also experienced a similar situation. In the past, from chemical medicine to biological medicine, we were all followers along the way. Nowadays, Cytotoxic drugs are coming to the fore internationally. China actually has a higher starting point for standing on the shoulders of giants, which gives Chinese innovative pharmaceutical companies a golden chance to catch up with their international peers.

Although old drugs are mostly struggling with the increasing competition, they still have their market in China as there are such a large population base and uneven development across regions. Besides, those mature products have been used for 20 to 30 years and have earned sufficient clinical data and experience to prove their safety and efficacy. Thanks to the advanced development of digital and internet technology, we can re-energize these old drugs from the new perspectives of model innovation and service innovation such as chronic disease management, real-world data, patient peer education, or guaranteed products. A saying impressed me deeply: “pharmaceutical companies should not only manufacture and sell medicines but also offer patients total health solutions.” I genuinely believe this is the right direction for pharmaceutical companies to move forward.

Reform and innovation deliver a unique opportunity for Chinese pharmaceutical companies. As we all know, the recent reforms have brought bursts of warm breezes to Chinese pharmaceutical companies. They, especially private enterprises, have relatively low cost and flexible operating models with rich social resources as back-up which is how they can catch up with multinational pharmaceutical giants. Even though Chinese companies do not have as rich product lines as other global pharmaceutical companies, maybe due to the late entrance to the market and limited funds, good cost control measures are still key to Chinese pharmaceutical companies’ core competitiveness.

Sherry: What types of legal services and talent healthcare enterprises need to cope with continuous changes in the highly competitive business world?

Kong: Enterprises are driven to be innovative by public policies and market trends. Their in-house teams should embrace the changes with an inventive and tolerant attitude. Only by doing this can they understand the company’s development and the business department’s needs and be a true “business partner.”

It is easy to say, and everyone understands the truth, but it is never easy to do. Lawyers are trained to be cautious and rigorous, to be calm and rational analysts. For us, the business department’s risk-taking preference and act-before-thinking style are a bit too gung-ho; however, we understand this is the nature of their roles in the corporate.  While due to our sensitivity to the word “responsibility,” we are particularly sensitive to taking the blame for being an obstacle for doing business.

Can we still be true “business partners”? Of course, we can! If we would understand the company’s expectations and positioning of in-house legal, ensuring we are in a better position to assess our advantages and values to the business, and probably have more tolerance of risk than a “lawyer’s lawyer, “and be a “business-oriented lawyer” to our business colleagues.

Firstly, in my opinion, a good in-house counsel, in addition to our core competence that is the basic legal knowledge and solid technical skills, is more important to have a more comprehensive and profound understanding of the company’s strategies and business.

Secondly, you should be passionate about your industry and always maintain an open and keen-to-learn attitude as the business and policy environment we live in is changing fast. In the healthcare industry, there are new policies and trends almost every day. Without a humble learning attitude, the knowledge and technology that a person has acquired will soon become obsolete. Also, “learning” is not only in the professional scope of law; more importantly, it is to understand the industry and business. The legal profession is our core competence in our job but limiting ourselves to legal matters alone is far from enough for legal affairs.

Thirdly, you need to be more proactive and willing to bear more responsibility onto your shoulders. Don’t always complain or be pathetic! Since it is an innovative industry, there may be some scenarios, strategies, and designs that no one has prior experience. Anything that has gone to the legal department won’t be simple. At this point, some minor mistakes are inevitable. As a partner to the business team, our responsibility is to bear the consequences with our business team colleagues.

Fourthly, train up “soft skills”. Knowledge and information are more and more transparent these days, we are no longer able to assess a legal counsel merely on his/her familiarity with the rules and cases (because there are various powerful legal AI applications available easily), but also the ability to communicate, coordinate and influence others. These “leadership” elements, in my opinion, are at least as important as the legal skills of a lawyer.

In conclusion, the environment is changing, so the in-house legal department and legal counsel must embrace the changes. After the Covid-19 pandemic, most companies will become more cautious in terms of departmental staffing and hiring budgets. In-house legal departments are used to being the companies’ cost centers, therefore we need to provide more cost-effective and practical legal support. Only in this way can we talk further on occupational safety and consider career advancement.

