Interview with Beryl Sit, Head of IBD Legal, CLSA

We are delighted to invite Beryl Sit, Head of IBD Legal at CLSA to share her tips on how to sustain a successful legal career. After graduating from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Beryl returned to Hong Kong focusing on corporate law at international law firms. Before joining CLSA as Executive Director and Head of IBD Legal, Beryl was a Partner of a leading PRC law firm and has valuable insights to share with us about her career journey, overcoming challenges, and her secret to work-life integration and success.

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

Beryl: Beryl Sit (Head of IBD Legal, CLSA)

KF: What are your top tips for aspiring female lawyers to succeed in the legal industry?

Beryl: Regardless of the industry, to shine in a job you must be passionate about it. Be curious, listen and learn from your peers and superiors, and have an open mind to best handle or solve issues. The key is to be accountable, approachable and come across as a problem solver.

That said, in my experience, I have realised that the quality that bosses, clients, co-workers and peers appreciate the most is to always have a view on matters. Legal training has taught me to identify and analyse problems swiftly and to develop effective solutions. If we are able to provide an objective solution for every issue (be it a legal technical question, a project management method or managing an angry client) supported by demonstrable facts, your counterpart is likely to turn around, and to respect you for being accountable and professional.

KF: For candidates contemplating the partnership track or a move from private practice to in-house, what attributes should be developed to succeed as a partner, or in a leadership role in-house?

Beryl: Although the nature of working in a private practice and an in-house environment is very different, the one universal mindset to possess in order to do well in both landscapes is to FOCUS ON SERVICE OVER SUCCESS. So, what does “service” mean? There is no doubt that the legal industry is considered a service industry where lawyers provide legal advice to clients. Being a brilliant and diligent lawyer, mastering all the technical points, laws and regulations, does not guarantee a successful path as a partner or in-house counsel. “Service” does not only mean the simple delivery of a task that you have been asked to perform, it means truly understanding the needs of your clients (or internal clients in the in-house scenario), being able to put yourself in their shoes and understand their mindset. This is the key to identifying and resolving the issues they are facing, and to please them.

KF:What were some key challenges as a junior, then mid-level lawyer and now senior lawyer, and how did you overcome those challenges?

Beryl: To be quite frank, as a junior, the key challenge was staying sane and surviving the grueling schedule! Work is all-consuming and you hardly have a moment to think about anything else other than your case at hand. But this period will pass, and when you enter the mid-level of your career, the challenge becomes finding your niche in the industry, and developing mentoring networks to guide you in your career. At senior level, you are accountable for larger projects involving different internal and external parties. Knowing how to manage these relationships, while ensuring the quality of your work, can be challenging at times. Fortunately, more often than not, I have been able to find tremendous partners or colleagues to work with.   

KF:When recruiting, what qualities do you look for?

Beryl: I LOVE this question! These are the qualities I look for:

  1. A positive attitude and eagerness to learn
  2. The ability to step up and take extra responsibilities
  3. A get up and go attitude
  4. Confidence to raise red flags or point out a mistake at the right time
  5. Someone who values a healthy work/life balance

KF:How do you achieve work-life balance? What do you do in your personal time to de-stress (and how do you find the time, given the demanding schedules of lawyers)?

Beryl: Work is important but so is one’s well-being. The work environment of a law firm or a large corporation can be very stressful due to expectations and deadlines. I tend to go off-line after dinner and at weekends, only responding to urgent work calls or emails. There are a million ways to beat stress and each person needs to find their own. Personally, I love outdoor activities and getting close to nature; I even try to squeeze in a quick run at lunchtime on work days occasionally. This always helps me clear my mind and stay focus.

Conversation with Dr. Frances Cheng, Specialist in Psychiatry, OT&P Healthcare MindworX

As a lawyer, have you ever experienced anxiety or moments of depression? You are not alone. Dr Frances Cheng, Head of Mental Health, Specialist in Psychiatry at OT&P Healthcare MindworX, shares her insights on mental health amongst lawyers in Hong Kong.

