Despite ongoing Covid-19 issues, legal markets are picking up across Asia Pacific

The Covid-19 challenge has been unprecedented and persists throughout 2021.  However, we are happy to see legal markets across Asia Pacific are picking up so far this year. Compared to 2020, we witnessed growth of recruitment activities in India and Singapore. Both the Australian and Hong Kong legal markets remained relatively stable. After China’s strong rebound in the fall of 2020, there has been a significant drop of senior-level recruitments in that market.

Summer holidays, July to August, are traditionally a quiet time for significant moves. But, due to the lockdowns and travel restrictions, people stayed in their hometowns and worked as usual. As a result, the number of hires in Q2 and Q3 were the same.

The most significant partner recruiters were Ashurst and K&L Gates. Ashurst has actively recruited in Australia and Singapore, and K&L Gates has hired evenly throughout the Asia Pacific.

Top Partner Recruiters in the Region


  • Among the top 13 partner recruiters (Jan-Sep 2021), 4 were UK law firms, 3 from the US, 2 from India, 2 from China, and 1 from Australia. The top 3 partner recruiters in Q3 are Corrs Chambers Westgarth, L&L Partners, and White & Case.
  • White & Case, a White-shoe firm, was active in the region, especially during the Q3. An AmLaw100 firm, K&L Gates, announced lateral hires evenly spread out the first 3 quarters.
  • L&L Partners, a top-tier Indian law firm, has seen some departures during the year-long public feud between the firm’s managing partner Rajiv Luthra and former equity partner Mohit Saraf. In response, the firm hired 8 partners to their Bangalore, Delhi, and Mumbai offices. Their rival, HAS Advocates, also had made few significant hires for their corporate/commercial, disputes, and project practices.
  • In March, Ashurst expanded their consulting business with a five-partner hiring spree from the Big Four in Australia. The firm remained active in Australia and Singapore throughout the first 3 quarters.


  • Despite a 20% decrease of lateral hires in the first 3 quarters in 2021 compared to 2020, much of it was related to China’s strong showing last year. If we take out key appointments made in China, we would see slight growth in the region hires.
  • July is usually a quiet period in the legal recruitment business as many partners/general counsels and HR personnel are partaking of summer holidays and traveling. However, we witnessed busy hiring activity in the past two consecutive summers, presumably because of the lockdowns and travel restrictions.




  • Both India (50% up) and Singapore (32% up) saw growth in the number of key appointments compared to 2020. Despite having a quiet Q2 due to the Covid-19 re-occurrence, Singapore saw a strong come back in Q3. Singapore attracts attention from the US, UK and beyond.  
  • Australia and Hong Kong remained relatively stable and only slight drops occurred. Also, Hong Kong replaced China with the 2nd highest key appointment numbers Jan-Sep 2021.




  • Corporate/M&A/Capital Markets practices constituted 30% of the key hires in the first 3 quarters of 2021.
  • Like Q1 and Q2, Corporate/M&A/Capital Markets, Projects/Construction/Infrastructure, and Employment & Workplace practices observed significant growth compared to 2020.
  • Although we witnessed a drop in Litigation/Dispute Resolution/Arbitration/Investigations practices, hires in those sectors still sit at the 2nd place in 2021 Jan-Sep.   





  • Lateral hires dominated the hiring markets in the first 3 quarters of 2021.
  • We witnessed a growing tendency in rejoining former firms, moves between In-house and Private Practice positions in both directions, and relocations in 2021 compared to 2020.
  • By contrast, we saw a significant drop in Promotions.

Published by Hughes Castell

Asia's Premier Firm for Global Legal, Compliance, Risk and Regulatory Executive Search

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