India’s evolving legal services market points to a busy road ahead for 2020

Overview

India houses the world’s second largest legal professionals market with more than 600,000 lawyers. Although the Indian legal services sector is one of the most restricted of the largest markets, initiatives are now being taken to gradually open it up, for example by allowing foreign lawyers to visit India on a ‘fly in / fly out’ basis for rendering legal advice to their clients on foreign law. Also with increasing globalization and constant policy reforms in India, more and more international companies are now setting up outposts in India creating increasing demand for domestic legal services.

The total annual revenue of the Indian legal market for 2018 was US $1.8 billion and can expect considerable growth over the next few years, primarily on the back of growing inbound investments and M&A in India. Indian companies in turn are spreading their footprints globally through establishing subsidiaries and associations with foreign companies which opens up opportunities for Indian lawyers and law firms to expand their services globally. In recent years, there has been a growing demand for Indian-qualified lawyers in foreign firms especially in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, and Tokyo.

In the past decade, Indian law firms have snowballed in terms of quantity, revenue, size and brand recognition, increasing their export potential in developed markets such as the U.S. and the U.K. as well as many developing markets in South East Asia and Europe.

Talent pool in India

The Indian legal system has high degree of compatibility with that of the U.S. and the U.K which is an advantage to Indian legal professionals looking to work jointly with international legal firms. Indian legal professionals are gaining strong reputations outside of their home market in domains such as international arbitration, international trade law, competition law, environmental law, outbound foreign direct investment and restructuring and insolvency, where domestic law firms have traditionally performed well.

In-house Legal Market

The growth of the in-house legal market continued in 2019 with ever-increasing team sizes, and more companies making their first in-house legal hires aiming to attract the best talent from private practice.

A big contributing reason for the increasing need for business lawyers is the overall maturing and increasing sophistication of Indian businesses. A significant push from the current government byways of regulatory and policy changes has encouraged growth in areas such as foreign investments.

Along with the growing need for in-house lawyers, the candidate talent pool has also expanded. Increasingly large numbers of lawyers are now choosing to switch from private practice, a trend that has now been noticeable for the last few years.

Experienced lawyers with 7-10 years of PQE are most in demand. Companies making their first in-house legal hires prefer to start at this level because candidates bring sufficient experience to guide a growing company while being within budgetary limits. Established companies have also targeted the same talent pool because experienced lawyers do not require constant supervision and can manage junior teams and small projects independently.

Several sectors continue to grow over the years, in particular financial services. Other key sectors forecast to grow are likely to be the retail, IT/ITES, e-commerce, start-ups, consumer goods, infrastructure and healthcare.

Private Practice

During 2019 we also saw an increase in private practice hiring. Private practice has always been a competitive sphere, but there was a deliberate effort from firms, big and small, to make positive changes for the lawyers working within the setups.

Increasingly large numbers of lawyers are choosing to switch from private practice to in-house, for a multitude of reasons but with work life balance being the most commonly cited by candidates we speak with. In response many firms have acknowledged the need to do more to look after the interests of their lawyers and introduced progressive internal policy changes aimed at establishing a healthier working environment and clearer career path in order to retain their best talent which had begun to defect to in-house roles.

As sectors such as tax, energy and projects & infrastructure (especially in power and renewable energy) have seen major growth, so has the requirement for dispute resolution experience in these areas. There has also been an increased demand for dispute resolution professionals specializing in tax and regulatory affairs.

Growth Prospects

India has high potential in legal services. Rising international trade, technology and globalization has increased the demand for legal services in the country. Indian law firms, in-house firms and individual lawyers of India have huge expertise in providing legal services which need to keep track with evolving legal services sectors such as power contracts, project finance initiatives, transnational investment and joint ventures, Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) and technology transfer contracts. Legal outsourcing, both onshore and offshore, is also transforming the market as law firms and corporate legal departments seek to minimize costs, increase flexibility and expand their in-house capabilities.