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

Dr. Cheng: Dr. Frances Cheng (Specialist in Psychiatry, Head of Mental Health at OT&P Healthcare MindworX)

KF: Law practice is rarely as glamour as it is seen on television a lot of lawyers actually go through burnout, stress, mental anxiety throughout their career. Mental health has been a growing topic in the Hong Kong legal industry and we’re really fortunate today to invite Dr. Frances Cheng, Specialist in Psychiatry and Head of Mental Health at OT&P MindWorX to join us. 

Thank you so much for your time today.

Questions: What is mental health? How common is it among lawyers in Hong Kong?

Dr. Cheng: Mental illness is any condition that affects the way we think our emotions our mood and our behavior and how it impacts us in our daily functioning so whether it’s impacting us socially or at work or in our interpersonal relationships. 

KF: And how common is it amongst lawyers in Hong Kong?

Dr Cheng:  So we don’t have figures we don’t have local Hong Kong figures amongst the legal workforce however lots of studies have been conducted in the US in Australia and in the UK and a recent study in the US found that amongst about 13,000 lawyers interviewed 25% to about 30% of them did experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Now Hong Kong is a metropolitan city with the large international legal firms here so it’s expected that these figures are probably similar amongst the local legal workforce as well amongst the local population in Hong Kong the prevalence of anxiety disorders and depression is about 30% so we can see that stress and anxiety are definitely higher in those working in the legal profession here.

Question: What has contributed to mental illness?

Dr. Cheng: Well, we all know that the legal profession is extremely demanding and demanding in so many different ways so the competition I think between firms and sometimes even within firms is and can be extremely fierce. The working hours are often very long. Modern technology has definitely contributed.  With you know the advent of email a lot of people are CC on to so many emails that they’re just not able to get through all of these in one day and also right now there was more and more of a trend to use instant messaging so for example WhatsApp and WeChat amongst colleagues and also with clients as well so people in the legal profession really are struggling to keep up with all of these messages that they have to or they feel like they have to respond to instantly. This can lead to a huge amount of stress and strain on their time they’re not necessarily able to concentrate on the work that they’re trying to get through because they’re having to deal with all of these instant demands.

KF: And, it can be quite stressful when you’re always anticipating messages from clients or what’s messaging you.

Dr. Cheng: Yeah absolutely I think that is one thing which people do feel very uncomfortable with the fact that they know that something might come through any minute it could happen while they are on weekends definitely outside of office hours even when they’re travelling overseas on holidays they feel that pressure to constantly be responding instantly.

Questions: Can having a mental illness affect your physical well-being, your work performance, and your personal life?

Dr. Cheng: The WHO, the World Health Organization, stipulates that there is no health without mental health and indeed there are so many ways that we can become effective when our mental health deteriorates so for example physically a lot of people with anxiety and depression will complain of insomnia either not being able to fall asleep or having very fragmented sleep they will feel that during the day they just don’t have the same energy levels as they did before they may not feel as interested or as motivated in the work that they do or engage in with their colleagues or even that family and friends they omit they may also feel that their attention and concentration is for an indeed kind of reaction speed processing speed is worse.  It’s more difficult for them to be productive at work. All of these can be to an increased feeling of anxiety and stress and you know just not that they’re able to complete things when they expected that they would be able to.  So unsurprisingly personal life is often affected as well usually individuals are eager to sacrifice their personal time for themselves or with their family members. This can sometimes lead to feelings of guilt or feelings of loneliness that they’re not perhaps spending enough time with their children or their families or that they’re really disconnected from their friends because it was so caught up at work.  That must be really hard on family members of people who have mental health issues as well.  Yeah very often family members really want to help really want to see their family get better but because they’re so caught up in work they have very little time to spend with them anyway.

Question: What would be your recommendations on improving mental health at the social level, the organizational level, and the personal level?

Dr. Cheng: Well, let’s start with the personal level what I would recommend to everybody is that they definitely do prioritize and sleep. Lawyers are very good at not sleeping and actually most adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep in order for their brains to function well the next day now given that you know lawyers are usually a very short of time it’s important to try and maximize your productivity when you are at work by sleeping a sufficient number of hours this ensures that you are at maximum productivity and that you’re really able to pay attention and focus on the work that you are doing.