Sherry: How did you successfully transition from legal affairs to a business position, and what exactly did the business position involve? Later, what kind of considerations did you face in wanting to return to private practice? And how can previous in-house experience benefit you in your second stint in private practice?


Kong: When the Sanofi regional team came to Shanghai to discuss its rare disease business in China, the business team mentioned the patients’ difficulties with payment during the discussion. Due to doubts about regulations and policies, our discussion was at a deadlock. At that time, I said this problem could be solved and then proposed some initial, random ideas for a plan without a thorough think-through. The consequence was that everyone was very impressed to find the in-house legal team could develop some business solutions. Secondly, since the legal team proposed it, it was able to lead the plan’s refinement and implementation!

During the final formulation of my proposed solution, I had developed deep cooperative links with and understanding of the rare disease team. Thus, when the head of this team left, he recommended that I take over. Post-succession, I was primarily responsible for marketing, sales, and patient relations. Also, I needed to coordinate the cooperation between the Medicine and the Government Affairs departments. The experience of working in the business team was precious to me. Whenever I was given a chance to plan, organize, and implement marketing activities, I could fully comprehend the business team’s considerations on project details and better understand the risk control point. Whenever I participated in any marketing event, I had the opportunity to learn the industry experts’ views on the industry, policies and the wider profession. It has been of great benefit and given me a more profound understanding of the industry. At present, I still want to participate in these business activities to keep up with the industry’s dynamics and changes.

Let us talk about the legal profession. The key to my achievements is not the opportunities of working across business and legal functions, but the motivation. I think the foundation of everything is “self-awareness.” Let us face our hearts sincerely and ask ourselves what kind of work we like, what are our strengths and weaknesses, and our ultimate personal development goals. I do not think that only being the leader and the person in charge of the department can be called a career goal. Doing something I like and being competent at allows me to balance my life, work, family and hobbies. This kind of career development makes me feel more comfortable.

Of course, if you have made a choice and decision, you must do your best to do it. In the above, what I have shared are the current requirements for in-house legal counsel. I think these requirements, whether it is professionalism, business understanding, responsibility, or leadership, are required at any level. These are the requirements that everyone should remember within their careers; don’t forget to keep learning and having self-examination. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes at work (not to make low-level mistakes, of course) because there can be no perfect solution at work.

In addition, we should learn how to support business teams. I used to be very close to my business colleagues. Not only did I attend business department meetings, but I also went to the front line as a participant. These give me a concrete understanding of the business operation. For example, a few years ago, from a chat with my business colleagues I knew installment payments could facilitate the use of high-priced anti-cancer drugs for patients. This experience left a deep impression on me and inspired me to design similar PAP (patient assistance program) projects.

At last, don’t stop dreaming. It’s certainly not easy to live your career your way. Go your own way and don’t live the ideals of others. When encountering setbacks and difficulties, don’t give up easily.

Legal services in Mainland China have been enhanced and developed for 40 years. During these years, will the requirements or expectations for legal services remain unchanged? The answer is no. Take commercial legal services as an example; we now are not only focusing on professionalism but also emphasizing our understanding of the industry. With the enhancement of clients’ legal awareness and in-house legal departments, nowadays clients expect external lawyers to provide increased value-add and more effective practical advice based on their expertise. And I’m thankful for my previous in-house legal and business experience with Sanofi, which can differentiate me from other healthcare law practitioners and help me better serve my clients.

[i] For example, from “Shen-nung Pen-Tsao Ching” to clinical trials.

[ii] The practice of medicine incorporating the highest level of evidence-based data with the patient-perceived value conferred by healthcare interventions for the resources expended. Also, the requirement for medicines is not only to be effective, but also to be compared to similar products, involving quality and cost control.

Non-Financial Incentives for Lawyers

As the economy continues to struggle through the pandemic, law firms and companies are increasingly competing to acquire and retain top talent. Competitive compensation levels can be  important, but truly effective motivation requires a more in-depth approach and a real commitment to people. In many cases, other motivational non-monetary tools can be much more powerful and, self-evidently, less costly. With the continuing uncertain economy, many companies are working hard to balance their budgets; here are 5 top incentives to attain and retain talent without any wage wars.