The full report, including the salary guide, will be available upon request. (hughes@hughes-castell.com.hk )

Contributor: Mudita Valakati

Editor: Sam Kenworthy

Hughes-Castell Perspective: Asia Legal Markets Preview 2020

China-US trade conflict escalation, GDPR, and new technology will continue to influence developments in the legal industry. Our market insights team has monitored various industry developments and summed up some of the top trends will shape the legal industry by 2020:

1.China-US Trade Conflict Continues

The trade conflict between China and the United States is two sides of the same coin. The utter uncertainty has affected various industries, including legal, but on the other hand, it has increased the demand for legal advice.

Trade conflict will inevitably slow down international trade, and global companies may see reduced revenue. However, the fast-changing trading landscape creates chances for the following sectors: IP and commercial. One of the US critiques in the IP system in China was its limited enforcement capabilities that have been awarded for IP infringement. During economic turbulence caused by the trade conflict, businesses will turn to the enforcement of IP rights to provide new revenue streams that will increase in IP litigation and licensing activities both in China and the US. The trade war appears not likely to end soon, and multinational companies scramble to reconsider their business models. They will rely on commercial lawyers to draft contingency terms into new contracts and to apply for a tariff exclusion.

2. Legal Compliance for Fintech &  Startups

Compliance law has become increasingly rigorous throughout the world. Complying with various regulations in regulated markets haunts every fin-tech or startup. This problem is compounded for these companies with presences in multiple jurisdictions, where regulatory approaches in different countries can create additional burdens. Companies come to realize a clear-sighted assessment of regulatory risk and making compliance a part of their business operations are fundamental to success. Regulatory compliance and risk management, therefore, will be a major growth area in 2020.

3. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Asia

The European GDPR not only rattled tech giants with threats to hand out hefty fines but also was a wake-up call to Asian countries. We are living in a connected digital society, the businesses of many organizations in Asia are global in nature. Online transactional data and privacy issues through an extra-territorial application is the primary focus of Europe’s new GDPR.  The lawsuits against Google and Facebook proclaim the GDPR is a big issue for all global companies, including non-European organizations that do business with EU citizens. After the law came into force, Asian companies and firms will continually assess whether their business operations will place them within reach of the GDPR and EU regulators and prepare accordingly. As a result, more job opportunities for legal and compliance sector in the region will be created.

4. Moving In-house

The headline hires in the Hong Kong legal market this year is undoubtedly several major  law firms’ partners moving in-house: Paul Chow from Davis Polk to Cathay Pacific, Jeanette Chan from Paul Weiss to Airwallex, and Bonnie Chan from Davis Polk to HKEx. When regulatory risks and global political environments are challenging, more multinational companies are determined to strengthen their risk management, to provide more significant supports for the operations, and to increase transparency and accountability in their businesses. Hiring the best talent with a proven track record of corporate transactions, corporate governance, and regulatory compliance seems to be a wise choice.   

5. Regional Hub Singapore

From the threats of the trade war to the rising growth of the Southeast Asia market, more global companies choose Singapore as their base for reaching the rest of the region and some even global. The most eye-catching deals of 2019 are the Dyson’s £330million global headquarters in Singapore and the new Singapore-Rolls-Royce AI partnership. We have seen a rapid evolution of the business landscape and climate across Singapore. We anticipate the in-house legal teams, and the business legal services market in Singapore will steadily grow in 2020.

6. The Rise of Aero-Space Law

Commercial space flights, SpaceX, and Blue Origin, spur a new economy. China is also planning to install the first space-based solar-powered satellite into orbit. Moving ahead, we anticipate exciting developments in the area of space law at both international and domestic levels.  How the law develops to regulate the operations of corporations and individuals in space as past and current treaties are inadequate to govern new space developments. This gap represents a transitional point with worlds of opportunity waiting for space lawyers from different jurisdictions. As this sector is dynamic and evolving  in nature, companies require legal professionals to evaluate the development and handle copyright and accident liabilities. 