Diet is also important a lot of people will either not have breakfast or you know skip lunch during the day it’s actually really important to ensure that your brain has enough fuel to function properly and finally doing exercise so it’s well known that exercise will improve the brain functioning and if you’re able to get the exercise done early in the morning it means that you’ve activated your brain such that your cognitive function your brain functioning is better throughout the day.

Recent studies have also shown us that exercise is able to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression in individuals who are suffering from these conditions and therefore if you’re able to get in about 30 minutes of cardio a day that would be sufficient.

KF: Oh, great! What’s about for organizations it’s been a big topic at law firms and multinationals yeah what would you recommend organizations doing to help their employees if they’re stressed out or anxious.

Dr. Cheng: I mean for a long time organizations have been aware that the most valuable assets are their employees and so recently there has been a lot has been done to try and improve the mental wellness of their employees so lots of organizations are now starting to do talks and forums at work where people are encouraged to come and understand the symptoms of mental illness such that they’re able to seek help when they need to do so having such open talks also gives employees the confidence that yes their companies do realize that these are issues that are found within their organizations and that these are things which are should be positively dealt with and have the support of the company.

KF: And what about say friends in a social environment if what would you suggest to you know you’re lay person if they can observe they’ve seen that their friends are a little bit entity. 

Dr. Cheng: Yeah I would say that if you notice that there is a difference in your friends if you notice that they are perhaps a bit low in mood or a bit anxious or a bit irritable or that they have been declining all your social invitations then it’s time to let them know that you observe these changes in them and to really ask them you know if there okay how they’ve been doing recently and I think one of the really important things is that because anxiety and depression are common mental illnesses you will find that there are people around you who have suffered from these conditions and only by bringing it out and talking about it always you know start finally starting to strip away you know the guilt and the shame and the feelings of hopelessness that have kind of stigmatized all the types of mental illness for a very long time.

KF: Well thank you so much for sharing this with us Dr. Cheng it’s been very informative and it’s comfortable to know that it is an uncommon topic in Hong Kong so all the lawyers watching this today don’t be afraid to reach out if you do want to want to talk to someone about any stress or anxiety that you’re going through remember your career is a marathon not a race so do remember to take time to live healthily both physically and mentally because you’re going to need the good health that to get to where you want to be.

Full video interview:

The Legal Industry Commits to Improving Mental Health but Still a Long Way to Go

Legal practice is a demanding profession. It requires extremely long working hours, large workloads, and often unrelenting client requirements. The increased accessibility facilitated by new technology development further intensifies workplace stress among lawyers. Stress, emotional, and physical exhaustion, as a result, causes burnout, adversely contribute to anxiety and mental health issues. Awareness around mental health has therefore increased dramatically within the legal industry in recent years.

In UK, the Health and Safety Executive’s study in 2017 ranked the legal profession fourth in the list of UK’s most stressful jobs. The charity LawCare cites a growing number of calls to its helpline (2017’s figure 11% rise compared to 2016), and it is showing no sight of abating. In response to alarming trends, the Legal Professions Wellbeing Taskforce was launched in partnership with other legal organizations, including the Bar Council, CILEx Regulation, LawCare, and BPP to promote and support mental health and well-being in the legal community.

Similarly, the American Bar Association commissioned a National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being and completed a report on “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change” in August 2017 with comprehensive set of recommendations on how to promote the well-being of lawyers for different stakeholders from regulators, law firms, professional indemnity insures.

In Singapore, the Law Society of Singapore administers a confidential counselling service in conjunction with the Singapore Care and Counselling Centre where members may seek advice and counselling from a qualified counsellor.

In Hong Kong, we take a moderate approach in raising lawyers’ awareness of well-being through a framework for lawyers to participate in different kinds of sports, recreational and social activities so that they can connect with a similar professional background, common interests, and mental issues in a stress-free environment.