1). Incentive Schemes

Incentives drive behavior. Recognizing lawyers’ achievements when they do a good job, reach a professional milestone, or work hard on one of your company’s initiatives is critical. Incentive schemes are an effective way to encourage lawyers to positively impact the business by achieving a set of targets that cover all the key elements of the individual’s role. However, imposing targets alone rarely works well. Instead, lawyers should be involved in discussing and agreeing on objectives that they can expect to achieve. Thus, a good incentive scheme should be a transparent and fair system. Publishing appropriate and accurate information against which performance is measured is vital to create a healthy work ethic culture.

2). Feedback

Lawyers would love to receive structured feedback before being told that their performance wasn’t good enough at an annual appraisal. Constructive, timely feedback does help lawyers be aware of deficient areas in which they can improve and also helps mentors mold their employees to perform in the way you envision.

3). Learning

Having opportunities to learn and develop is key to performance.  Firms and organizations should enable individuals to identify their learning needs, engage in suitable programmes, and then apply this knowledge to their daily work.

Technology is shaping the practice of law and changing how legal services are being delivered. Technological skills required in the legal industry are fast evolving. Training in emerging areas such as cybersecurity, data protection and privacy, AI, and blockchain should now be mandatory.

4). Corporate Culture

Successful organizations adopt a positive corporate culture and communicate it well to their employees, and they are more likely to retain their employees and encourage them to excel by lifting morale, motivation, and engagement, ultimately leading to higher productivity.

Also, millennials are drawn to companies with brands and corporate values they respect. Millennials balance social impacts with financial incentives and prefer working with socially responsible organizations. They believe business priorities should enhance employees’ lives and careers and positively impact the environment. Millennials tend to be happier working in a place where they feel they can make a difference to the world. Firms and companies need to re-shape their corporate culture to meet the demands of millennial lawyers.

5). Wellness

To better address the massive changes caused by Covid-19, employers today ought to provide a safer and healthier working environment for their employees who now expect and demand more flexibility from their jobs and support for a healthy work-life balance. With technological advancements, working remotely and alternative hours has been made simple.

Although the legal profession has struggled for years to address well-being issues, law firms nowadays can no longer ignore  these and are implementing holistic wellness initiatives, including fitness programmes, stress management and mental health support. A good wellness programme demonstrates that employers are willing to look after their teams, inspiring them to feel included and part of a greater goal and purpose.

We all know that the most important element of any business is its people. Success in retaining and developing talent will help the business through challenging times ahead and beyond.

Editor: Sam Kenworthy (Director – Head of Private Practice, Hughes-Castell)

Contributor: Fai Choi (Marketing Manager, Hughes-Castell)

Consultant Spotlight: Sherry Xu

Consultant Spotlight: Sherry Xu

Hughes-Castell is heavily focused on international legal recruitment and has a diverse cultural mix, possessing strong roots in China. Sherry is a Director at Hughes-Castell, based in our Shanghai office, and has eight years’ legal compliance recruitment experience partnering with in-house departments at Fortune 500, major Chinese multinational corporations, and top-tier international law firms across Greater China and the Asia Pacific region. A law graduate, Sherry obtained a first-class LLB degree from a top-tier PRC university and then completed her LLM degree at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

What is your favourite part about working for Hughes-Castell?  

I have a strong connection with Hughes-Castell, even from before I joined. In my first year of work, I was interviewed by Hughes-Castell and got an offer from Doreen. Although I didn’t join at that time, the name “Hughes-Castell” always swung through my mind because at that time I was trained by two Hughes-Castell alumni, Elaine and Eric at another recruitment firm. They both helped me a lot and they were my initial mentors. 

Before joining Hughes-Castell, I was the one building something from scratch with other firms. I was the only one responsible for each desk. In that setting, when I have a lot of mandates on the go, I always contradictorily felt happy and worried – happy about prosperous business and grateful for my clients’ trust but on the other hand concerned about my delivery because I was short-staffed. 

At Hughes-Castell, the environment is different. Whenever I need a hand, I can reach out. We work together as a team from the beginning till the closing of a placement. Regardless of seniority, we are here to work together. We are diligent enough to work on colleagues’ mandates as hard as our own.  Even like recently, when my colleague Paul was already serving his notice, he worked so hard on the mandates I passed to him and lined up three strong candidates for me in his final week, I was very much impressed!