Key Contributor: Fai Choi

2019 Private Practice Review

Innovation and Resilience the keys to the Asia markets in 2020

Despite footage of ongoing civil unrest in Hong Kong dominating news coverage and the economy plunging into recession at the end of Q3, the legal market remained remarkably steady, although the China-USA trade war continues to foment uncertainty and caution and with no resolution in sight to the protest movement the outlook for 2020 would appear to most outsiders to be bleak. However the openings of Cooley and Steptoe & Johnson with hires from Skadden and Clifford Chance, respectively, showed that the SAR remains a key outpost in principle for firms with a global outlook while internal moves in the market reflected a willingness to invest in growth, typifying the resilience that has long been a byword for the market. The Big Four accounting firms also continued to make aggressive moves to threaten the established order. Perhaps the most notable departures were at Davis Polk which said goodbye to Bonnie Chan and Paul Chow, headline-making hires a decade ago as part of the firm’s push into the local Hong Kong market. Chan returns to the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing as head of listings while ex-Linklaters partner Chow took the role of Group General Counsel at Cathay Pacific. Another veteran of the market Jeanette Chan left her role as managing partner of Paul Weiss’s China practice to become General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at Tencent-backed fintech “unicorn” Airwallex after over three decades, off and on, with the New York firm.

PRC firms continued to make notable raids on international firms’ partner ranks in both Hong Kong and China, perhaps with an eye on the Greater Bay Area Initiaive which is presumably designed to integrate Hong Kong further into Greater China as well as generate extensive projects in infrastructure and technology. Alibaba’s colossal Hong Kong listing grabbed the headlines and continuing enthusiasm for hiring in equity capital markets remains a theme for Chinese firms confident of an ongoing steady flow of HK listings instructions from the mainland. International firms continued to grapple with the intriguing possibilities presented by the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

After a spate of new mergers between international and local firms in Singapore in recent years, following the Ministry of Law’s ongoing gradual loosening of foreign law firm restrictions, 2019 saw less seismic activity. Morgan Lewis Stamford, Eversheds Harry Elias, K&L Gates Straits, and Withers KhattarWong remain the standard bearers for this facet of the market but it will be interesting to see how many more firms on both sides will commit to full mergers and which will prefer to maintain the flexibility of a Formal Law Alliance. The international arbitration scene in the City State remains a focal point of the market while increasing investment activity in traditional target market Vietnam was a boon to energy and infrastructure practices there. Where the government will hope to see progress is in legal technology, having launched a slew of initiatives through academic and legislative bodies, with the 2017 launch of the Singapore Academy of Law’s Legal Technology Vision roadmap followed by the Future Law Innovation Programme in 2018. This forward-thinking commitment to innovation is what is hoped to establish Singapore as a jurisdiction on the cutting edge of legal practice developments which hopefully will begin to bear tangible results in 2020.

Key Contributor: Sam Kenworthy

Conversation with Pallavi Anand, Head of Talent Acquisition, HKEX

Scouting for talent is no easy task. However, successful people breed success, and Pallavi Anand is excellent at hiring and developing the best talent for Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX). Katherine has caught up with the insightful team builder and leader to find out her thoughts on career, female leadership, gender equality, and her view on work-life balance.

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

PA: Pallavi Anand (Head of Talent Acquisition, HKEX)

KF: We are really excited to have Pallavi Anand, Head of Talent Acquisition at HKEX to join us for a conversation.

What were your goals throughout your career path?

PA: I have always felt that I was born a people’s person. I aimed to get into a career that involves people – so aimed to be a Human Resources professional. One goal that has been a consistent focus in my career is “How can I be a catalyst for people to unleash their potentials” be it with a new job that I can help find or with a new role or promotion.

“I have always believed in people and made people feel valued, no matter what the position, they all know they have a chance to contribute and make a difference.”

KF: Were there any critical moments and challenges in your career that you can share with us?

PA: One of the critical moments was I decided to take a new route to my end-goal and try the world of Learning and Development. I felt this was a critical moment and a massive challenge as I was walking into a skill set that I have had no formal qualification or training. I was therefore dissuaded and forewarned by peers, senior managers and family of all the sacrifices this new change would ask of me at this stage of my career, but I was determined!

For the first couple of years, I had grievances and did sacrifice a lot as I had to take a step back in my position and definitely, my cash flow too.

