The perceived wisdom is that Singapore will pose an increasing threat to Hong Kong in attracting legal talent as the latter sticks doggedly to a Zero-Covid target policy which involves stricter social distancing and quarantine requirements than elsewhere. This continues to curtail business travel, undermining Hong Kong’s acknowledged status as an international hub, and places added burdens on families seeking to reconnect with loved ones overseas during the school break.
Moves such as Sidley Austin’s hire of private equity partner Daniel Lindsay from Goodwin Proctor and relocation from Hong Kong to Singapore are expected to set the pattern. Singapore remains the most obvious choice for those wishing to maintain proximity to the Asian markets and enjoy a similar quality of life despite the fact that Hong Kong retains a significantly elevated status in the financial world. But arguably the most notable moves in Singapore in 2022 have been internal and seen big-name partners return to their former homes.
McDermott Will & Emery must have been delighted to crown a spate of hires into their recently-launched Singapore office with Sidley’s Yuet Ming Tham, one of the premier names in white-collar crime in Asia and the firm’s global co-chair of White Collar: Government Litigation and Investigations, in April. It was a genuine statement hire that grabbed the attention of the market and underlined McDermott’s regional ambitions. She took a team of four, including Shu Min Ho who joined as a partner, and was immediately installed as head of APAC. Yet barely five months later she and her team have returned whence they came, with Yuet Ming Tham being reappointed to her departmental global co-chair position.
In July, almost the entire complement of EY’s Singapore law firm Asia Atlas Law Corporation (AALC) joined Dentons Rodyk, the firm many of them they had left four years earlier to set up EY’s legal arm. Evelyn Ang, who led the team in both directions, returned to her position of Senior Partner in the M&A group, joined by fellow Senior Partner Emily Low and Partner Glenda Lee. Kenneth Cheow remains in place at AALC as the new office head and the firm has subsequently moved to bolster its ranks but it still represents something of a bloody nose. This is not the first time EY have encountered bumps in the road in Singapore, having dissolved its association with PK Wong & Partners in 2018 after four years.
So while observers will continue to keenly monitor movement of senior talent from Hong Kong to Singapore, some of those already in place have found the lure of home comforts too strong to resist.