Last but not least, having a chance to work with Doreen, a legend in legal recruitment, is a privilege. Doreen has an excellent reputation among clients and lawyers. It seems everyone in the legal industry would have known her at some point. Previously when I got meetings with senior lawyers, all that I had prepared was, “what can I do for you?” After I joined Hughes-Castell, I realised this is not sufficient. Most senior lawyers I met told me what Doreen had done for them and expect the same service quality level from me.  I got endorsements from Doreen’s name under the Hughes-Castell umbrella even though we work out of different offices. Doreen is an encyclopedia of the industry that I can learn from.

How do you prefer to start your day?

When I was in Hong Kong, I love to start the day with a “bus tour.” Taking a bus sitting on the upper deck, a little sightseeing on the way to the office gives me a happy start to a day.

During workdays, I prefer to start my day off in an organized way. I send my to-do list to my email box at the end of the previous day, so when I come back to the office in the morning, I’ve got my to-do list and priorities ready on the desk.

Keeping a productive routine becomes vital, especially when I am now working with quite a few junior consultants, as they need my feedback and instructions on how to approach their day as well so I have to put them on my priority list too. I share with them my client’s feedback and new search directions, and help them when they have difficult cases or emergencies, making sure they are clear about what to do next.

1298082221After a busy day, in Hong Kong I would take a “bus tour” back home, different from the morning view, as there was no blue sky or cloud in the evening but there are amazing lights like stars across the Victoria Harbour. I miss that. Here I take a bike back home, riding through all the streets in Shanghai with Platanus; it’s a different view, but still, quite recharging.

While I don’t have a morning routine for weekends, I usually sleep to noontime to recharge myself unless I have an appointment.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I miss the days in Hong Kong when I could go out for boat trips, hiking, waterfall jumping, canoeing, all kinds of outdoor activities. Every activity is convenient and accessible in Hong Kong, a blessed city. Now I am in Shanghai, there are fewer outdoor options to be honest. I still keep my hobby of seeing exhibitions, and I have more space and time for yoga training. And one more thing, I’m picking my piano back up! I could play pieces easily 20 years ago, but now it takes so much time. But still, I enjoy it!

I also like traveling as I love to learn people’s ideas of their religions, happiness, and world perspectives. I love meeting people to share their joy and listen to their stories.


Tell us your most memorable overseas trip?

I took a real old-fashioned train trip in north India and took a train from Beijing to Lake Baikal through Mongolia, which seems rare for ladies. Besides the spectacular views I experienced during the trips, I found it is interesting to realize that the world is small and connected.

For example the people we met in Lake Baikal are of the same race as the Buryats we met in Hulunbeir, Inner-Mongolia (China). They indeed share the same culture and dietary habits, even though they are far apart now geographically.

And some of the people we met in India are descendants of Genghis Khan’s as well, and these people also had a connection with the Persian people. And then the Indian culture is also connected with the historical site you can see in Angkor Wat (Cambodia). I like “Eurasian” connections, for example it’s surprising to discover the packaging paper for Ukiyoe paintings from Japan had such a big impact on impressionism painting in Europe, all the way across the continents. The more you travel, the more you feel that the world is one small globe. Despite the current international political rivalries and the economic interest alliances, it is connected historically.

The most memorable trip? – I traveled to Israel once on my own for the Christmas holiday. It was not planned, I went because the flight to Israel was the cheapest at that time. Before the trip, I spent quite a lot of time reading the Bible stories, the histories and stories of Jews and Christians, as well as Islam. So when I got there, I quite “felt” the atmosphere when I listened to the guides in those walking tours. One night I wandered in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for a little bit, and there was a guy who started talking to me, introducing interesting and detailed Christian stories to me. I was amazed and followed him for a few more visits. I was impressed by how much he knew and how he was able to talk about these religious stories without bias, rancor or judgement. It turns out that guy was quite influential, in fact he was someone who worked for somebody who reported to the Pope directly! That’s probably the most prestigious guy I’ve spoken to in my life, haha…

TurkeySouth Africa Safari with lionVaranasi, India

Hughes-Castell Internship Program 2021

Grow with Hughes-Castell

Hughes-Castell, multi-award-winning legal recruitment and executive search firm, was established in London in 1985 and Hong Kong in 1986. We were the first legal recruitment consultancy in Asia, providing in-depth coverage of the Asia-Pacific region. Hughes-Castell has pioneered legal and compliance recruitment in Greater China, ASEAN and in developing markets and was the among first specialist firms to recruit lawyers in places such as Vietnam, India, Korea, and Thailand.