But at the end of it, I am glad I did it – I can connect the entire loop in talent management – starting from talent acquisition to unleashing their potential through designing effective training modules. I definitely feel like I did the right thing.

KF: Throughout your career journey, did you have any mentors, or were there any female leaders who inspired you along the way or guided you?

PA: Two decades ago, I had a chance to work with two ladies who I looked up to. They ran their own HR consultancy business. I watched them grow their business with passion, commercialism and professionalism, integrity, and empathy that definitely inspired me through my journey.

“And worldwide, Indira Nooyi and Sheryl Sandberg are the two women leaders that I always look upon. They inspire me a lot in the sense that they advocate women’s empowerment in the workplace.”

KF: Pallavi, how do you promote gender equality in the workplace?

PA: With HKEX, we are extremely committed to promoting gender equality.

“HKEX Group has 43% female employees, which we are really proud of.”

The number one aspect of promoting gender equality is understanding the unconscious bias and how it affects the equity in the workplace, proactively welcoming women into the talent pool and not limiting it, ensuring that it was an equal representation and being mindful of it.

I also believe that employees should be observant about any form of harassments in the workplace. Identify it and then raise it to senior management who should enhance to stop it.

Globally today, we are addressing a pay gap. We should encourage there to be transparency in order to remove this gap. This would definitely be one of the ways to help this issue.

KF: Pallavi, as a leader, you must be incredibly busy, how do you balance your work and your personal life and family? Any advice for other people achieving work-life balance?

PA: I feel the trick is to adjust as you go. Not get locked into patterns that feel impossible to change and that would make you unhappy or stressed. With present day circumstances where one is digitally connected to work longer, one has to take control. The happiest people or families    are those that are planned and thoughtful about their hours. The key is when you engage with work and when you don’t! For example, shutting down over meal times, certain point in the evening or morning, etc.

KF: Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It is incredibly inspiring for all of us to know that we can do well in our career and still have a balanced lifestyle at home.

PA: Thank you very much.

The Recruiter’s Role in the Recruiting Process, and How to Work with Them

For those who are looking for a new job, many candidates might be wondering whether they should consider working with a specialist recruiter. Good recruitment consultants should be experts in terms of knowledge of the areas they cover and can provide invaluable insight into the market and how your career would fit into that.

Consider recruiters who specialize in particular field

No single recruiter covers all, even in a specific industry; most of the time, recruiters focus on specific regions/cities, industries, and/or job functions. Hence, the candidate/applicant should understand the recruiter’s reach: how they can best help you meet your career goals?

Recruiters can be an extension of their clients’ talent acquisition team

It is important to remember that recruiters are providing a service to their clients and in most cases, act as a partner to identify candidates for their most urgent and current hiring needs.  Nevertheless recruiters should always be keen to speak to quality candidates whether or not they possess the skill sets for their clients’ current requirements. At some point they will be in demand. As a candidate you should tailor your application and highlight the skills and achievements that best match the targeted opening. A good recruiter will be able to help you with this in order to alert the client to your key relevant attributes.

How do I raise my profile with recruiters?

It is always good to maintain a relationship with recruiters and reconnect with them on a timely basis to update them with your current status, even if you are not actively looking for a new role. Recruiters nowadays will often go through candidates’ social media profiles as part of the recruitment process. To increase your profile and demonstrate your strengths, you can utilize tools such as social media: 

  • Maintain an active, clear, and detailed profile in LinkedIn to showcase your specialization and accomplishments;
  • Post informative content related to your industry and share industry insights;
  • Follow companies you may be interested in working for in the future and join news groups related to your industry;
  • Take the initiative and build a contacts network that can assist you with your career;
  • Ensure your profile picture looks professional (According to a Jobvite report, 41% of recruiters will judge you based on your profile photo)

Be mindful of how you use social media – Linkedin is not Facebook or Instagram.

How to partner successfully?