Law firms have taken progressive initiatives to increase the awareness around the mental health issues and provide essential on-site support for employees. Examples include Dechert and Slaughter and May introducing mental health training for their employees, and Taylor Wessing became the first UK law firm to offer its employees free access to one of the best-known mental wellbeing apps, Headspace. In another positive step, in tackling the stigma around mental health in the legal industry, 10 UK’s top law firm and 3 UK’s biggest banks came together in 2018 to form an “unprecedented alliance” and to author the Mindful Business Charter addressing avoidable working practices that can cause mental health problems and wellbeing issues for employees.

The initiatives are encouraging and reflect the legal industry taking the mental health and wellbeing of its employees seriously. Some progress has been made, but a highly charged, pressurized industry, changing corporate culture, will come with inevitable challenges. However, throughout the industry, there is a growing pressure to make positive change and it is great to see a number of firms introducing well-being programs, as listed below.

Allen & Overy:Minds Matter programme
Baker McKenzie:BakerWellbeing
Dechert:Mental Health Champions and Mental Health First Aiders
Deacons:Deacons Cares
DLA Piper:Mental health report
Eversheds Sutherland:Mental health and work training course
Freshfields Bruckhaus
Mental Health First Aid Programme
Herbert Smith Freehills:Mental Health Mentoring Programme
King & Wood Mallesons:Health and Wellbeing Initiatives
Kirkland:Kirkland Wellbeing Program
Linklaters:Good Health and Wellbeing Initiatives
Slaughter and May:Thrive – Mental Health and Wellbeing Network

Key Contributor: Fai Choi

Researcher: Agnes She

COVID-19 Has Ripple Effects Across the Market

The post-Chinese New Year period is invariably a time of high activity in Hong Kong. The markets emerge from the extended lull of the Christmas holidays running into the Lunar festivities before a surge as many firms rush to close off billings before the end of the financial year (or at least one iteration of it) and gear up for the forthcoming year. However the emergence of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it has now been officially titled, has not only significantly reduced foot traffic in the Central Business District of Hong Kong, albeit on a much smaller scale than in Beijing and Shanghai, but has hammered commercial activity across the Greater China region. Obviously this pales into insignificance next to the cost in human lives and associated fear of further outbreaks. But even in an age, and a city especially, where seemingly everybody is electronically connected via various outlets the physical dislocation has proved to be more problematic than may had initially envisaged. A global legal industry that increasingly prides itself on being able to provide a 24/7 service when required is now having to wrestle with logistics on a new level. With travel in and out of the region a suddenly much-reduced option, the realities of having to commit to frequent conference calls between, say, Hong Kong and San Francisco are hitting home (or more pertinently having to decide which side will be up at twilight). A story reaches us that one senior lawyer was only allowed to make a business trip between the US and Asia if he agreed to stop off in Europe for an extended period of self-quarantine – maybe not entirely unpleasant, but not practical, and almost certainly not unique. As numbers of confirmed cases of the virus increase outside of Asia one wonders how long even that less-than-convenient loophole will continue to be in play.

Despite the theoretical ability of everyone to work remotely, the practice has reportedly not been as successful would have been hoped. Frequently heard laments include longer than usual delays of phone messages and emails being replied to. Working from home in an economic dip are not circumstances one would expect to encourage unerring focus. After the months of tumult of the anti-government protests gave many inbound businesses pause, with conference and event cancellations grabbing headlines, the health crisis has seen a much greater impact in a much shorter space of time. And while one has brought respite from the other (temporarily?) the uncertainty over the level of contagion, and how long the city will be under restrictions (at the time of writing educations facilities and municipal institutions have had periods of closure extended into March, albeit the commercial sector has largely downgraded the working-from-home edict from mandatory to voluntary), means nobody can say when things will even begin to return to normal. The general consensus is that productivity is down, and it is not just due to a downturn in instructions. Opportunities to take leave must be compelling, notwithstanding any travel restrictions that may be a factor in holiday plans. Estimates in the market were that firm offices were around 20% staffed following the Government’s initial public transport travel warnings. Hong Kong had already entered recession before the virus hit so even the most fervent optimist is looking quite far into the future for reasons to be cheerful.