We have spent more than 35 years advising clients and lawyers on leadership succession, recruitment and professional development across Asia Pacific and built a strong reputation with top Fortune/Fortune Global corporations, financial services institutions and international/Chinese law firms across the region.

For Hughes-Castell, diversity is one of the essential keys to business success and our employees’ well-being. We have a diverse cultural mix of Australian, British, Chinese, European and Indian colleagues who provide a culturally robust workplace to boost our interns’ creativity and motivation to achieve exceptional results.

Hughes-Castell’s Industry recognition:

  • Best International Recruitment Agency – Human Resources Asia Recruitment Awards, 2020
  • Best Professional Services Recruitment Agency – Silver Award – Human Resources Asia Recruitment Awards, 2020
  • Best Client Service – Silver Award – Human Resources Asia Recruitment Awards, 2020
  • Best Candidate Experience-Agencies – Silver Award – Human Resources Asia Recruitment Awards, 2020
  • Best Executive Search Agency – Bronze Award – Human Resources Asia Recruitment Awards, 2020
  • Recruitment Consultancy of the Year, Hong Kong – Acquisition International 2019 Leading Adviser Awards
  • Best Legal and Compliance Recruitment Consultancy – CV Recruitment Awards 2016
  • Best in Sector: Legal Recruitment – Acquisition International Sector Performance Awards, 2015
  • Best Legal Recruitment Consultancy, Asia 2013 – CFI.co Award



What you will be doing in internship

Hughes-Castell interns work on a wide range of recruitment projects that accelerate career growth and put them in direct contact with our clients and candidates. Our interns will be involved in projects like client relationship management, business development, candidate screening, interviews and market research.

  • Projects

During the duration of an internship, interns can own their projects from start to finish, often seeing these projects to a satisfactory conclusion. At the appropriate time, our consultants provide feedback on the intern’s overall performance, deliverables and skills related to the role and the project expectations.

  • Mentorship

We provide interns with suitable opportunities to take part in substantial projects. These can be demanding. Because of this, we provide 1-to-1 mentorship and “hands-on” coaching for our interns from experienced consultants who will work to enable their success and help facilitate their career growth. Our consultants will provide guidance on projects, give feedback on key deliverables and work to remove barriers.

  • Training

Hughes-Castell internship aims to help our interns meet their career goals and learn from our experienced recruitment experts.  During an internship, we will provide our interns with a state-of-the-art training program that will put them ahead of the curve as modern, technology-centric recruiting and talent acquisition professionals. Our interns will have access to one of the world-leading recruitment CRM, training videos, articles and other resources to help them along the way.

Who we’re looking for

We have great clients and exciting work. Life is never boring. We are looking for motivated interns to join a team that helps shape people’s lives and make a difference. Activities will include:

  • Assisting consultants with market research and talent search
  • Gathering the latest industry and market news
  • Executing independent research on given positions or industry
  • Helping to organize internal/external events and interviews when necessary


Who you are

  • Students or recent graduates attaining Bachelor’s Degree in Law, Business, Commerce or HR
  • Keen interest in the recruitment/executive search industry
  • Able to commit to a minimum of 2 months internship
  • Proficient in oral and written English, Cantonese and Mandarin would be a bonus
  • A good team player with high level of maturity and independence
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills to collaborate with colleagues from diverse cultural backgrounds
  • Proficient in online search skills and MS Office applications such as Excel and PowerPoint


What we offer

Hughes-Castell’s most significant value is its people. Our goal is to form the best team by providing our employees with the most appropriate training and career development opportunities. We also embrace the talents and abilities of all kinds.