A good recruiter will have experience in dealing with both candidates and clients, and be able to be a buffer between the two. Hence, it is important to have mutual trust and share relevant information about compensation, other offers, and changes in opinion about the role or the client. It is essential to ensure that you are prepared to make a move when the time comes: think about what you would do if your current firm counter offers you; what you need to transition to the new role; what will be required to wrap up in your current role. When it comes to package negotiation, recruiters should be aware of what your expectations are and have good insight into what such a role generally pays in the current market.

Building a long term partnership

A positive recruitment process for any particular assignment, whether it is successful or not, should encourage you to maintain the relationship with the recruiter. If the process does not lead to an offer, you should, if not be happy with necessarily, at least have understood the reasons why the process didn’t work out and see why the recruiter can be a valued resource in the future. They should have learned more about you as a person and as a candidate, and be able to quickly identify suitable new openings before long. Ideally they should be a valuable resource throughout your professional career, helping you with your future moves, providing good market intelligence, mentoring you through difficult career choices and ideally helping to build your own team. 

Contributors: Ji Li & Pauline So

Editor: Sam Kenworthy

November Private Practice Review

Insurance firms take different routes to growth in Asia

Kennedys has been quietly strengthening across Asia in recent times. A two-partner team hire in Singapore from Withers KhattarWong in November came a year after a similarly sized team arrived from Kelvin Chia Partnership in the city state. This itself came a year after the firm opened in Bangkok with a two-partner team hire from DLA Piper augmented by the relocation of another newly-promoted partner from the firm’s Singapore operation.

Kennedys’ Singapore office now numbers 34 fee earners including 14 partners, with 11 partners in Hong Kong, and insurance and reinsurance remains the core of the firm’s activities. Consistent and stable growth has been the reward for not straying too far from the firm’s acknowledged strength and its branding has been rewarded by this focus.

Elsewhere another firm strong in the insurance space has made an altogether more surprising move. HFW has stripped US firm Locke Lord of the majority of its Hong Kong fee earners with a seemingly staggered move for Wing Cheung’s team and, shortly after, that of Matthew Wong. The move brings a hefty Hong Kong corporate finance presence to HFW which had previously focused on its recognised strengths in transport, construction, energy and insurance. The presence of Senior Partner Richard Crump in Singapore can only have encouraged the incoming team about the firm’s commitment to expansion in the region, not only in pure numbers but in scope of legal services. It is a bold move but does follow another firm known for its shipping capability making a foray into the Hong Kong capital markets arena recently, with Hill Dickinson taking on board Kurt Lau as a partner from Eversheds Sutherland in September. Ongoing confrontations on the streets of Hong Kong have not deterred faith in the markets it would seem.

Vietnam market heats up on the back of renewable energy drive

The inaugural Hanoi In-House Congress on 19 November 2019 brought together a number of in-house lawyers, CEOs, compliance professionals, company directors and private practice lawyers for series of discussions on the current state and future projections of the growing Vietnamese market. With various senior lawyers flying up from Ho Chi Minh City to attend there was a balanced appraisal of the market, Hanoi being the administrative capital where government relations, regulatory matters and energy and infrastructure are to the fore while activities in Ho Chi Minh tend more towards corporate and commercial and inbound investment. The markets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City remain quite separate entities with very few senior private practice lawyers having a foot in both cities aside from in a management capacity. Panelists from the likes of Citibank, Coca-Cola and Piaggio were able to pass on their observations on their own developing functions and related changing interactions with external counsel and global management outside of the region.

Key points of interest in Hanoi include a push in renewable energy projects, a welcome development considering the city’s air pollution levels, and improved urban municipal transport, including the opening of the first lines of the Hanoi Metro in 2019 with the opening of the second line scheduled for 2023. Although much delayed (initial mooted completion dates were 2010, then 2013), the system is hoped to alleviate the burden on the city’s overloaded road network and the population’s reliance on cheap, pollutant-emitting scooters, by extension making Hanoi a more appealing place to live for an incoming professional.

