Legal Move Updates (April – June 2021)

Editor’s note: This is an ongoing list.

June 2021

30 Jun – McDermott Will & Emery (Singapore, Singapore)

McDermott, which is launching an office in Singapore a year after it shuttered its offices in China and two years after closing its operation in South Korea, has added projects partner Merrick White from the Singapore office of King & Spalding. The firm has also applied for a Foreign Law Practice (FLP) license for its Singapore outfit and is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Law. (from

30 Jun – Tanglin Venture Partners (Singapore, Singapore)

Arun Scaria, a Bengaluru-based partner at Khaitan & Co, has joined VC firm Tanglin Venture Partners as general counsel in Singapore.

Scaria, who started his career with Nishith Desai Associates in 2009, joined Khaitan in 2017. According to media reports, Khaitan has also seen the exit of Bengaluru partner Rishabh Bhardwaj, but his destination is currently not clear. (from

29 Jun – Norton Rose Fulbright (Hong Kong, China)

Norton Rose Fulbright hires White & Case transactions duo in Hong Kong. Private equity partner Peggy Wang and banking and finance partner Victor Sim make the move as deal activity picks up. (from

29 Jun – Morgan Lewis (Hong Kong, China)

Morgan Lewis & Bockius has hired Vivien Yu, who will be joining the firm as partner for its employment practice later this summer. According to the firm’s spokesperson, Yu will be based in one of the firm’s seven Asia Pacific offices, which has not yet been determined. The firm has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and Kazakhstan. (from

28 Jun – Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (Gurgaon, India)

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas has hired a new partner for its corporate practice, bringing on Sameer Chugh from New Delhi-based investment holdings company Bharti Enterprises.

At Bharti, Chugh was group general counsel, managing over 50 lawyers based across India and Sri Lanka. At Cyril Amarchand, Chugh will focus on technology, media and communications, and regulatory work. (from

24 Jun – Hylands Law Firm (Beijing, China)

Hylands Law Firm has recently hired healthcare lawyer Yan Lin as a partner in its Beijing headquarter from Real Long Law Firm, where he was the executive director.

Yan’s practice focuses on healthcare, energies and private equity. He has advised government institutions, biotech companies and medical institutions, involving healthcare project compliance management, infrastructure construction, shareholding structure, IPO of biotech companies and dispute resolution. (from

21 Jun – HFW (Singapore, Singapore)

Global, sector-focused law firm HFW has continued to strengthen its market-leading shipping practice with the hire of Master Mariner Mark Myles. Mark has more than 20 years’ experience in the shipping industry as a mariner and lawyer, and joins HFW’s Singapore office from Reed Smith. (from

21 Jun – MinterEllison (Sydney, Australia)

Australia’s largest law firm, MinterEllison, has chosen property law partner Virginia Briggs to replace Annette Kimmitt as the firm’s chief executive and managing partner. Ms Briggs has been acting CEO since Ms Kimmitt left the firm in March in the wake of an email she sent to staff about the firm giving defamation advice to Attorney-General Christian Porter. Her appointment is a change in direction for Minters, given that Ms Kimmitt and her predecessor, Tony Harrington, were both non-lawyers who came from a consulting background. (from

21 Jun – Dentons (Perth, Australia)

Dentons continues its momentum on growth, welcoming its fifth new partner for 2021, Andrew Shearwood. Andrew will join the Dentons team as a corporate partner in the Perth office, a move which further strengthens the Firm’s client offering in Western Australia, and bolsters its national corporate practice. Specialising in corporate and commercial law, Andrew brings almost 40 years’ experience advising on mergers and acquisitions; funds management and financial services; equity capital markets; regulation of listed and unlisted companies and their directors; and general corporate governance across industries including financial services, property development and management, agribusiness and resources. (from

21 Jun – Mayer Brown  (Hong Kong, China)

Mayer Brown announced the addition of Joanne Du as a partner. Originally from Mainland China, Ms. Du, who will divide her time between the Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai offices, will be a key member of the globally integrated Oil & Gas industry team. Previously a partner at Baker Botts, Ms. Du advises international oil and gas companies, Chinese oil and gas companies, and other PRC-based corporations and state-owned institutions on their domestic and cross-border energy transactions. (from

18 Jun – Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Sydney, Australia)

Reed Smith’s London-based head of film and TV will leave the firm to join Australia’s government-owned television and radio broadcaster as general counsel. Ingrid Silver will start at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in September and will replace current GC Connie Carnabuci, the ABC said. (from

17 Jun – AZB & Partners (Mumbai, India)

AZB & Partners has hired restructuring and insolvency specialist Avinash Subramanian as a partner in Mumbai from L&L Partners, where he spent the entirety of his legal career. Subramanian, who joined L&L in 2012, also has experience private equity, M&A, and banking and finance. (from

15 Jun – Gilbert + Tobin  (Sydney, Australia)

Australian corporate law firm Gilbert + Tobin has hired M&A partner Karen Evans-Cullen from PwC Legal for its corporate advisory practice. Evans-Cullen is also a member of the Australian Takeovers Panel, a peer review body that regulates corporate control transactions in widely held Australian entities. (from

10 Jun – Huen Wong & Co. (Hong Kong, China)

Huen Wong, a former Greater China managing partner at both Simmons & Simmons and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, has launched a sole proprietorship focused on arbitration and mediation, Asian Legal Business has learnt. The firm, which revives its earlier name of Huen Wong & Co., will also hear tax appeal cases as part of Wong’s role as chairman of Hong Kong’s Inland Revenue Review Board. (from

10 Jun – Anagram Legal (Mumbai, India)

Shuva Mandal, general counsel of Mumbai-headquartered multinational conglomerate Tata Sons, has left the company to join recently established Indian law firm Anagram Partners.

Anagram was set up in Mumbai in April by two Nishith Desai Associates partners, M&A specialist Simone Reis and international tax expert Rajesh Simhan.

Mandal, who started his career at AZB & Partners in 2000, joined Tata Sons in 2017. Prior to that, he spent nearly two years as national practice head for M&A and corporate at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. (from

10 Jun – Greenberg Traurig (Seoul, Korea)

U.S. law firm Greenberg Traurig has bolstered its presence in Korea after hiring corporate lawyers Eun Sang Hwang (L) and Jang Hyuk Yeo as shareholders.While Yeo joins from Korean law firm Lee & Ko, where he spent more than nine years, Hwang, previously a counsel at Greenberg Traurig, re-joins the firm after a four-month stint at Paul Hastings. The hires come a few months after Greenberg Traurig’s Seoul office lost Iksoo Kim to Paul Hastings. (from

10 Jun – Deacons (Hong Kong, China)

Deacons, Hong Kong’s largest local law firm, has hired banking and finance lawyer Erica Wong as a partner from offshore firm Ogier, where she was a managing associate. Wong’s practice focuses on cross-border banking and financing transactions, and also experience in dealing with syndicated, club and bilateral financing, real estate financing, acquisition financing, pre-IPO financing, and margin financing. (from

9 Jun – Macquarie Capital (Hong Kong, China)

Khoon Jin Tan, a former partner at Winston & Strawn in Hong Kong, has left to join CBC Group, a healthcare-dedicated investment firm, as managing director. He will be based in Singapore. Tan joined Winston in March 2019 from rival U.S. firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. He started his career at the legacy Herbert Smith, and also had a stint as managing director of Macquarie Capital in Hong Kong. His practice spanned IPOs, compliance, M&A, restructuring, and financing arrangements. (from

8 Jun – Hamilton Locke (Melbourne, Australia)

Australian firm Hamilton Locke has hired corporate and commercial partner Alex Ninis and two lawyers from DWF as the U.K.-listed law firm downsiizing continues. (from

8 Jun – Broad & Bright (Beijing, China)

Broad & Bright has hired Liang Fan, an intellectual property (IP) lawyer, as a partner from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Liang has also worked as an in-house counsel in Geely and Hewlett-Packard. Liang focuses on foreign IP litigation and application. He has participated in IP-related deals like Geely’s acquisition of Volvo and Raytheon’s acquisition of Websense. He has also dealt with several patent litigation cases in federal courts and trade secret litigation in state courts in the United States. (from

8 Jun – Duane Morris (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

Duane Morris names Dr. Nguyen Thi Lang as Chair of Duane Morris Vietnam.  (from

7 Jun – Goodwin Procter (Hong Kong, China)

Goodwin Procter has hired a new partner, Edwin Chan, in Hong Kong as the U.S. firm expands private equity offering to meet rising demand in the region.

Edwin Chan joins from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison where he was counsel. Chan advises private equity sponsors on transactions through the life cycle of their investments; he’s worked on deals including pre-IPO investments, special situations investments, private investment in public equity and investment restructuring and exits. (from

3 Jun – Thomson Geer (Sydney, Australia)

Fast-growing Australian law firm Thomson Geer has hired a partner and an of counsel from Baker McKenzie to join its construction and infrastructure practice.

Partner Franco Aversa is a lawyer who specializes in major projects with a particular focus on front-end construction law and is dual-qualified in both the legal and building fields, Thomson Geer said. (from

2 Jun – K&L Gates (Sydney, Australia)

Global law firm K&L Gates is expanding its labor, employment and workplace safety team in Sydney with the addition of partner Stephen Hardy, who joins from Baker McKenzie. (from

2 Jun – Trilegal (Mumbai, India)

Indian law firm Trilegal has beefed up its banking and finance practice with the hires of Pranav Sharma and Mallika Chopra as partners from Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM).

Sharma spent around 13 years at CAM and the legacy Amarchand Mangaldas combined, with a six-year stint in-between as a managing associate with Linklaters in London. Specialising in banking and finance, and debt capital markets, he advises banks, financial institutions, and other credit providers on onshore and offshore financings, and also sponsors and borrowers on such financings.

Chopra, who moved to CAM from Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas in 2018, also worked for IndusLaw, the legacy Amarchand Mangaldas and ICICI Bank. She advises on banking and financing matters with a special focus on structured debt transactions, real estate and asset backed financings. Chopra represents lenders as well as private equity sponsors and corporate borrowers. (from

2 Jun – HSA Advocates (Delhi, India)

HSA Advocates has hired a team of projects and infrastructure lawyers in Delhi from Advaita Legal, including partners Shailendra Kumar Singh, Alok Shankar and Monali Dutta.

