Recoveries vary across different countries, but overall rebound expected in 2023

After having their economies battered for over two years, in 2022 several countries were fighting to return to normal while China was clinging to Covid restrictions. China’s strict zero-Covid policy had a ripple effect on the economy and the legal industry. As a result, Australia has replaced China as the region’s top location for significant hires last year. Singapore usurped Hong Kong as the second most active location for lateral hires in 2022.

Although China had a quiet 2022, China’s legal recruitment market regained momentum in Q4 after the shift away from its strict Covid restriction policy. There is optimism that legal markets in the wider region will rebound after China returns to normal.

The corporate practice continues to be the busiest practice in the region, but its share has dropped from 30% to 23%. Hong Kong, an international financial hub, was deeply affected by Covid-19. Capital markets transactions and business operations were quiet throughout the year. Instead, there was substantial growth in the insurance practice.

The most significant partner recruiters in 2022 were Herbert Smith Freehills, Ashurst, Trilegal, Clyde & Co, and White & Case. They have been active in job markets throughout the year and accounted for  16% of key hires.

Top Partner Recruiters in the Region




  • 156 firms have made significant hires in 2022. The top 5 significant-hire recruiters are Herbert Smith Freehills Ashurst, Trilegal (India), Clyde & Co and White & Case that shared 16% of total key appointments in the region.
  • Among the top 5 partner recruiters in 2022, 3 are UK law firms, 1 from the US, and 1 from India.
  • Top 5 partner recruiters were active in the region throughout 4 quarters.
  • Top 3 locations of their hires are Australia, India, and then Singapore. 




  • Despite a 18% decrease of lateral hires in 2022 compared to 2021, We have witnessed stable legal recruitment markets in certain areas throughout the year.
  • There was growth in the fall of 2022 compared to the previous year.





  • In 2022, Australia and Singapore saw growth in the number of key appointments compared to 2021.
  • After significant drops in Q1, Q2 and Q3, China recovered in Q4.
  • Despite a strong start in the Q1 and Q2, Hong Kong saw a drop in hiring numbers in the fall.





  • In 2022, the top 5 practices were Corporate/M&A/Capital Markets (1st), DR/Litigation/Arbitration/Crime (2nd), Projects/Construction/Infrastructure/Energy (3rd), Executive Level (4th), and Banking & Finance (5th).
  • Corporate/M&A/Capital Markets practices constituted 23% of the key hires in the 2022.
  • Executive Level Hire, Banking & Finance, IP/TMT, Insurance, Tax, and Shipping/Transportation received growth compared to 2021.






  • Lateral private practice hires dominated (74%) the hiring markets in 2022 but saw a 28% drop compared to 2021 due to the decrease in the total number of significant hires in 2022.
  • We witnessed a growing tendency in team hires, partners rejoining former firms, going private practice, relocations, and firm acquisition 2022 compared to 2020 and 2021.
  • By contrast, we saw a significant drop in new firms being launched.

Published by Hughes Castell

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

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