The Vietnamese legal market also shows signs of progress and growth. Even if there is a perception that international firms are not showing the commitment to growth and recruitment they once did, the emergence of the legal teams within the Big Four accounting teams has seen a spate of hires in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh while US firm and Vietnam stalwart Duane Morris made a statement corporate partner hire for their Ho Chi Minh office. The government’s ongoing liberalization of the market and reduction on conditions governing foreign participation has seen a surge in investment, and a widening of the sources of that investment. With firms such as KPMG Legal able to draw on the vast global investor client base of its deal advisory, tax, audit and consulting arms, interest in hiring lawyers with language skills compatible with those overseas investors has grown exponentially. Expect this to be mirrored by the rest of the Big Four.

A survey conducted by the In-House Community showed that 100% of senior in-house respondents expected their team with either grow or remain the same size. Attracting talent does not seem to be an issue, retaining talent was acknowledged to be more of an issue. Key among hiring requirements noted during the day were the ability to deal with governmental regulatory bodies in what is a constantly evolving legal framework. What was remarked on more than once is the ongoing willingness of the regulatory bodies to engage with lawyers on the effectiveness of new regulations and how they might be tweaked and amended. More than in other jurisdictions it seems to be a two-way street and a consultative process on both sides, a situation which has been welcomed as sensible and progressive. What this system requires is a bank of experienced, commercially minded Vietnamese lawyers, invariably with international firm experience. While senior lawyers from overseas are welcomed for their commercial nous and technical aptitude on investment matters, domestic regulatory issues are more the domain of the local experts.

While longstanding local firms such as YKVN, VILAF,. Frasers and Tilleke & Gibbons continue to hold prominent positions in the market alongside the international firms, new entrants have attracted attention. Lexcomm Vietnam LLC was founded in 2016 by groups of lawyers then at Frasers and Bross & Partnes but with international firm backgrounds and is already attracting the attention of the market, with some noting that this could be the future for young, ambitious lawyers at international firms not necessarily committing to on-the-ground expansion in the country. Although how long these firms will be able to resist expansion if the market continues to trend upwards remains to be seen.   

Contributing writer: Sam Kenworthy 

Insights by Hughes-Castell with Katherine Fan

We’re delighted to announce that Katherine Fan has rejoined Hughes-Castell as Managing Director. Katherine first joined Hughes-Castell in 2010 and rejoined after working as Head of Legal Talent and Recruitment of a US law firm and setting up the recruitment function for another global law firm. In a welcome back interview with the Hughes-Castell team, Katherine shares her career development, most memorable placements and moments at Hughes-Castell.

Full video interview: https://youtu.be/R_e3d_Oxwg4

Q: Interview question; KF: Katherine Fan

Q: Why Hughes-Castell?

KF: Hughes-Castell is a leading recruitment brand with 30 years in the region. I think that already speaks for itself. It’s a fantastic platform for me to continue building my business.

KF: Hughes-Castell is like home to me. I joined earlier in my career and I’ve come back in a new more senior position and I feel I can truly develop my leadership skills and long term recruitment business here.

KF: The culture here is a very good personality fit for me and I know I ‘ve already worked with a lot of the consultants and other administrative staff here. So, to me it was a no-brainer.

Q: Why did you leave in 2012?

KF: I could see myself doing this for a very very long time, so I decided I step out…learn different skills to make myself a better leader and make myself a better recruiter.

Q: What you love about recruitment?

KF: What I love about recruitment are the relationships that I’ve built along the way with clients and with candidates. There was this candidate that I placed in 2012. She was actually one of my last placements before I left Hughes-Castell to join a US law firm and she’s still at the place that I placed her at and recently she actually wrote in and asked if I was still at Hughes-Castell and this was only on my, I think, maybe a day before I returned. So timing-wise it was perfect! And I caught up with her for lunch recently. She shared with me her stories over the last 7 years. I shared with her my growths as well and it’s just amazing these relationships, I can see are, you know, will last a long time.

Q: Memorable moments at Hughes-Castell?

KF: Are the holiday parties! Each year around holiday season in December Doreen, my co-Managing Director, will arrange amazing Christmas parties and Christmas dinner for the team for the office and she will wrap these amazing gifts for us. I remember the first time I attended in 2010. I was absolutely blown away at the efforts she would put in and the trinkets that she would attach to the wrappings. It was amazing!