Singh, who headed the projects and infrastructure team at Advaita Legal, has almost 19 years of experience in these sectors. He joined Advaita in early 2014 from L&L Partners (known as Luthra & Luthra Law Offices then). Singh began his legal career at Trilegal.

Meanwhile, Shankar has 15 years of regulatory and projects experience. He joined Advaita in 2018 and was previously also a lawyer at L&L.

Dutta, who has 13 years of experience across infrastructure, aerospace & defence, IT & ITES, healthcare and project development, returns to HSA, where she spent four years between 2011 and 2015. (from

1 Jun – Chang Tsi & Partners  (Beijing, China)

Chang Tsi & Partners has hired IP lawyer Kim Lu as a partner in its Beijing office. Prior to joining Chang Tsi, Lu practiced at AnJie Law Firm. Lu focuses on patent, anti-monopoly, anti-unfair competition and dispute resolution, with expertise in patent application, litigation, business secrets and corporate IP strategy related to communication systems, computer software, digital cameras, electrical connectors, wireless communications, electronic circuits, optoelectronics, semiconductors, smartphones, GUI, haptic technologies, etc.  (from

1 Jun – Hylands Law Firm (Beijing, China)

Hylands Law Firm has recently hired M&A lawyer Mu Chechang as partner in its Beijing office from Zhong Xin Law Office, where he was a partner. Mu focuses on M&A, dispute resolution, real-estate, and construction. With experience in primary land development, collective land use and real-estate cooperation between urban and rural areas, he has advised the Ministry of Finance, Beijing Land Arrangement and Reserve Centre and a few large enterprises. (from

1 Jun – Chance Bridge  (Beijing, China)

Beijing-headquartered boutique firm Chance Bridge has hired cross-border investment and finance partner Zou Yongzhong in its Beijing office from Hogan Lovells. Zou has expertise in FDI, cross-border investment and finance, and M&A. he has advised a few multi-national enterprises, Chinese state-owned and private owned companies, international and domestic banks and financial institutes on their cross-border transactions. (from


May 2021

31 May – Ashurst (Perth, Australia)

Global law firm Ashurst has hired a disputes partner, Matthew Blycha, from Holman Fenwick Willan to join its Perth office and help it grow in Western Australia. Matthew Blycha, previously the managing partner of HFW’s Perth office, is a construction disputes specialist who advises on the development, construction and operation of large-scale resources projects in Australia and around the world, Ashurst said. (from

26 May – White & Case (Singapore, Singapore)

White & Case has added a capital markets partner, Rahul Guptan , in Singapore focusing on India deals. Rahul Guptan most recently co-led the global India practice for Clifford Chance where he’d been a partner since 2008. Guptan advises on India-related equity and debt capital markets deals. Last year, he led Clifford Chance’s representation of the underwriters on Mumbai-based Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd.’s $993 million capital raising. (from

25 May – K&L Gates (Hong Kong, China)

U.S. law firm K&L Gates has hired Eugene Yeung, who focuses on aviation finance and restructuring and insolvency, as a partner in Hong Kong from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, where he was a counsel. Yeung acts for financial lenders, aircraft owners, airlines, and ultra-high net worth individuals on commercial transactions within the aviation sector, including aviation finance, restructuring, bankruptcy and insolvency, and investments and general corporate advisory matters. (from

25 May – Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (Bengaluru, India)

Bengaluru-based Tatva Legal co-founding partner Manav Nagaraj will be joining Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (SAM) with his team, including partner Bhargava KS, we have reliably learned. His and his team’s joining will be a welcome addition to SAM in the Garden City after the firm in April announced partner Roshan Thomas moving to SAM close unicorn client Byju. (from

24 May – Dentons (Brisbane, Australia)

Dentons has hired a corporate partner to join its Brisbane office as it continues to expand in the north Australian city. Caroline Snow joins as a corporate partner specializing in equity capital market transactions, complex governance, regulatory and compliance matters. (from

21 May – Hai Run Law Firm (Beijing, China)

Hai Run Law Firm has hired Zheng Jianou as a senior partner in its Beijing office from King & Capital Law Firm, where he was a senior partner. Zheng has experience in commercial dispute resolution and has advised companies like large state-owned and private enterprises. Zheng is also an arbitrator of Guangzhou Arbitration Commission. (from

18 May – Hylands Law Firm (Beijing, China)

Hylands Law Firm has hired Guo Yuancheng as a senior partner from Jingsh Law Firm, where he was a partner. Guo has experience in domestic and foreign private equity, cross-border M&A and foreign direct investment. He has represented clients in areas such as domestic and foreign finance and investment, private equity projects, M&A deals and cooperation projects, involving industries like TMT, education, healthcare and cybersecurity. (from

18 May – K&L Gates (Brisbane, Australia) 

K&L Gates has expanded its corporate team in Australia with the addition of partner Tom Young, who joins the firm’s Brisbane office from Norton Rose Fulbright. Young, who joins the firm along with special counsel Julie Brown, has experience in the aviation and transport, tourism and hospitality and infrastructure and real estate sectors, K&L Gates said. (from

13 May – Grab (Singapore, Singapore)

Christopher Betts, a Skadden, Arps Slate, Meagher & Flom corporate partner in Hong Kong who has worked on some of the largest deals coming out of Greater China in recent years, has left the firm to become general counsel of the Singapore-based ride-hailing, food delivery and financial services company Grab Holdings. (from

12 May – Anli Partners (Beijing & Xi’an, China)

Anli Partners has hired partner Qu Jingang to head its Xi’an office, and another three partners Li Yongqi, Zhang Yiqing and Zeng Liqing to join its Beijing office.

Qu focuses on government legal matters and commercial litigation and arbitration. Prior to joining Anli, Qu was the managing partner at W&H Law Firm’s Yan’an arm. He is also the current Vice President of Shaanxi Province Lawyers Association.

Li has expertise in commercial litigation and arbitration, energy and construction, merger & acquisition and restructuring, as well as technology, media and telecommunication. With extensive experience in dispute resolution, Li has advised over 100 litigation and arbitration cases involving large multinational enterprises and state-owned enterprises.

Zeng has expertise in investment and finance, restructuring and M&A, litigation and arbitration. He has extensive experience in advising real estate companies, government platforms and listed companies on their investment and finance projects, involving industries like non-ferrous metals, banking, education, etc.

Zhang’s practice includes real estate and construction, corporate governance, equity investment, civil and commercial litigation and arbitration. He has advised a number of large state-owned enterprises and listed companies. (from

12 May – Jones Day (Perth, Australia)

Jones Day has hired a second global disputes partner, Michael Lundberg, this week. Michael Lundberg joins from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and will be based in the Perth office. His arrival follows that of Frankfurt partner Amy Kläsener, who joined on Tuesday from Dentons, as Jones Day continues to bolster its global disputes practice. (from

11 May – Shearman & Sterling (Singapore, Singapore)

Global law firm Shearman & Sterling today announces the appointment of David Clinch as a Project Development & Finance partner in Singapore. David brings extensive experience advising clients on a wide range of acquisitions & disposals in the energy and infrastructure sectors as well as project development matters. His expertise spans oil & gas (including LNG), power, infrastructure, chemicals and refining. David has advised clients worldwide for over 25 years from Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, London and Bangkok. His appointment follows the promotion of Asia-based Jean-Louis Neves Mandelli to the partnership in October 2020, the promotion of Joe Freeman to counsel in the region and the relocation of international energy counsel Angela Heywood Bible from Houston to Singapore. (from

11 May – Morrison & Foerster (Tokyo, Japan)

Morrison & Foerster has hired a locally qualified litigation partner in Tokyo as the firm sees growing needs for regulatory export control advice in Asia. Takahiro Nonaka joins from DLA Piper where he was a Tokyo partner advising Japanese and foreign multinationals on employment and general commercial litigation as well as compliance and investigations in anti-corruption, antitrust, data privacy and other enforcement matters. He joined DLA Piper in 2016 from Sidley Austin and became a partner in 2019. (from

8 May – JunHe (Shenzhen, China)

JunHe sincerely welcomes new partner Mr. Jin Liu to our Shenzhen office. Mr. Liu advises clients on matters involving banking and finance, corporate, mergers and acquisitions, private equity and venture capital.Currently, he is going through relevant formalities before joining JunHe.

Mr. Liu received his Master of Laws from the University of Durham, UK and his Bachelor of Laws from the East China University of Political Science and Law. He handles a broad range of banking and finance matters, including bilateral and syndication loans, trade finance, project finance, debt restructuring, setting up financial institutions, compliance, financial leasing, and trust and assets management. Mr. Liu provides comprehensive advice for a wide variety of clients with respect to domestic and overseas M&As, asset acquisition, fund investments, asset restructuring of listed companies, public-private partnerships and other complex transactions. (from

7 May – CM Law (Beijing, China)

Shanghai-headquartered CM Law has hired Wang Wenrui, an anti-monopoly expert, as a senior partner in its Beijing office from T&D Associates. Wang has over ten years’ experience in anti-monopoly compliance, declaration of concentration of business operators, anti-monopoly investigation and litigation. (from

6 May – Haiwen & Partners (Shanghai, China)

Haiwen & Partners has hired private wealth expert Bao Han as international partner in its Shanghai office from Zhong Lun Law Firm. Bao focuses on private clients’ domestic and foreign wealth inheritance planning, family trust, asset protection and tax planning. She has legal professional qualification in China and New York State in the U.S. and has worked in Hong Kong SAR for many years. With extensive experience in family trust and private wealth management, Bao has been a long-term counsel for many private clients. (from

6 May – HFW (Shanghai, China)

Global, sector-focused law firm HFW has continued to expand its fast-growing Greater China transactional practice with the hire of senior partner Brinton Scott and of counsel Danielle Peng in Shanghai. (from

6 May – IndusLaw (Delhi, India)

India’s IndusLaw has added yet another partner in Delhi, with the hire of employment law specialist Vaibhav Bhardwaj, who joins from Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas. Bhardwaj, who has more than 12 years of experience, advises clients on issues such as employee policies, social security, compensations and benefits, investigations and contract labour. (from

6 May – Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow (Singapore, Singapore)

Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow, the Singapore firm of Baker McKenzie, has hired Kay Moon as principal in Singapore from Linklaters, where she worked for more than 10 years in London and Hong Kong. Moon advises on cross-border corporate and M&A transactions across the technology, energy, natural resources and infrastructure sectors. (from