South East Asian markets remain active which is a beacon and the apparent speed level of precaution with which recent diagnoses have been dealt with will hopefully stem the spread of the virus, and the accompanying human impact and domestic upheaval can be contained.

Hong Kong, and Asia, has of course bounced back from similar setbacks before, with the most obvious recent comparison being made to the SARS crisis of 2003. Amid the uncertainty is a stoicism, and the general acceptance that the only options available are to be sensible in following medical advice, take sanitary precautions and, as with before, ride it out.

China’s Legal Market: Trends and Observations in 2019

China has experienced a high level of instability throughout the year due to domestic crises and international disputes. However, global players and the country’s leading law firms have continued to expand in China. The Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and the Greater Bay Area have contributed to the growth.

The rise of joint operation in the Shanghai FTZ

On 7 January 2020, Allen & Overy announced that they would launch a joint operation office with Shanghai Lang Yue Law in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, making the Magic Circle law firm the 7th global player to enter into a structured free trade pilot zone by the Chinese authorities. 

The other 6 global legal players have taken the cooperative mechanisms trail in the Shanghai FTZ:  Baker McKenzie with FenXun in 2015, Holman Fenwick Willian with Wintell & Co. and Hogan Lovells with Fujian Fidelity both in 2016, Linklaters allied with Zhaosheng and Ashurst with Guantao both in 2018, and Herbert Smith Freehills with Kewei Law in 2019. 

Under current Chinese rules, foreign law firms or legal practitioners are not allowed to provide formal legal opinions and appear at local courts in the country. In December 2014, the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Justice released two regulations that gave the green light to the joint operations model. It allows the firms to offer clients international and local law advice, especially in areas like dispute resolution, labor, IP, and financial regulatory, and also to exchange lawyers between offices under certain conditions within the Shanghai FTZ.

The next opportunity in the GBA

The Greater Bay Area Initiative is the central government’s plan to link 11 southern China cities into an integrated economic hub. Shenzhen, China’s technology and innovation hub, has become a targeted city for both the PRC and international law firms to expand their corporate, TMT, IP, and real estate/infrastructure practices.

Shenzhen is home to China’s top tech companies, including Huawei and Tencent, and it is clearly on the rise. To global law firms, Shenzhen has already shown its appeal. In July 2019, Simmons & Simmons is the first UK firm to establish their Shenzhen which is led by the TMT partner, Shi Jingyuan. She was newly joined with Alex Cao as Counsel, who travels between HK and Shenzhen to provide advice on corporate and technology transactions in the life sciences and the TMT sectors.

It is not surprising that firms specializing in IP and tech-related work will be based around the world’s largest tech companies and startups in Shenzhen. In 2018, two leading US IP firm Brinks Gilson & Lione and Fish & Richardson opened their first China offices in Shenzhen. In the following year, Rimon Law, an alternative US law firm also opened their first China office in Shenzhen and represents their Chinese and US enterprises clients in cross-border IP transactions, business investment and dispute resolution. In addition, another 2 leading IP law firms Rouse and Perkins Coie, who already have offices in China also expanded their China IP operation to Shenzhen in October and November 2019 respectively. PRC firms, including Tiance, Zhenjiang, and Hylands, have expanded aggressively in Shenzhen.

As the Greater Bay Area continues to grow, we believe more top-tier international and domestic law firms will open their Shenzhen office soon. With over 35 plus years’ legal recruitment experience in the region, we can provide unparalleled strategic advice and recruiting solutions for the firms’ Southern China growth plans.  

Highly Demanded Sectors

  • Merger & Acquisition (M&A)
  • Telecommunication, Media & Technology (TMT)
  • Intellectual Property (IP)
  • Dispute Resolution
  • FCPA/ Compliance Investigation
  • Data Privacy

A key development that in 2020 the legal practitioners should be keeping on their radar is China’s new Foreign Investment Law. It came into effect on 1 January 2020 abrogating substantial parts of the legal framework that has governed foreign investment in China for the past 40 years. It formulates the new landscape of China’s foreign investment moving forward. Both foreign investors and law firms will continue to closely monitor all new developments in relation to the market entry approvals and restrictions on corporate governance. 