KF: Oh one thing! And if you plan to join the team. “Learn your reindeers’ names because we do play games at the Christmas party and I remember one question that she always asked is for us to go through the 12 reindeers’ names. Tips for you all.

October Private Practice Review

The headline hire in the Hong Kong market this month is undoubtedly Eversheds Sutherland’s snaring of Mark Hughes from Slaughter and May. Hughes joins fellow Slaughters alumnus Mark Yeadon at the US/UK giant, although their history is curious in that Hughes arrived at the Hong Kong office of the Magic Circle firm just as Yeadon himself was moving to what was then Eversheds in 2010. Belatedly they will now work side by side, it seems.

Hughes’ hire is a coup for Eversheds Sutherland. Since the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) are constantly competing to be the pre-eminent venue in the region (notwithstanding the presence of CIETAC, the China International Economic & Trade Arbitration Centre), Asia remains a hot destination for international arbitration partners, increasingly seen as a bespoke specialism distinct from litigation under the umbrella of dispute resolution. The nature of the market also carries less of the burden of the portable book of business, a fundamental requirement of almost any other partner hire, opening up the catchment area to overseas markets. As the markets of Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia warm up, these neutral venues will be increasingly relied upon for cross-border fall-outs and investment treaty disputes.

Contributing writer: Sam Kenworthy 

Assessing the ‘right job’ for you

Even the definition of “the right job” is a hugely personal issue. No two people will ever agree on it, and even one person will view the same role in a different light at different stages in their career. Salary, working hours, the size of the team, the proximity to a senior figure, location, levels of responsibility, the oft-quoted “work-life balance”, these will hold varying levels of importance to everyone at different stages of their career.

For fresh graduates searching for their first role in the legal industry, it is often difficult to find the right direction, let alone the starting point. Issues to be addressed may include mediocre grades which invariably rule out the conventional approach through a big firm’s graduate recruitment and traineeship programme and involve a more circuitous route of internships, paralegal and legal assistant positions and, above all, determination.

Some graduates may have a fixed idea of which direction their careers will take, which practice areas they will focus on from the beginning. Often these ideas are questioned by exposure to alternative areas which may stimulate and challenge them more (or less!), or the presence of an inspiring senior figure. Others may decide that they wish to work overseas, which may also govern their focus given the region they wish to work in. Generally, a job on Wall St. will be quite different from a role in Dubai.

As young lawyers progress through their careers, alternative options will increase, and even the most contented may find themselves contemplating the “push and pull factors” of a change. “Push factors” may include a feeling of falling into a rut in a role that has ceased to motivate, a realization that further progression is either unfeasible or impossible, dissatisfaction with the culture of the firm or the team. “Pull factors” range from the obvious (higher salary, more amenable working hours, albeit these two rarely coincide) to others that are more personal to the candidate (a more convenient or interesting location, a change in practice area focus, a change in responsibility from client-facing to internal mentoring, or vice-versa). As touched on above, “push and pull factors” will alter according to the individual and the stage the individual is at in their career: The presence and importance of family (both young and old), perhaps an unwillingness to maintain the schedule of all-nighters during particularly hectic periods, perhaps the desire to pull out all the stops and drive for partnership if such a prospect is remote in their current position.

Every change in a legal career requires careful research and consideration. Moving jobs from a position of security without specific reasons into a firm or a role that is unfamiliar can be disastrous. The market remains extremely competitive and underperformers will not endure. An excessive number of moves (either voluntary or forced) in a short time will be a red flag to any experienced recruiter, human resources executive or hiring partner, who will consider the candidate to be either incompetent or unstable. Conversely, a willingness to sit back and cruise for years without making any notable efforts to progress through via alternative routes will also be viewed as an indication of a lack of drive and ambition should that person suddenly decide they should really be up for partnership like their former law school classmates.

The “right job” may even be a temporary stepping stone to a more attractive role down the line. Fundamentally, what makes any job “the right job” is that, at whatever stage in your career, it is right for you.

Contributing writer: Sam Kenworthy