5 May – Squire Patton Boggs (Perth, Australia)

Squire Patton Boggs has expanded its global construction and engineering industry group in Australia with the addition of Perth-based construction partner Donna Charlesworth. She was previously head of the Perth public sector group at Clayton Utz, where she was a special counsel. (from

5 May – Christopher & Lee Ong (Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia)

Christopher & Lee Ong (CLO), Rajah & Tann Asia’s Malaysia member firm, has named Shanti Geoffrey as the co-head of its white-collar crime and investigations practice. At CLO, Geoffrey will advise and represent clients before the courts on different aspects of regulatory compliance and enforcement matters involving possible accounting and corporate fraud, criminal breach of trust, market manipulation, insider trading, and corruption. (from

5 May – Quahe Woo & Palmer (Singapore, Singapore)

Singapore law firm Quahe Woo & Palmer has added Melvin Lum as a director in its dispute resolution practice from Big Four firm WongPartnership, where he was a partner. Lum, who has more than 15 years of experience, focuses on banking and finance, and corporate and commercial disputes. (from

4 May – K&L Gates  (Melbourne, Australia)

Global law firm K&L Gates has further strengthened its intellectual property practice with the addition of Patrick Sands in Melbourne. Sands, who joins from Herbert Smith Freehills, is a key addition to K&L Gates’ global team of intellectual property lawyers, with K&L Gates being the only integrated law firm to offer IP services on four continents. (from

3 May – Ashurst (Melbourne, Australia)

U.K.-based Ashurst has hired real estate partner Arthur Chong to join its Melbourne office from DLA Piper. Chong, who is also admitted to practice in Malaysia, has expertise in investment and development, and will bring added strength to Ashurst’s project and real estate practice, the firm said in a statement. (from

3 May – Kennedys (Perth, Australia)

Global insurance and litigation law firm Kennedys has poached a partner and his team of nine from Clyde & Co to launch a Perth office. Jonathan Wyatt and his team of lawyers and paralegals will launch the office to continue the firm’s strong growth, Kennedys said. (from

3 May – Clifford Chance (Sydney, Australia)

International law firm Clifford Chance is expanding its Australian transactional practice with the hire of two corporate partners from local corporate firm Gilbert + Tobin and the promotion of two lawyers to partner. David Clee and Elizabeth Hill, who joined Clifford Chance’s Sydney office on Monday, bolster the firm’s public and private M&A, IPO and distressed M&A capabilities, the firm said in a statement. (from


April 2021

30 Apr – K&L Gates (Shanghai, China)

Global law firm K&L Gates LLP welcomes Roberta Chang as a partner in the firm’s tax practice. Ms. Chang joins the firm’s Shanghai office from Hogan Lovells, where she was a partner and the head of its China tax group. (from

30 Apr – Hall & Wilcox (Newcastle, NSW, Australia)

Another partner and his team have left DWF to join a local Australian firm as the exodus from the London-listed firm continues while it downsizes in Australia. Planning and environmental partner Brendan Tobin, a senior assochina.legalbusinessonline.comciate and a lawyer all join Hall & Wilcox’s Newcastle office.  (from

30 Apr – Helmsman (Singapore, Singapore)

Shipping and commodities-focused law firm Helmsman has expanded its corporate capabilities after hiring Lynette Koh to lead its corporate and finance practice in Singapore from Mizuho Bank, where she headed the legal function. Koh is Helmsman’s first director hire since Maureen Poh, joined the firm from Ince last year. Her practice focuses on finance needs and funding structures across industries, and she has experience in commodities and trade financing transactions. (from

29 Apr – Gilchrist Connell (Brisbane, Australia)

An employment partner has left DWF to join a local firm, becoming the latest in a stream of lawyers to leave the London-listed law firm as it downsizes in Australia. Mark Curran has joined the national workplace law and employment practices liability team at Gilchrist Connell in Brisbane. (from

28 Apr – Gibson Dunn & Crutcher (Hong Kong, China)

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher has hired a partner-led financial services regulatory team from Herbert Smith Freehills in Hong Kong. The four-lawyer team is being led by financial services partner William Hallatt, a statement by Gibson Dunn said on Wednesday. Associates Emily Rumble, Becky Chung and Arnold Pun are making the same move. (from

28 Apr – Conyers (Hong Kong, China)

Offshore law firm Conyers has added insolvency and disputes specialist Michael Makridakis as a partner in Hong Kong. Makridakis joins from litigation finance firm Delta Capital Partners Management, where he was a managing director. He joined the company in 2019 from offshore firm Carey Olsen, where he had been a partner. (from

28 Apr – Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (Bengaluru, India)

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM), India’s largest firm, has hired Karan Pahwa as a corporate partner in Bengaluru. Pahwa joins from an in-house role at venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners, where he spent about a decade. (from

27 Apr – Cooley (Beijing, China)

Cooley has hired a capital markets partner in Beijing from rival Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Ethan Jin is dual-qualified in Hong Kong and New York and advises Chinese issuers on Hong Kong listings and related transactions. Last year, he led the team advising the underwriters on television program producer China Bright Culture Group’s $116 million initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. (from

26 Apr – Paul Hastings (Shanghai, China)

Paul Hastings is continuing to bolster its Greater China life sciences practice with another hire, this time a partner. Phoebe Yan joins Paul Hastings’ Shanghai office from Hogan Lovells, where she had worked for eight years. Since 2018, she had been based in the firm’s Shanghai Free-Trade Zone associate office Hogan Lovells Fidelity. Previously, she was an associate at local firm JunHe.  (from

26 Apr – Gadens (Melbourne, Australia)

Local Australian firm Gadens has hired an employment partner and seven lawyers from DWF, the latest departures from the U.K.-based firm in the wake of its move to scale back its Australian operations. Melbourne-based partner George Haros brings two senior associates, three associates and two lawyers along with two legal assistants to the national firm. (from

26 Apr – DLA Piper (Sydney, Australia)

Global law firm DLA Piper has hired Stephanie Lambert from HFW to join its Australian real estate practice as a partner. Lambert, who will be based in DLA Piper’s Sydney office, specializes in major property projects which cross a number of industry sectors acting for institutional developers, foreign investors and developers, and listed and unlisted property trusts, the firm said. (from

22 Apr – IndusLaw (Hyderabad, India)

Indian law firm IndusLaw has hired real estate expert Praveen Kumar Thodupunuri as a partner in the southern city of Hyderabad from rival Tatva Legal, where he was a principal associate. Thodupunuri, who has more than 15 years of experience, focuses on real estate agreements including commercial leases, joint development agreements, construction agreements and operation of common area maintenance agreements. Prior to his time at Tatva, Thodupunuri worked with Fox Mandal and Associates and the erstwhile Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co. (from

22 Apr – J. Sagar Associates (Bengaluru, India)

India’s J Sagar Associates (JSA) has welcomed back real estate and M&A specialist Karthik BM, who joins the firm as a partner in Bengaluru from IndusLaw. (from

22 Apr – Byju (Bengaluru, India)

Roshan Thomas, a former Bengaluru-based partner at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (SAM), has joined Indian learning platform Byju’s as group general counsel. Thomas is the latest in a recent trend of established law firm partners in India moving in-house in leadership roles. Earlier this month, Pratibha Jain left Nishith Desai Associates to join Everstone Group, and before that Damini Bhalla left L&L Partners for Zomato. (from

21 Apr – JunHe (Hong Kong, China)

JunHe has hired Qiao Zheyuan as a partner in Hong Kong. Prior to joining JunHe, Qiao has practiced in Clifford Chance, Ashurst and Linklaters. Qiao’s practice focuses on banking and finance, capital market and foreign investment. She is specialized in derivatives and structured finance. Qiao has extensive experience advising international banks, funds, Chinese financial institutions and fintech companies in the areas of OTC derivatives, exchange-traded products, structured products, asset management, cross-border finance and HKMA/SFC regulatory advisory. (from

20 Apr – DLA Piper (Sydney, Australia)

Global law firm DLA Piper has hired intellectual property and technology partner Anthony Lloyd from local Australian firm MinterEllison. Lloyd, who will be based in DLA Piper’s Sydney office, previously led MinterEllison’s technology law business unit and has extensive experience advising on major technology, media and communications projects across Asia, the U.S. and Europe. (from

20 Apr – DLA Piper (Singapore, Singapore)

DLA Piper has added a leading Hogan Lovells partner with significant experience in Southeast Asia to head up its Asia investigations practice. Singapore-based Maurice Burke joins after seven years at Hogan Lovells where he led the firm’s Southeast Asia disputes practice. He began his career in 1997 at Herbert Smith Freehills, where he spent 17 years. (from

19 Apr – Dentons (Sydney, Australia)

Dentons has hired Donald Robertson, a 34-year veteran of Herbert Smith Freehills, as a competition and regulation partner. Robertson had practiced at Herbert Smith Freehills since 1987. (from

16 Apr – Ashurst  (Sydney & Melbourne, Australia)

Global law firm Ashurst is pleased to announce the appointment of three new partners in its Global Energy practice. Paul Curnow joins Ashurst in Sydney, bringing with him partners Zoë Hilson and Kate Phillips in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively. The hires consolidate Ashurst’s position at the leading edge of the global energy transition. (from

16 Apr – GEN Law Firm (Beijing, China)

GEN Law Firm has hired Caidan Cao, an expert in environmental energy, as a partner in its Beijing office from Winners Law Firm, where Cao was a partner and head of its Beijing office. Cao has extensive experience in energy and environmental compliance, development, construction, M&A and investment and finance of energy projects, climate change and green finance, environment litigation, energy litigation and international energy cooperation. (from

15 Apr – Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (Mumbai, India)

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas Partner Gaurav SInghi has joined Argus Partners as a Partner in Mumbai. He will be part of the firm’s corporate practice. (from

15 Apr – J. Sagar Associates (Gurugram, India)

Indian law firm J. Sagar Associates (JSA) has added Niruphama Ramakrishnan as a partner in Gurugram from rival AZB & Partners. Ramakrishnan, who has practiced for more than a decade, focuses on regulatory, general corporate, equity, capital markets, structured products, InvITs and REITs. (from

15 Apr – Pernod Ricard (Mumbai, India)

Bijoya Roy, formerly vice president and group general counsel at Indian e-commerce company Flipkart, has joined French alcoholic beverage producer Pernod Ricard as South Asia general counsel in Mumbai.
Roy has experience working in the information technology, media and services industries. She is an expert in negotiations, M&A, leading global compliance initiatives and partnering with HR and finance to create a robust corporate framework. (from

15 Apr – Yoon & Yang (Seoul, Korea)

Big Six Korean law firm Yoon & Yang has bolstered its disputes offering with the additions of three new partners: Former presiding judges Su Yeol Lee and Sang Jae Park, and former chief prosecutor Young Hyun Kim. (from

14 Apr – Charles Russell Speechlys & Reed Smith (Hong Kong & Singapore)

Hong Kong partners Silvia On and Ian Devereux will join Charles Russell Speechlys while Singapore partner Timothy Cooke departs for Reed Smith. (from

13 Apr – East & Concord Partners (Wuhan & Hangzhou, China)

East & Concord has hired partner Pingping Qiu in its Wuhan office and partners Dan Hu, Peng Huang, Jinhua Yang and Xiaojiang Zhu in its Hangzhou office.

