Omicron-related social restrictions impair Asia Pacific Legal Recruitment Growth

When most of the Asia Pacific’s legal markets are recovering, sustaining, and growing, China witnessed  a quiet first half of 2022 due to the spreading of Omicron. A strong lockdown has been adopted in Shanghai since March and has been extended into other Chinese cities, including Beijing. With the easing of social restrictions, we witnessed the growth of Japanese and Thai legal markets. Clearly, the different approach to social restrictions are shaping the dividebetween legal markets.

The top partner recruiter in 2022 so far is Herbert Smith Freehills, demonstrating its ambitious growth plans for Asia through significant hires and the largest ever round of senior associate promotions of Asian ethnicity. In addition, leading Indian law firms, including DSK Legal and Rajah & Tann, were actively hiring in Q2. It is rare to note a Japanese firm, Atsumi & Sakai, get into the top partner recruiters too.

Top Partner Recruiters in the Region





  • Despite countries in the region showing success in suppressing the Covid-19 pandemic, we still saw a 27% decrease in key appointments in 2022 compared to 2021.
  • April witnessed significant drops in activity compared with 2021 and 2020.





  • Australia led the hiring market with 60 key recruitments in Q1 & Q2, followed by Hong Kong (38) and Singapore (32).
  • Only Australia and Japan saw increased key appointments from 2021 and 2020. It is also rare to see Japan more active than before China.
  • China observed a decrease in key appointments in February, March, and April, feasibly due to the spreading of Omicron. Key cities including Shanghai and Beijing were locked down for weeks.
  • Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan saw a strong June.




  • Corporate/M&A/Capital Markets practices dominated the key hires in the first half of 2022.
  • All practices except IP, IT, TMT, observed a drop compared to 2021.
  • Despite a drop in Corporate/M&A/Capital Markets, hiring in those areas remains popular in the region.



Published by Hughes Castell

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

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