Contributor: Vicky Liu

Editor: Fai Choi

2010-2020 – A Decade of Development

2010-2020 – A Decade of Development

Closing out a decade is a fitting opportunity to stop and reflect on our paths, where we are and where we want to go. Ten years ago, we were emerging from a global financial crisis but who knew that we were headed into a new golden age of booming markets, new technologies and a new elite of tech billionaires not only in the US but also in China?

Chinese companies have climbed the ranks to be among the largest in the world in the last decade. In a first, by the end of 2019, more Chinese companies have made it on to the Fortune Global 500 list than US ones. With the rising status and influence of the Chinese economy, there has been more outbound investment and an increase in the number of Chinese conglomerates investing abroad. The China-related economic growth generated deal flow and opportunities for lawyers. Suddenly, out-bound transactions became sought-after targets of international law firms.

In-house, the power of the Internet has fundamentally altered the landscape in Asia. For example, Chinese tech companies need strong in-house legal and governance teams to support their global expansion, which carries with it the onus of strong compliance and corporate governance practices. This trend has created high demand for experienced lawyers with international background and has driven compensation up. The prosperity of China’s economy also gave rise to a new slate of elite Chinese law firms who, with their cross-border ambitions, recruited talent from many top-tier international firms to form the pre-eminent class of “Red Circle” firms.

Digital transformation has also fundamentally changed the recruitment industry. With the increasing dominance of LinkedIn as a business tool, the bar for entry into recruitment is considerably lower and as one newcomer to the industry said, “I came here knowing no-one and nothing about the market, but with a telephone and LinkedIn, I have access to a huge database of candidates.” For us at Hughes-Castell, this meant focusing on our core value-add for candidates and clients alike – our consultative approach, our deep market knowledge gained in over three decades as market leader, and our guiding principle of advising both parties in their best interests to ensure the best long-term fit. We realize the march of recruiting technology is unstoppable, but we also believe recruitment still needs the human touch. We care what happens and we are justifiably proud of our track record of placing lawyers into corporations and law firms where they have had flourishing careers, many for more than twenty years.

On a personal note, I have been with Hughes-Castell over three decades. I joined the company in 1991 as I felt that this was a profession I could identify with. My colleagues have asked me how I can stay so long doing the same thing and I answer that I have always described my work as “spending my time making friends and helping people”. This has been the fundamental driver throughout my career. It is not about work/life balance, it is about work/life integration and many of my candidates have become not only my clients but also good personal friends. It has also been my privilege to lead a great team that guides people towards their full career potential. In this past decade, we also celebrated our own milestones, such as opening our Shanghai office, the celebration of Hughes-Castell Hong Kong’s 30th birthday in 2016, the elevation of two key contributors to partnership in our China operations and of course, welcoming Katherine Fan back to the Hughes-Castell family as Managing Director, to help me lead Hughes-Castell into the next decade.

By Doreen Jaeger-Soong

Legal Move Updates (January – March 2020)

Editor’s note: This is an ongoing list.

MARCH 2020

30 March – Dentons (Melbourne, Australia)

Dentons has hired a commercial litigation partner from DLA Piper for its Melbourne, Australia, office to quickly meet client demand for recovery and restructuring advice.

25 March – Bowers (Hong Kong, China)

Disputes lawyer Kevin Bowers, a co-founder of the legacy Howse Williams Bowers and former partner of Reed Smith Richards Butler, will be setting up his own firm in Hong Kong called Bowers.

24 March – K&L Gates (Melbourne, Australia)

K&L Gates has hired capital markets partner Harry Kingsley and two other lawyers from an Australian firm as it continues to build its corporate practice in Australia.

23 March – Baker McKenzie.Wong & Partners (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Wong & Partners, member firm of Baker McKenzie International in Malaysia, has strengthened its Antitrust & Competition team by welcoming back Lydia Kong as a partner. The Firm has also expanded its China Outbound practice with the appointment of Addy Herg as a partner. Addy joins effective immediately, while Lydia returns on 6 April 2020.