Qiu’s main practice areas include corporate and M&A, dispute resolution and labour law. She has advised a number of large listed companies and state-owned enterprises with extensive experience in investment and finance. Prior to joining East & Concord, Qiu was a partner at Lifeng Law Firm.

Hu practiced at Hangzhou branch of Grandall Law Firm. Her practice mainly focuses on corporate and M&A, private equity and investment fund, and dispute resolution. Hu has advised a number of domestic and overseas listed companies, state-owned-enterprises and foreign enterprises, involving industries like sports, movie and television culture, energy, biological technology and healthcare.

Huang has expertise in corporate and M&A, private equity and investment funds, and dispute resolution. Huang previously was a partner at Grandall’s Hangzhou branch. In his over 20-years’ practice, Huang has worked in the financial services department of Fortune 500 companies in the design of structured products, and also served as legal director in charge of cross-border M&As of US listed companies.

Yang is an expert in intellectual property (IP), dispute resolution and compliance. Prior to joining East & Concord, she was a partner at Zhe Jiang Nuo Li Ya Law Firm. Yang has extensive experience in trademark and anti-unfair competition, and has dealt with over 100 IP cases involving trademark infringement and verification.

Zhu focuses on dispute resolution, government legal affairs, and corporate and M&A. Before joining East & Concord, he practiced at Grandall’s Hangzhou branch and had been a partner at Guantao Law Firm. Zhu has extensive litigation and arbitration experience in trade, finance, corporate governance, investment and M&A, involving sectors like land, real-estate, planning and construction and tax. (from

12 Apr – Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan (Shanghai, China)

Nine months after returning to the firm, a Shanghai investigations and life sciences partner has left Paul Hastings for Quinn Emanuel. White-collar investigations and life sciences disputes lawyer Haiyan Tang has joined Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan’s Shanghai office as a partner from Paul Hastings. (from

8 Apr – Adani Group (Ahmedabad, India)

Indian multinational conglomerate Adani Group has tapped PM Devaiah to be its new general counsel. Devaiah joins from Everstone Group, which has hired Pratibha Jain, a former partner at Nishith Desai Associates (NDA), to replace him. Devaiah, who joined India-focused private equity firm Everstone Group in 2007, was the group’s vice-chairman and general counsel. His entire career, which began in 1990, has been spent in in-house roles, including legal head positions at ICICI Venture, The Carlyle Group and BPL Cellular. (from

8 Apr – Everstone Group (Bengaluru, India)

Indian multinational conglomerate Adani Group has tapped PM Devaiah to be its new general counsel. Devaiah joins from Everstone Group, which has hired Pratibha Jain, a former partner at Nishith Desai Associates (NDA), to replace him. Meanwhile, Jain, who helped launch NDA’s Delhi office in 2011, joined the firm from Goldman Sachs. Her previous firms include Sullivan & Cromwell and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Jain’s practice focuses on private equity, M&A, corporate and regulatory advisory and public policy. (from

8 Apr – Skrine (Kuala Kumpur, Malaysia)

Wong Chee Lin, who spent three decades at Malaysian law firm Skrine before a brief stint on the bench, has returned to the firm as a litigation partner in Kuala Lumpur. Wong is Skrine’s third lateral partner hire in a month; the firm recently brought on board Islamic finance lawyers Hafidah Aman Hashim and Sharifah Shafika Alsagoff as partners. (from

8 Apr – Veritas Legal (Mumbai, India)

India’s Veritas Legal has hired Manav Raheja as corporate partner in Mumbai from J Sagar Associates. Raheja, who has over 15 years of experience, focuses on M&A, private equity and venture capital investment transactions, and commercial dispute advisory matters. (from

8 Apr – Perkins Coie (Taiwan)

U.S. firm Perkins Coie has welcomed back Marcus Woo as a partner from Taiwanese mobile phone manufacturer HTC Corporation, where he was vice president and general counsel. Initially based in New York, Woo will move to Taipei once registration formalities are completed. At the firm, Woo will represent clients in Taiwan and beyond on intellectual property and corporate matters, including U.S. IP litigation work for Taiwanese companies. (from

8 Apr – Anagram Partners (Mumbai, India)

M&A specialist Simone Reis and international tax expert Rajesh Simhan, who both left Nishith Desai Associates (NDA) after more than 12 years at the firm’s Mumbai office, have set up a boutique firm called Anagram Partners in Mumbai. (from

7 Apr – King & Wood Mallesons (Sydney, Australia)

Chinese-Australian law firm King & Wood Mallesons has strengthened its cross-border finance capability with the appointment of banking and finance partner David Lam, who returns to the firm after a near two-year absence. Lam, who joins the firm from Allen & Overy and will be based in King & Wood’s Sydney office, has 18 years of cross-border finance experience and a “deep understanding and connectivity” with clients in Hong Kong and Mainland China, King & Wood said. (from

7 Apr – Jingtian & Gongcheng (Hong Kong, China)

Chinese-Australian law firm King & Wood Mallesons has strengthened its cross-border finance capability with the appointment of banking and finance partner David Lam, who returns to the firm after a near two-year absence. Lam, who joins the firm from Allen & Overy and will be based in King & Wood’s Sydney office, has 18 years of cross-border finance experience and a “deep understanding and connectivity” with clients in Hong Kong and Mainland China, King & Wood said. (from

6 Apr – Squire Patton Boggs (Sydney, Australia)

Corporate M&A partner Michael Gajic has left Australian law firm MinterEllison to join international firm Squire Patton Boggs in Sydney, the latest of several partners to join the firm this year. Squire said Gajic brings “a wealth of experience in public M&A having acted for bidders, targets and major shareholders on schemes of arrangement, takeovers (hostile, unsolicited and friendly), takeover defences and take-privates of ASX listed companies by private equity bidders.” (from

1 Apr – Clyde & Co (Hong Kong, China)

Clyde & Co has hired Rosie Ng as a partner in the firm’s global insurance group in Hong Kong from HFW, where she was a consultant. Ng focuses on director and officers insurance claims, professional indemnity, commercial crime, fidelity, employment practice and product liability, insurance regulatory and policy wordings, and product development. (from


Singapore Flings Back in Style

In the wake of closures of several international firms’ offices in Beijing and Hong Kong over the last 12-24 months it is interesting to observe how firms in this sector recalibrate their Asia strategies. By far the most notable positive recent activity has been seen in Singapore, the City State having previously been a hotbed of office openings and investment during, at various times over the years, the advent of the JLV programs allowing closer integration between foreign and local firms, loosening of local legislation governing mergers between foreign and local firms, a concerted push to establish the Singapore International Arbitration Centre as the pre-eminent arbitration venue in the region, increasing investment in neighbouring regional economies, all of which were catnip to expanding firms. Also there is a recognition that expat lawyers of a certain age, seniority and family status seem to gravitate there, not least because of its family-friendly environment, international school accessibility, high quality of living standard, travel convenience, low air pollution levels, low taxes, the list goes on.

Such recalibration is perhaps exemplified by the activities of McDermott Will & Emery. The Chicago-headquartered firm followed up the closure of its Seoul office in 2019 with the severance of ties with its Shanghai alliance partner in the summer of 2020, the firm then called MWE China Law Offices itself subsequently tying up with Winston & Strawn (which itself had pulled back from Taiwan and Beijing some years prior). However McDermott is poised to reposition its Asia footprint with a Singapore office launch having hired former Squire Patton Boggs office head, energy and infrastructure specialist Ignatius Hwang. Hwang is currently listed as being based in London but all the signs point back to the Lion City.

Squire Patton Boggs has itself been extremely active in the market there, bolstering its ranks with partner-level hires from HFW, Reed Smith, Clifford Chance and ex-Eversheds Sutherland merger partner Harry Elias since 2019. Mishcon de Reya, traditionally targeting a high-net-worth client base, shifted its overseas focus from New York to Singapore with a new office opening in summer 2020.

For years various prestigious US firms danced around the idea of a Singapore opening, attracted by the location (being a regional “hub”) and access to a new client base but often failing to make the metrics work, or be able to attract the truly top talent to make such a splash worthwhile. A spate of high-profile withdrawals at the start of the 2000s (Slaughter and May, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Morrison & Foerster to name but three, albeit two have subsequently returned) indicated that Singapore was perhaps losing its lustre and firms preferred to focus investment and resources in Hong Kong and mainland China. Perhaps the pendulum is swinging back.

Leaders in Law: Interview with Sarah Wang

When the AstraZeneca vaccine was first introduced, it was hailed as a milestone in turning the tide on the coronavirus and now is a global gamechanger. In this interview, Sherry talks with Sarah Wang, Deputy General Counsel, International & Japan for AstraZeneca, about her secrets to success in this UK-headquartered pharmaceutical giant. Highly respected in Shanghai’s legal community, Sarah is known for her intelligence, determination and graciousness. Before meeting her, I was told that she is an exceptional lawyer with a charismatic personality. During the interview, I found her to be a likable, engaging, enthusiastic person who often dared to step out of her comfort zone. And in every step in her career, she succeeded.

Sherry: Sherry Xu (Hughes-Castell, Director)

Sarah: Sarah Wang (AstraZeneca, Deputy General Counsel, International & Japan)

The Making of a Gentle Warrior

Having graduated from Shanghai No.3 Middle School for Girls, its twin predecessors being the St. Mary’s Hall and McTyeire High School, her school motto, “independence, ability, care, elegance,” was imprinted on Sarah’s mind.  She was also profoundly influenced by Chinese author Lin Yutang. Lin regards life as a journey, not a destination. His attitude of focusing on enjoying the process rather than the result has clearly impacted Sarah’s view of life.