At Hughes-Castell, the benefits of working with us go beyond the salary. Our internship includes a wide range of elements you need to advance your career development:

  • a chance to develop personal relationships with top-tier clients and work on challenging projects
  • pivotal learning experience & career development opportunities
  • an opportunity to widen your professional network
  • a collaborative, reliable and safe work environment
  • a reference from MD upon completion of the internship

Contact Vicky Liu at vliu@hughescastell.com to learn more about our intern opportunities. 

Let’s Link Up – Part 1

Compare the following two sample texts*. Which paragraph do you think reads more clearly? Why do you think this is so?


This case is not so much a contest between the United States Department of Justice and two defendant companies as a skirmish in a broader battle over the direction American economic life will take in the coming years. The concept of the conglomerate corporation – not a particularly new idea, but one which lately has gained great momentum – is at the centre of this struggle. The attempt of companies to expand through acquisition of other firms, while avoiding the antitrust problems of vertical or horizontal mergers, is one reason for the recent popularity of this concept. The resulting corporations have none of the earmarks of the traditional trust situation, but they have presented new problems of their own.


This case is not so much a contest between the United States Department of Justice and two defendant companies as a skirmish in a broader battle over the direction American economic life will take in the coming years. At the centre of this struggle is the concept of the conglomerate corporation – not a particularly new idea, but one which lately has gained great momentum. One reason for its recent popularity is the attempt of companies to expand through acquisition of other firms, while avoiding the antitrust problems of vertical or horizontal mergers. The resulting corporations have none of the earmarks of the traditional trust situation, but they have presented new problems of their own.

In my past training sessions, virtually everyone agreed that Version B reads better. But I’ve only had a single trainee who put his finger on the “why”. The simple answer is that the themes in Version B – battle over the American economy, conglomerate corporations, acquisition of other corporations – link well from sentence to sentence while in Version A they are all over the place. Creating strong links is one of the best ways to make your writing more coherent and comprehensible.

In a seminar I’d use slides to show you this linkage, but here I must repeat each paragraph. There are three principal themes, which I’ll designate with underlined italics, bold type and ALL CAPITALS.


This case is not so much a contest between the United States Department of Justice and two defendant companies as a skirmish in a broader battle over the direction American economic life will take in the coming years. The concept of the conglomerate corporation – not a particularly new idea, but one which lately has gained great momentum – is at the centre of this struggle. The attempt of companies to expand through ACQUISITION OF OTHER FIRMS, while avoiding the antitrust problems of vertical or horizontal mergers, is one reason for the recent popularity of this concept. The RESULTING CORPORATIONS have none of the earmarks of the traditional trust situation, but they have presented new problems of their own.


This case is not so much a contest between the United States Department of Justice and two defendant companies as a skirmish in a broader battle over the direction American economic life will take in the coming years. At the centre of this struggle is the concept of the conglomerate corporation – not a particularly new idea, but one which lately has gained great momentum. One reason for its recent popularity is the attempt of companies to expand through ACQUISITION OF OTHER FIRMS, while avoiding the antitrust problems of vertical or horizontal mergers. The RESULTING CORPORATIONS have none of the earmarks of the traditional trust situation, but they have presented new problems of their own.

The linking in Version B illustrates an underlying principle of good writing: start with the familiar and then move to the new. In other words, once you’ve introduced a theme, continue with any elaboration before you move on to the next theme. Moving from familiar to new is not only a matter of common sense, but many studies of effective writing have demonstrated that this approach improves comprehension.

In Version B the writers created the links using similar nouns twice and a pronoun once. Can you think of any other ways to link a theme in one sentence to the same theme in the next? There are several, and we’ll examine them in a future edition of The Wednesday Writer.

In the meantime, happy linking and see you next time!

* This extraordinary example comes from Stephen V. Armstrong and Timothy P. Terrell, Thinking Like a Writer : A Lawyer’s Guide to Effective Writing and Editing, 2nd Ed.2003 Practising Law Institute



Bill Lawrence worked in US law firms and multinational companies until 2001. For the past 15 years Bill has been a writing coach at the Polytechnic University’s Centre for Business and Professional English. He has also presented seminars to law firms on coaching lawyers on effective writing.