17 March – Ashurst (Hong Kong, China)

Ashurst has recruited a corporate partner in Hong Kong from DLA Piper—part of an effort to expand its transactions capabilities and develop its brand in North Asia.

16 March – King & Wood Mallesons (Singapore, Singapore)

Global law firm KWM is expanding its offering in Singapore with the appointment of M&A partner, Jake Robson from Morrison & Foerster.

16 March – J. Sagar Associates (India)

J. Sagar Associates (JSA) has elected Arka Mookerjee, Probir Roy Choudhury and Tony Verghese to partnership with effect from April 1, 2020. The firm will now have 37 equity partners.

11 March – DWF (Melbourne, Australia)

U.K.-listed law business DWF has hired a team of three information technology and telecommunications lawyers, including a partner from a local Australian firm. Alex Ninis joins DWF’s Melbourne office as a principal lawyer, the firm’s equivalent of a partner, along with senior associate Marcus Hannah and solicitor Serpil Bilgic—all from mid-tier firm Macpherson Kelley.

11 March – White & Case (Singapore)

White & Case has hired banking specialist Charles McConnell as a local partner in Singapore from Linklaters, where he was a counsel.

11 March – Gall (Hong Kong, China)

Gall, a leading independent Hong Kong law firm focusing primarily on dispute resolution, announced today the promotion of Kenix Yuen from Consultant to Partner. The promotion takes place with immediate effect.

11 March – Hui Ye Law Firm (Shenzhen, China)

Shanghai-headquartered Hui Ye Law Firm has bolstered its Shenzhen office with the addition of three new partners. Deng Qing joins the firm from Tiantong & Partners’s Shenzhen office, where he specialised in dispute resolution, banking and finance. Wang Wenbing worked previously at Dentons’ Shenzhen office. He focuses on the disposal of non-performing assets, criminal defense and criminal compliance, advising companies on issues of cross-border finance, financial leases, real estate and shareholder disputes. Finally, Huang Zhipeng joins from Guangdong Fu Qun Law Firm and is an expert in intellectual property and commercial litigation. This development marks the further expansion of Hui Ye’s business in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

9 March – Johnson Winter & Slattery (Brisbane, Australia)

Peter Smith was formerly head of Herbert Smith Freehills’ Australian restructuring, turnaround and insolvency practice, and had been at HSF for two decades.

6 March – Bird & Bird(Singapore, Singapore)

Bird & Bird has brought in Jeremy Tan, the technology and communications practice head of CMS’ Formal Law Alliance Firm Holborn Law, as a partner in Singapore.

5 March – Twelve Tables Law Firm (Beijing, China)

Beijing-based boutique IP law firm Twelve Tables Law Firm has hired Yang Li and Tao Jiang as partners, both joining from another IP firm Lung Tin Law Firm. According to a press release, both Li and Jiang specialise in patent prosecution and litigation.

5 March – Hylands Law Firm (Beijing, China)

Beijing-based Hylands Law Firm has hired Xia Guorong and Zhu Weina as partners in its head office.

4 March – Bird & Bird (Singapore, Singapore)

Bird & Bird has brought in Jeremy Tan, the technology and communications practice head of CMS’ Formal Law Alliance Firm Holborn Law, as a partner in Singapore.

4 March – Helmsman (Singapore, Singapore)

Shipping-focused Singapore law firm Helmsman has recruited disputes expert Maureen Poh as a director from Ince, where she was a partner.

4 March – Watson Farley & Williams (Singapore, Singapore)

Corporate partner Damian Adams has left Simmons & Simmons to rejoin Watson Farley & Williams in Singapore.

4 March – HSA Advocates (Mumbai, India)

HSA adds its third lateral this year with Mumbai corporate hire.

4 March – Allen & Overy (Hong Kong)

International law firm Bird & Bird grows its Tech & Comms sector group with the appointment of technology lawyer Jeremy Tan as a partner in Singapore and Gigi Cheah as a senior consultant for the Asia Pacific region.