In the late 1990s, Chinese law graduates generally had three career options: judicial organizations, enterprises, or law firms. After having interned briefly with the court and a brief working experience with a bank, Sarah realized living a predictable life was not what she wanted. She was curious about the unknown outside world and keen on exploring more challenges and possibilities. Sarah applied for many US law schools, was accepted to a few LLM programs and decided to go to Northwestern University Law School in Chicago with a scholarship.

After LLM graduation, Sarah joined a mid-sized Chicago law firm to work on their newly formed “Chinese Desk”. As much as she felt lucky to land such a wonderful opportunity, she asked herself, “if I am only doing what I could have done in China, why did I come to the U.S.? ” With that thought in mind, she went back to Northwestern Law School to complete her J.D. studies and got licensed in both New York State and Illinois so that she could be a “regular” US lawyer just as her American peers. After graduation, her wish came true – she joined an international firm, DLA Piper, as a U.S. Associate in its Corporate M&A group in Chicago.

However, good days never last long – the financial tsunami occurred sooner after Sarah joined DLA Piper. The M&A practice disappeared overnight. Facing potential layoff,  adaption was rule No. 1 for survival. With a timely opportunity, Sarah switched to the real estate finance team, finding a niche in US REITs where overseas inbound investment was active.

With six years of hard work,  life seemed well settled in the US. Her family evolved into a typical middle-class Chinese American family – large house in a nice suburb, commuting to work downtown every day, and BBQs with other families during the weekends.   However,  predictable routine life never sits well with Sarah. “ In the US, new Chinese young professionals may have a good job and live an upper-middle class life, but we still struggle a lot to merge into the mainstream and feel truly empowered.” So, when opportunity came, the family moved back to China, and Sarah transferred to DLA Shanghai to continue her practice here.

Back then the model of law practice in China was significantly different than in the US. While in the US lawyers usually strive to become subject experts as years of experience increase, in China it is more of a generalist model.  As a mid-level associate coming from the “headquarters” with substantial US REITs experience, Sarah was on a new journey to become a senior lawyer in capital markets, M&A transactions, fund, FDI and general corporate, real estate, etc.

The pressure and workload were intense. it is easy for her to lose track of how many nights she went home blindly in the dark, so she could only tiptoe to see her sleeping children . Like many young female lawyers who struggled to find a little more time to be with their family and kids, an in-house opportunity with a different business environment and work style was welcomed with open arms. Here begins Sarah’s journey as an in-house counsel (although in a hindsight – never assume a good lifestyle is guaranteed, if you want to excel in any job!)

Sherry: Sarah, you have said you like working with lawyers who have private practice experience and always try to be “accommodating” to them because you understand their struggles to adapt to in-house as you have been through similar uncertainties. Would you share with us your transition experience?

Sarah: First of all, it takes a bit adjustment on self-esteem.  Some seemingly trivial matters can be hard to take in at the beginning – for example, moving from your private office to an open office environment. More significantly, it is a mindset change of how we provide legal service.  When we are in law firms, we offer advice to in-house lawyers on legal issues. How to carry out the advice usually is not our concern. When you are part of the company, you work with the business units side by side, day in and day out, to solve real business problems and provide practical solutions. In the beginning, it is hard for lawyers coming from law firms to walk the fine line between legal and business advice because a company’s structure is far more complicated than that of a law firm. When our legal expertise are encountered with commercial, finance, HR…expertise,  in-house lawyers may either become defensive or start to doubt about their judgment. My advice to new in-house lawyers is that, believing in your judgment and instinct. Never doubt your professional capabilities. Also, never take your business partners as your opponents and waste time trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong. Consider it a great opportunity to learn first-hand from other professionals what you are not good at, and be confident to express your own opinion to work as a team.

Sherry: I know you had a great time with AstraZeneca. There were extensive deals. As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi stated in “Mental Flow,” people are happiest when they feel in control of their inner thoughts and feelings and experience a sense of enjoyment, purpose, and meaning. You enjoy being fully committed and involved when doing deals. However, back in 2016, AZ’s legal team was small, with limited promotion prospects. So, when an opportunity presented itself, you decided to leave to see more of the outside world. However, consequently, you changed jobs twice within nine months and came back to AZ. Have you ever worried that your resume looks too jumpy or thought you should hang in there longer?

Sarah: Obviously I do not advocate for jumping around just for higher pay or title. However, if an opportunity presents you with the experience that you feel lacking in your current role,  I don’t think one should go against her heart and keep the status quo merely for the sake of making her resume look good. The decision to be made has to be in the context of the essential issues, such as industrial, technical, and managerial experience the job can offer.  The lesson I learned is that in-house jobs can vary in a wide span. Before making a decision, don’t just focus on the job description, but also do as much due diligence as possible on the industry, the company, the leadership team and your future peers.

Sherry: It must feel like coming home when you returned to AZ in 2017 as you know the company and the people there so well. This time you took a more senior role as a member of China leadership team. Can you share how you integrated yourself into the senior management team?

Sarah:  When I came back to AZ as the China General Counsel, I was a seasoned lawyer with more than a decade of legal practice. However, I was still an amateur as a leader in a large company. The first step usually is to learn from, and sometimes “copy”, your role model or predecessor’s style. And that’s what I did. However, I quickly figured out it doesn’t work. A true leader is someone who can lead with her authentic style and be comfortable to be different. Over the years, I have often heard comments that “you don’t look like a lawyer” perhaps because of my petty figure and seemingly soft style.  It bothered me for a while and I tried to look more like a “lawyer” by dressing sharp, speaking louder and hiding my feminine side.  But I soon realized it was foolish to pretend to be someone else because you can’t. Instead, what makes one valuable is actually her unique perspective and authentic leadership style. Later I found out my uniqueness is exactly my strength – good advice delivered in a soft voice actually walks a long way because while you deliver the message, you also deliver respect, understanding and willingness to work together.

Sherry: Speaking of leadership style, many General Counsels told me respect is earned, not given. Therefore, they work hard to fight for respect. On the contrary, your unique approach was to strive for success without a battle. Could you share with us your secret?


Sarah: My secret is to speak like a human with common sense (laughs). Forget about the image of those lawyers in “Suits”. As an in-house counsel, you earn respect by being a good lawyer and being a good team player. It is interesting I never feel I need to fight with someone on something. I see everyone in the company working towards the same goal: to make the company successful in a sustainable way. Once you have that mindset, you have less ego to always want to be right, but more motivation to find a truly workable solution as a team. Most lawyers have strong analytical skills, if you can couple it with empathy and good communication, you don’t have to fight for respect.

I also want to talk a bit about so called “office politics”. I have always been puzzled why one can have so many “enemies” in an organization (laughs). I think at the end, it is all about understanding other people’s perspective and communication methods. Everyone in the company has their own KPI, and people will always first consider any problem from their own perspective. However, this does not exclude mutually beneficial compromises and win-win cooperation. Most of the time, solutions are not that black and white. If we put our heads together through understanding each other by effective communication, most of the time we can reach a plan that meets both parties’ goals. For example, some time ago, our European region reported that low-priced medicines from a particular country under my region were dumped in many European markets, disrupting the European market price.  As a matter of fact, this country does have maximum price restrictions, and such exportation is not illegal under the local regulations. From the perspective of Competition Law, we cannot interfere.  Although this was not a purely legal issue, it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Firstly, I arranged a meeting for all parties to explain their concerns directly. Then, I helped both sides to report to their superiors the legal difficulty and unique problem that we are facing, and managed to persuade the business to adjust business arrangements and targets accordingly, thus reduce the pressure on all parties. At the same time we continue to explore arrangements that can mitigate the situation within the legal framework of the local market. As I told my lawyers, it is not enough to be a good lawyer, but equally important to be a good project manager who can turn her advice into a reality.

Sherry: As a Chinese sitting in Shanghai, your current role as an International General Counsel of a UK-headquartered company is unprecedented, and truly deserved. Do you have any tips for mid to senior-level in-house lawyers to prepare for future senior promotion?

Sarah: First of all, we have to be a good lawyer because practicing law is our profession, the real value of our career. When I was the China General Counsel, I was personally in charge of all China business development projects’ legal support. The legal advisory side is what I like and a skill that I can never lose as a lawyer. Later on, I got promoted to be the International Head. Despite that, I am still more than willing to handle these matters myself whenever appropriate. I keep telling myself that I must remain familiar with the company’s operation and business and my legal practice.

Secondly, communication. You must be willing to spend time to talk to people, and even more importantly, listen to people, and truly understand what they are saying. I don’t mind becoming friends with my colleagues, but I am also not bothered to have frictions at work. I don’t take it personally.

Thirdly,  is leadership skills. How to develop your leadership skills? Due to legal’s role in a company, most in-house legal teams are not likely to be a big department. In most circumstances, we have a flat and lean structure. Therefore, young lawyers must seize every opportunity in daily work to improve your management skills by so called “leading  without authority” through leading cross-function projects, training programs, or industrial legal groups, etc.

Fourthly, it is visibility. However, this must be a mutual interaction between the line manager and the lawyer herself.  First, the boss must actively seek opportunities for young talents to be  exposed to senior management locally and globally.  At the same time, young lawyers must also have the willingness to develop and seize every opportunity to present themselves actively. Smart leaders always notice when talents show their unique strength, so never underestimate any presentation opportunities, formal or informal. Of course, don’t fake your motivation; you should follow your heart.

Sherry: In the past few years, you have grown up in the Chinese team and have made yourself stand out from your regional General Counsel peers to become their boss now. But, I have to admire your high emotional intelligence for taking two successful role changes in a short time.

Your current role is a position initially set up in Cambridge, UK. However, because of the Chinese market’s importance and your family considerations, you chose Shanghai as a location. This led to a famous saying in the community, “Chinese manage the international market from China.” What have been your stand-out experiences so far in this role over the past two years?


Sarah: First of all, I realized that I couldn’t manage everything, so I need to prioritize. Our China legal team is very strong, and I know the business and team pretty well to be comfortable to delegate. For the rest of the team, since I don’t share the same culture background to build up a natural trust with my team members, I paid extra attention to my overseas teams in the first two years. Secondly, I tried my best to present my team to the commercial and legal community to provide them with opportunities to showcase their work. Thirdly, I spent a lot of time creating platforms for knowledge exchange and community building to connect my lawyers in China, Asia Area, Russia/Eurasia, Australia, Middle East & Africa and Latin America, because I think it is a unique asset the company has to truly navigate the complicated legal framework for a multi-national pharmaceutical company.

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

Sarah:  Thank you very much.

IWD 2021: Celebrating Women in Law Firms’ Leadership

In these troubled times of pandemic and market turmoil, we have striven to look for positive news. In one example, last year saw more female lawyers take on leadership roles for top international firms in Asia. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer made history by appointing Georgia Dawson as their first female Senior Partner in September, and Morrison & Foerster made Marcia Ellis Global Chair of the Private Equity Group and elevated her to a Member of the Board of Directors.  In addition, Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, and Kobre & Kim appointed women into regional leadership roles in 2020.

  • In 2020, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer elected a woman, Georgia Dawson, to Senior Partner for the first time in its 277-year-history, also becoming the first Magic Circle firm to do so. Dawson began her legal career at Freehills in Sydney in 1999, spent time in Hanoi on a law reform project and moved to UK to study for a Masters in International Relations at Cambridge, joining Freshfields as an Associate in 2004. Since 2012, Dawson has been a Freshfields partner in the Hong Kong office, becoming regional Managing Partner in Asia in 2017. She splits her time between Singapore and Hong Kong, where her main practice is internal and regulatory investigations, complex multi-jurisdictional litigation, and compliance counseling. Dawson took over from former Senior Partner, Edward Braham, in January 2021.
  • Morrison & Foerster promoted Marcia Ellis to Global Chair of the Private Equity Group and Member of the Board of Directors last October. Ellis, a Morrison & Foerster stalwart, rejoined the firm as a Corporate Partner in 2013, having initially left in 2008 to become the Chief Legal Officer for Asia at D.E.Shaw, in charge of all its investments in Asia on both public and private sides, before a two year stint at Ropes & Gray.
  • Recently awarded Woman Lawyer of the Year (Law Firm) at the 2020 ALB Hong Kong Awards, Jini Lee was also named Ashurst’s new regional head of Asia last year, the second woman to lead their Asia practice. Lee took over the role from predecessor Patrick Phua. Lee takes the role only five years after joining the firm as a partner from Linklaters.
  • Clifford Chance promoted capital markets specialist Connie Heng to Asia-Pacific Regional Managing Partner, taking over the role from Geraint Hughes last November. The NUS law graduate has been at the firm’s Hong Kong office for more than 20 years and has been regional head of its capital markets practice in Asia since 2015, and a member of the firm’s Global Wider Leadership Group since 2018.
  • Herbert Smith Freehills has appointed May Tai, former Managing Partner China to lead the Asia-Pacific region as Managing Partner, following a global leadership restructure at the firm. After graduating from Oxford, Tai joined HSF as a trainee in 2001 and became a Partner in 2010 and Managing Partner China in 2017. She has practiced in cross-border Asian disputes in the firm’s Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo offices during her career at the firm, making the appointment to her new regional remit all the more appropriate. Ms Tai, was keen to share her thoughts with us on #ChooseToChallenge, the IWD 2021 campaign theme.

May“The pandemic has disrupted women’s progress in many areas, from education to the workplace.

A disproportionate number of women have lost jobs, left the workforce completely, or shouldered an enormous burden of family support while working.

We have much ground to make up as the world slowly returns to normal.

We all have much to do, and can’t delay. We need to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world. We all have a responsibility to make this happen.

  • In February, former Global General Counsel of Honeywell Technology Solutions, Lian Lian, joined cross-border disputes and investigations specialists Kobre & Kim as Managing Director Asia Pacific. For the last decade, Lian has earned a strong reputation as a leading in-house lawyer in the Chinese legal community, but to move directly from a senior in-house role to a regional management position at an international law firm speaks volumes about the esteem the firm holds her in, and the trust they have placed in her. Read more about Lian’s career here (

These appointments are welcome, progressive moves. The presence of role models and mentors is a crucial ingredient of a successful diversity program. Despite the fact that female law firm leadership ranks are growing, they are still relatively rare in Big Law. Women still face a challenging route to the top of the legal industry, as demonstrated in the UK, where fewer than 25% of partners among Magic Circle firms are female.

Though the glass ceiling has cracks, it still remains an impermeable barrier to many women, and inequality and prejudice remain very much part of the industry. Hopefully these recent leadership appointments will encourage more of the same in the years to come.

Conversation with Natalie Kernisant, Chief D&I Officer, Morrison & Foerster

Diverse and inclusive workplaces have proven to earn deeper trust and more commitment from their employees and clients. With research showing the many benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace (including higher revenue growth, greater readiness to innovate, increased ability to attract talent, higher employee retention), law firms now more than ever are prioritizing diversity and inclusion best practices. To learn more about this topic, we are delighted to invite Natalie Kernisant, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Morrison & Foerster, to share her views and experience. Natalie moved into the newly created C-level leadership role in December 2020, after having most recently served as Mofo’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Director, leading the firm’s D+I team to provide outstanding programming, training, and educational opportunities, as well as spearheading the development of four engagement committees focused on legal services, charitable donations, community action, and education. Natalie’s elevated role, (which includes providing strategic leadership to advance recruiting and retention of diverse talent, as well as supporting client development in the area of D+I), reflects the increasing importance placed on diversity and inclusion initiatives by the firm.

Since 2017, under her supervision, guidance and leadership, Morrison & Foerster has achieved Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule Certification three years running, acknowledging that the firm has affirmatively considered at least 30 percent women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+ and lawyers with disabilities for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, formal client pitch opportunities, and senior lateral positions. This February, the influential periodical Crain’s New York Business named Natalie to its list of Notable Black Leaders & Executives 2021, which recognizes black men and women who have impacted New York City in major ways and sets out to honor their professional, civic, and philanthropic achievements.

KF: Katherine Fan (Managing Director, Hughes-Castell)

Natalie: Natalie Kernisant (Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Morrison & Foerster)

Diversity and Inclusion

KF: In the drive towards greater diversity and inclusion within the legal industry, what do you see as the main challenges and opportunities going forward in the legal industry? Where have you seen greatest progress and most notable positive change in this area?

Natalie: The greatest progress I have seen over the last year is the spike in genuine and intense interest in allyship and learning about the black experience in America in particular.  For the first time in my career, people were making space for diverse voices, were legitimizing their experiences and were passionately looking for ways to engage and do better.  2020 created a foundation upon which meaningful progress could be made – people were eager to listen and learn, without the shield of defensiveness and/or denial.  People were open to learning about how inaction often made them inadvertently complicit in maintaining the status quo – this heightened awareness and willingness to learn is – I think – imperative if we are to make any progress on these issues.

The main challenges I see in the immediate term are (1) sustaining the level of engagement and enthusiasm the tragedies and challenges of 2020 brought about.  Diversity, equity and inclusion aren’t issues that can be sporadically attended to but rather require constant attention and consistent effort.  (2) Equally challenging from my point of view is trying to ensure that we don’t collectively lose sight of what lies at the heart of DE&I work – the real world experiences of diverse people in our organizations and communities.  With all the attention on diversity, many well intended allies are rushing to try to find quick solutions and push for results, without understanding the nuance behind the issues we face.  Those “quick fixes” often bring about unintended consequences and can – at worst – lead diverse people to feel like interchangeable cogs in a machine or build unspoken resentments between groups that lead to more deeply entrenched biases.

KF: How do we integrate diversity and inclusion into talent acquisition strategies in the legal industry? Do you feel that quota systems are a practical way forward or is it possible to create a greater balance in a more holistic fashion?

Natalie: I think it’s important to ensure we have diverse pools of talent from which we select individual talent.  We have to be mindful of where we are sourcing talent and the biases we assume from the processes those sources rely on (i.e. top tier schools)  I also think its important to educate those participating in talent acquisition to the implicit biases within our recruiting systems and how to recognize and interrupt those biases.  For example,  how unstructured interviews and relying on “cultural fit” lead to faulty decision making; How the lack of diverse interviewers impact your hires, or how things like confirmation and recall biases – which we all suffer from – impact our memory when recalling interviews.  I’m not a huge fan of “quotas” per se because I feel they reduce the full person to a statistic and teach us to think about diversity in superficial and transactional ways rather than looking at a person for all they bring to the table and understanding the many benefits diversity brings to teams, including fostering more innovative and creative problem solving.

KF: How do you utilize employee resource groups to foster inclusion at the firm?

Natalie: ERGs are a great way to build a sense of community and belonging for diverse professional.  They can serve to enhance and support associate or employee development, providing a forum to share business development tips, network, and facilitate cross-selling and profile raising.  We also leverage them to help educate allies about the issues and concerns of a particular affinity and what its like to navigate the organization as a diverse professional.  Often times our ERGs collaborate with ERGs at peer organizations and/or clients – in furtherance of community building, external networking and professional development.



KF: When and why did you decide to pursue this area of work?

Natalie: I don’t know if I chose to pursue the work or if the work found me.  You see, I identify as a Black American of French Caribbean descent.  My parents were both born and raised for much of their lives in Haiti.  My first language was French, then Haitian Creole, and finally English.  I myself was born in Brooklyn, NY then moved to Roslyn, Long Island where I spent most of my young life.  I was fortunate to spend many summers visiting Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  As an adult I’ve lived in seven different states and two countries and spent a lot of time traveling internationally.  I think growing up the way I did at the intersection of two cultures, seeing and adapting to two worlds that were in many ways vastly different from one other – especially socio-economically – providing me a cultural fluency, empathy and respect for difference that has I think positioned me well for a role like this.  I also am and always have been fascinated by the human condition, human interactions and psychology, how we communicate, miscommunicate and struggle for acceptance and belonging.  That fascination led me to study quite a few things – psychology, politics, the law, human capital, organizational development, diversity, and change management.  Again, scholarly pursuits that serve as a foundation for the work that I do every day.  Once I decided to leave the law, I just followed these passions – first working on diversity policy issues at Harvard Medical School, then Strategic HR at an Investment Bank that had quite a lot of diversity related work embedded in it, and then back to a law firm where I have been for the last 7+ years.

KF: What words of wisdom as a female leader can you offer to aspiring female leaders in overcoming obstacles that you have experienced in the past?

Natalie: To always believe in yourself.  Adversity comes with advancement – it’s a natural part of the growth process; don’t ever let it discourage you – use it as a tool for improvement.  That is the only lesson challenges should teach you – they aren’t a reflection of your capability or belonging – they are a constructive part of the process of growth and development.

KF: How do you define the terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion in your work, and how do you communicate this internally?

Natalie: Diversity is largely about the presence of diverse people, its about representation while equity and inclusion are – to me – about the experience one has in an organization or environment.  They are about the interactions you have in the hall way, the mentors and sponsors who take interest in you, they are about the sense of belonging and fairness you feel.  Equity and inclusion are by far more important to me in the work that I do – because I support and serve individuals – whole human beings.  I truly believe that diversity is often either a premature or lagging indicator of how well you are doing on equity and inclusion – so I try to focus more on the latter two.  That isn’t to say that diversity – or achieving a critical mass within an environment – isn’t important but rather that representation is not necessarily inclusion and DE&I work is far deeper and more nuanced than just having a certain number of diverse faces in the building.



KF: What can employers in Asia do to better practice diversity and inclusion?

Natalie: I don’t know that I have specific advice for employers in Asia – but I will say we can all do better by seeking to educate ourselves about other people’s experiences; we ought to truly engage people who are different from ourselves and actively listening to their stories. I also think its always important to understand that there is a difference between intent and impact while we engage in these difficult conversations – we can intend no harm but still impact someone else negatively with what and how we speak to one another.  So lead with empathy and make room for different voices. Seek to learn and support your colleagues as whole human beings with different but legitimate experiences.  Only then will you inspire loyalty and empower your people to bring their best to the work they do for you everyday.  That’s my advice for employers everywhere.

Tackling Gender Diversity in Law in the Covid-19 Era

We should recognise that diversity and equality matter as a point of principle in the workplace, but we can now draw conclusions that they have an uplifting effect on business performance. The legal profession has spent years wrestling with gender diversity but, for all the progress made, we still have some way to go. Law firms are reluctant to change until it makes sense in purely business terms. It is encouraging, therefore, that a stronger focus on diversity is increasingly likely to lead to greater financial returns and create a competitive differentiator that shifts market share positively.


The recently published Acritas’s report (2020)[1], Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law, shows that gender-diverse teams in law firms attract a significantly higher client spend. McKinsey’s Diversity Matters (2015) [2]found that companies (in Canada, Latin America, the UK, and the US) in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.


Client pressure plays a growing role in promoting gender diversity. Acritas found that, globally, close to three-quarters of law firms reported client pressure to increase gender diversity among their ranks, which generated more momentum in their efforts. Whether driven specifically by clients’ ideals or not, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, one of a few firms to announce notable promotions and appointments of women in 2020 ( to senior positions, has undergone a spurt of growth to expand its stateside footprint with a number of women hires[3].


In Japan, fairly or unfairly seen as a society that puts significant value on the traditionally male-dominant senior workforce, partners at the recognised “Big Four” firms admit that in order to compete for international work, they can no longer ignore the need to make diversity and inclusion part of their firms’ core values. Especially when their clients, especially in the financial sector, now field transaction teams typically comprised of over 50% women[4].


Remote working is regarded as a game-changer for achieving gender diversity and was widely adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic. Will the aftermath of Covid-19 improve gender diversity in law? During the pandemic and the ensuing closure of schools and leisure facilities, and with home lockdowns being imposed, female lawyers invariably suffered from the burden of unequal family duties of childcare and schooling, supervising kids’ remote learning during the day and fitting in working hours where possible. Paradoxically, there are reports that some women have found the remote work situation to be bolstering their cause by thrusting the issue of unequal family duties front and center. Increased paid family leave and universal childcare are becoming more frequent topics of conversation in the legal market.


On the topic of diversity, we are happy to have May Tai of Herbert Smith Freehills and Hong Tran of Mayer Brown share with us their diversity and inclusion strategies or initiatives:

Screenshot 2021-03-05 170811


[1] Acritas,‘Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law’,, Thomson Reuters, 2021, (accessed 25 February, 2021)

[2] Vivian Hunt, Dennis Layton, and Sara Prince, ‘Why diversity matters’,, McKinsey, 2015, (accessed 25 February 2021)

[3] ‘Freshfields Taps First Woman Leader, Still Rare in Big Law’,, Bloomberg Law, 2020, (accessed 25 February 2021)

[4] Jessica Seah, ‘Even in Japan, Law Firms Boost Diversity Initiatives to Attract Women Lawyers’,, American Lawyer Media International, (accessed 25 February 2021)


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’,, Singapore Academy of Law, 2019, (accessed 19 January 2021)

[ii] Jacqueline So, ‘Singapore Ministry of Law unveils technology and innovation roadmap for legaltech adoption’,, Key Media, 2020, (accessed 19 January 2021)

[iii] Hariz Baharudin, ‘NUS launches new think tank to explore legal issues surrounding the use of technology’,, Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co, (accessed 19 January 2021)

[iv] ‘Clifford Chance partners with Singapore start up Alpha LegalTech to launch CompareNow in Asia Pacific’,, Clifford Chance, 2020, (accessed 20 January 2021)

[v] Aparna Sai, ‘Rajah & Tann tech arm launches cybersecurity platform’,, Thomson Reuters, 2021, (accessed 20 January 2021)

[vi] Mark Goh, ‘3 business lessons I learned from running my own firm for 24 years’,, Tech in Asia, 2018, (accessed 20 January 2021)

[vii] ‘Singapore-based legal startup LawCanvas expands into Australia, Malaysia and Hong Kong’,, Asia Law Portal, 2016, (accessed 19 January 2021)

[viii] Jessica Seah, ‘Lawyer Mindset Still Barrier for Legal Tech Growth in Asia’,, American Lawyer Media International, 2020, (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

Legal Move Updates (January – March 2021)

Editor’s note: This is an ongoing list.

March  2021

31 Mar – Linklaters (Hong Kong, China)

Linklaters has appointed William Liu as its new Regional Managing Partner, Asia for a period of four years from 1 June 2021. William succeeds Nathalie Hobbs who has completed her term in the role and will work closely with William during a handover period. (from

25 Mar – LAW Partnership (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Malaysian firm LAW Partnership, which specialises in IP and disputes, has strengthened its corporate offering after hiring Raphael Tay as the head of its corporate and commercial practice in Kuala Lumpur from Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill. Tay, who has more than three decades of experience, focuses on domestic and cross-border M&A and information and technology practice. (from

24 Mar – Corrs Chambers Westgarth (Melbourne, Australia)

Australian corporate law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth has hired a former advisor to the government’s industrial relations minister and former industrial court judge as a partner. Graeme Watson, who will join the firm’s Melbourne office, was most recently an advisor to Attorney General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter and previously vice president of the Fair Work Commission. (from

23 Mar – Bitmain Technologies (Hong Kong, China)

Shearman & Sterling’s Hong Kong corporate partner Max Hua has left the firm to join Bitmain Technologies. Beijing-based Bitmain designs integrated circuit chips for bitcoin mining. The company, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency mining equipment maker, has previously filed for initial public offerings both in Hong Kong and the U.S. but both attempts fell through. (from

22 Mar – Deacons (Hong Kong, China)

Deacons, Hong Kong’s largest local firm, has hired family law expert Sherlynn Chan as a partner in its litigation and disputes practice from city rival Stevenson, Wong & Co. Chan, who has been in the legal industry for more than two decades, focuses on matrimonial cases, family-related financial disputes, children’s custody and wardship proceedings. (from

19 Mar – Dentons (Brisbane, Australia)

Dentons has hired an insolvency partner from a local Australian firm as the global law firm says it plans to expand further into Australia this year. Claire Petersen joins from local firm Lavan Legal, where she was a consultant, and will start in Dentons’ Brisbane office on May 4. (from

18 Mar – HBA Legal (Brisbane, Australia)

DWF’s former Australia managing partner Jamie McPherson has joined local firm HBA Legal to launch its occupational health and safety practice, the latest of several DWF lawyers likely to be seeking new jobs as the firm cuts back on its legal service offerings in Australia. DWF said it plans to scale back in Australia, discontinuing legal services in Sydney, Melbourne and Newcastle and shedding 14 partners, leaving it with only four. (from

18 Mar – S&R Associates (Mumbai, India)

Capital markets lawyer Jitesh Shahani has joined India’s S&R Associates as a partner in Mumbai from L&L Partners. Shahani, who has more than a decade of experience in the industry, advises on equity and debt capital markets transactions. (from

18 Mar – Merits & Tree (Beijing, China)

Merits & Tree has hired Li Bin partner in its Beijing office from Tian Tong Law Firm. Li’s practice area includes dispute resolution, government regulation and compliance, anti-monopoly and competition. Li also has extensive experience in legal artificial intelligence and data intelligence. (from

15 Mar – Gadens (Melbourne, Australia)

Another principal lawyer has left global law firm DWF in the wake of the U.K.-listed firm’s announcement that it would shed the majority of its Australian partners. Planning and environment partner Andrea Towson leaves DWF’s Melbourne office to join national firm Gadens and will focus on planning, development and environment. She has extensive experience in running large and complex planning and environment litigation relating to development and regulatory approvals, the rezoning of land and compulsory acquisition, Gadens said. (from

15 Mar – Watson Farley & Williams (Sydney, Australia & Singapore)

There’s been a major shake-up in the Asia-Pacific hotel legal sector, with top lawyers Robert Williams, Kate Switajewski, Chris Greiner and Lada Shelkovnikova departing Withers Worldwide for one the globe’s most highly regarded firms, Watson Farley & Williams (WFW). (from

12 Mar – Linklaters (Hong Kong, China)

Linklaters bolsters Asia private equity capacity with 2 partner hires. M&A lawyer Xiaoxi Lin joins from Kirkland & Ellis, while finance partner Alessandro Nolet moves from White & Case’s Milan office. (from

11 Mar – Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (Hong Kong, China)

Cathay Pacific General Counsel, Paul Chow, jumps to Hong Kong Stock Exchange. He was a former partner at Davis Polk, Linklaters and Slaughter and May. (from

10 Mar – Allens (Hanoi, Vietnam)

Australian law firm Allens has added another partner to its Vietnam offices, with the appointment of M&A and energy partner Giles Cooper from U.S. firm Duane Morris. (from

10 Mar – Clifford Chance (Hong Kong, China)

Clifford Chance has strengthened its disputes practice in Hong Kong with the hire of two partners. Soo Khim Keoy and Jonathan Wong join from Withers and Freshfields, respectively. (from

10 Mar – Herbert Smith Freehills (Sydney, Australia)

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has elected seasoned corporate lawyer Rebecca Maslen-Stannage as the new chair of the global council and a senior partner at the firm. (from

9 Mar – L&L Partners (Delhi, India)

India’s L&L Partners has hired Amrita Tonk, Sidhartha Barua, and Girish Rawat as partners in Delhi.

Joining the litigation practice is Barua, who has represented clients before the Supreme Court of India. He was a partner at both AZB & Partners and Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas before establishing his own practice in 2017.

Joining the litigation practice is Tonk, who had worked with L&L as an associate in 2010. She served as a Metropolitan Magistrate in Delhi between 2013 and 2018, during which time she presided over 26,000 summary and summons triable matters.

Banking and finance specialist Rawat, who has more than a decade of experience, joins from Dhir & Dhir Associates. (from

9 Mar – Squire Patton Boggs (Singapore, Singapore)

Squire Hires Eversheds’ head of public international law in Singapore. Eversheds Sutherland senior partner Rodman Bundy, a renowned international law expert, has joined Squire Patton Boggs in Singapore to bolster its dispute resolution practice as the firm continues its efforts to boost its presence in the city-state. (from

8 Mar – Withers (Singapore, Singapore)

Withers has added an M&A partner, Joel Shen, in Singapore to tap venture capital investment in Southeast Asia. (from

4 Mar – Clyde & Co (Australia & Hong Kong)

Clyde & Co has hired Norton Rose Fulbright insurance partner Jacques Jacobs in Sydney—the latest in a stream of partners to leave Norton Rose in Australia in recent months. (from

Clyde & Co had added aviation finance expert Stuart Miller as a partner in Hong Kong from Mayer Brown, where he spent nearly a decade. This is Clyde’s second partner hire in Hong Kong in a span of days following the addition of disputes expert Rachael Shek from Eversheds Sutherland. With more than 20 years of experience, Miller has expertise in cross-border aircraft finance, leasing and trading. (from

4 Mar – Zico Insights Law (Singapore, Singapore)

Zico Insights Law, the ZICO Law network’s Singapore member firm, has hired corporate expert Jeremiah Huang as a director from RHTLaw, where he was a partner. With more than a decade’s experience, Huang focuses on capital markets, corporate finance, M&A, funds and post-IPO corporate governance and compliance issues. (from

4 Mar – Christopher & Lee Ong (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Rajah & Tann Asia’s Malaysia member firm, Christopher & Lee Ong (CLO), has hired Chua See Hua as a partner and co-head of its restructuring and insolvency team. Chua, who commenced practice in 1986, 1986, earlier worked with law firms Skrine, Raslan Loong and the Hong Kong office of Simmons & Simmons. She was also previously a general counsel of Ernst & Young in Hong Kong. (from

3 Mar – Ashurst (Sydney, Australia)

Ashurst expands consulting business with five-partner Big Four hiring spree in Australia. Ashurst has expanded its consulting business with the arrival of five new partners in Australia citing increased client demand for its legal-led consultancy services in areas such as tech and cyber risk since the unit launched in June last year. The new hires include Deloitte’s former global leader of cyber and strategic risk, Sid Maharaj, who will cover cyber, strategy and reputational risk in Sydney. He will be joined in Sydney by Tony Morris, Elena Lambros and Philip Hope and in Melbourne by Melina Sehr. (from

3 Mar – Linklaters (Hong Kong, China)

Linklaters has appointed Hwang Hwa Sim as Global Practice Head – Capital Markets for a four year term. He will succeed Michael Voisin whose tenure in the role ends on the 30th of April this year. Hong Kong SAR-based Hwang Hwa was promoted as a capital markets partner with Linklaters in 2010. He advises issuers, underwriters and investors on the full range of debt, equity and equity-linked products in China and Asia. (from

2 Mar – DLA Piper (Perth, Australia)

Global law firm DLA Piper announces that M&A and ECM Corporate specialist James Nicholls joins the firm’s Perth office, effective 3 March 2021. James joins DLA Piper as a lateral hire from international firm Allen & Overy, where he was a Special Counsel specialising in M&A and corporate law, ECM transactions and Head Office regulatory advice. James assists both domestic and foreign companies in successfully implementing inorganic value solutions, predominantly in the Energy & Resources sector. (from

2 Mar – King & Wood Mallesons (Singapore, Singapore)

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) has added a cross-border disputes partner, Amanda Lees, in Singapore, its fourth partner hire in the city in the last year and a half. (from

2 Mar – Cooley (Shanghai, China)

Cooley has recruited a new partner in Shanghai who focuses on biotech and life science deals. Yiming Liu is currently counsel with O’Melveny & Myers. He’s worked on several Hong Kong listings of Chinese biopharmaceutical companies in the past year. Most recently, he was part of a team that advised Jacobio Pharmaceuticals Co. on a $174 million Hong Kong initial public offering in December. In addition, he participated in at least four more Hong Kong listings of Chinese biotech companies in 2020. (from

2 Mar – Skrine (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Malaysian law firm Skrine has hired Islamic finance lawyers Sharifah Shafika Alsagoff and Hafidah Aman Hashim as partners in Kuala Lumpur from Mohamed Ridza & Co. Shafika, who will head the firm’s Islamic investments and capital markets practice, has more than 25 years of experience advising on retail and corporate Islamic finance, project bonds, restructurings, real estate and regulatory issues.

Hafidah, who also counsels on real estate and corporate advisory, predominantly focuses her practice on Islamic finance and capital markets and Shariah financing. (from

1 Mar – Dentons (Perth, Australia)

Global law firm Dentons has hired one partner and four lawyers from a Perth-based practice for its recovery and restructuring team. Dentons has appointed John Park – who has over 20 years of experience in litigation, property development and construction – as a partner in its recovery and restructuring team in Perth. (from

1 Mar – EY (Sydney, Australia)

EY Law has bolstered its legal function, consulting and legal managed services capabilities in Australia with the hire of partner Jon Kenton, who joins from alternative legal services provider Elevate. (from

1 Mar – Trilegal (Mumbai, India)

Indian firm Trilegal has hired capital markets partner Richa Choudhary from AZB & Partners, one of India’s largest law firms. (from

1 Mar – DLA Piper (Hong Kong, China)

DLA Piper has hired a Hong Kong partner focusing on capital markets deals. Arthur Tso joins from Kirkland & Ellis where he was a partner advising Chinese companies on Hong Kong listings. (from


February 2021 

26 Feb – Broad & Bright (Shanghai, China)

Broad & Bright has hired Louis Meng as a partner from Blank Rome, where he was a partner head of the Firm’s Greater China Practice, and chief representative of the Shanghai office. Meng has expertise in cross-border M&A, private equity, venture capital, IPO and reversed takeover, blockchain and issuance of securities, establishment of private funds in RMB or US dollar, FDI, transaction of non-performing assets or loans, real-estate finance, structure finance and other cross-border transactions. With 25-years’ experience practicing in China, Meng has advised a number of domestic and foreign companies and financial institutes. He has also assisted many Chinese enterprises to operate business in the USA and other regions across the world. (from

25 Feb – Rajah & Tann (Singapore, Singapore)

Singapore Big Four firm Rajah & Tann has welcomed corporate specialist Raymond Tong as a partner from Clifford Chance, where he spent more than 10 years. (from

25 Feb – David Cameron Law Office (Hong Kong, China)

David Cameron, a former partner at the U.S. law firm Dorsey & Whitney, has set up a boutique firm in Hong Kong called David Cameron Law Office. The boutique firm will advise on corporate matters and financial transactions across Asia. It will focus on practice areas such as general corporate services, capital raising, contract law and structuring transactions.(from

24 Feb – Co-Effort Law Firm (Shanghai, China)

Shanghai-headquartered Co-Effort Law Firm has hired Yu Haoyun as a senior partner. Yu’s practice focuses on issuance of bonds, IPO, corporate reform, asset restructuring, investment and finance, as well as government and state-owned organizations’ legal affairs. She has advised a number of listed companies including SENCI, Zisun, PetroChina, Top Point and MicroID. (from

23 Feb – RHTLaw (Singapore, Singapore)

Singapore’s RHTLaw has established a transportation and logistics industry group after hiring Piyush Gupta as a partner from Ince, where he was the firm’s aviation and competition head in the city-state. Gupta spent about six months at Ince, prior to which he was at Indian law firm Kochhar & Co for nearly eight years. At the latter firm, he launched the firm’s competition and aviation practices, and was the resident partner in its Singapore office for close to four years. (from

22 Feb – HFW (Singapore, Singapore)

Global, sector-focused law firm HFW has continued to expand its market-leading energy & resources and commodities practices with the hire of partner Dan Perera in Singapore. Dan specialises in disputes and complex contractual arrangements in the energy and resources, commodities and international trade sectors, and joins HFW on 22 February 2021 from Reed Smith, subject to standard regulatory approval. (from

22 Feb – Davis Polk (Beijing, China)

Davis Polk makes rare China lateral hire with Freshfields Beijing partner. Hong Kong listing specialist Jason Xu is the first lateral partner the U.S. firm hired in Greater China in four years. (from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Feb – Dentons (Hong Kong, China)

Dentons Hong Kong is pleased to announce that Norman Hui and Rachel Han have joined the firm as partners. Hui and Han, formerly with Eversheds Sutherland, will continue to practice in the areas of equity capital markets, corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions. They join Dentons Hong Kong with of counsel Joyce Bao. (from

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

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

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

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

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

2 Feb – 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

2 Feb – 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

2 Feb – 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

2 Feb – 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

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

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

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

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

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


January 2021

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

28 Jan – Jingtian & Gocheng (Beijing, China)

Jingtian & Gongcheng has hired Zhao Bojia, Zhao Yulai and Li Xinqian as partners in its Beijing office.  (from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Jan – Ashurst (Melbourne, Australia)

Ashurst expands consulting business with five-partner Big Four hiring spree in Australia. Ashurst has expanded its consulting business with the arrival of five new partners in Australia citing increased client demand for its legal-led consultancy services in areas such as tech and cyber risk since the unit launched in June last year. The new hires include Deloitte’s former global leader of cyber and strategic risk, Sid Maharaj, who will cover cyber, strategy and reputational risk in Sydney. He will be joined in Sydney by Tony Morris, Elena Lambros and Philip Hope and in Melbourne by Melina Sehr. (from


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.

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.