4 March – Boss & Young (Shanghai, China)

Shanghai-based law firm Boss & Young Attorneys At Law has hired six partners and their teams in its head office, aiming to strengthen the firm’s services in areas of maritime, criminal and commercial dispute resolution in the future. Li Feng and Luo Hongbin, both from local firm Sg & Co PRC Lawyers, join as international partner and dispute resolution partner, respectively. Jiang Zhihang and Wang Xian both join as criminal practice partners and they both came from local River Delta Law Firm. Meanwhile Fu Xia and Zhong Wei are joining as dispute resolution partners.

3 March – Kennedys (Singapore, Singapore)

We (Kennedys) are pleased to confirm that we have strengthened our Singapore litigation practice by hiring Glenn G. Cheng from K&L Gates Straits Law LLC.

3 March – Gadens (Sydney, Australia)

Gadens has appointed Mark Pistilli as the new Chief Executive Officer of its Melbourne and Sydney partnership. Mark joins Gadens from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), where he was a legal partner on PwC’s legal leadership team and practising across corporate and commercial matters including in M&A, strategic Boardroom advisory, major projects and litigation strategy. Mark was a founding (and a managing) partner of Clifford Chance in Australia and its predecessor firm Chang, Pistilli & Simmons. (from

February 2020

February – Chinese Law Firms (Beijing/Shanghai, China)

Boss & Young, Han Kun Law Offices, Haiwen & Partners, Hylands Law, and Jingtian & Gongcheng Firm have made a range of partner hires in recent weeks despite disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak. New partners join firms in Beijing and Shanghai from KPMG, Allen & Overy, and other domestic firms as lawyers in China gradually resume work.

27 February – Clifford Chance (Tokyo, Japan)

Leading international law firm Clifford Chance announced today that Michihiro Nishi will join its Corporate practice as a partner in Tokyo. Michihiro has extensive corporate experience advising private equity funds and public companies on investments, corporate governance, disclosure and stock exchange matters.

26 February – Bird & Bird (Singapore, Singapore)

International law firm Bird & Bird grows its Tech & Comms sector group with the appointment of technology lawyer Jeremy Tan as a partner in Singapore and Gigi Cheah as a senior consultant for the Asia Pacific region.

26 February – Duane Morris & Selvam (Singapore, Singapore)

Duane Morris & Selvam, the Singapore joint law venture of Duane Morris, has boosted its capital markets practice with the hire of Jonathan Crandall as a director from Clifford Chance’s London office.

26 February – HSA Advocates (Delhi, India)

India’s HSA Advocates has brought real estate expert Amaresh Kumar Singh on board as a partner in Delhi from L&L Partners, the most recent lateral partner hire in a 12-month blitz for the firm.

25 February – Experian India (Mumbai, India)

Ex-AZB’s Ami Parikh joins credit checkers Experian India as head legal and compliance.

25 February – Jones Day (Hong Kong, China)

The global firm Jones Day announces that Samuel Ngo has joined the Firm’s Global Disputes Practice as a partner in its Hong Kong Office.

25 February – Russell McVeagh (Auckland, New Zealand)

Kirsten spent her time overseas working at international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills in London, where she made partner 10 years ago. Before she moved to London in 2004, Kirsten was an associate in Russell McVeagh’s litigation team.

21 February – Company Giles (Sydney, Australia)

High profile litigator Rebekah Giles has left global law firm Kennedys to establish her own reputational risk and disputes practice.

20 February – Baker McKenzie (Seoul, Korea)

Baker McKenzie has recruited a former Orrick’s Of Counsel, Jae-Hyon Ahn as a project finance partner in Seoul, South Korea.

19 February – KPMG (Bangkok, Thailand)

KPMG has launched its end-to-end legal services arm in Thailand with a team of more than 50 legal staff, including 25 licensed lawyers with diverse industry experience.

19 February – Jingtian & Gongcheng (Guangzhou, China)

Jingtian & Gongcheng Launches Guangzhou Office With 6-Partner Team Hire. A team of 11 lawyers join from prominent shipping firm Wang Jing & Co. as well as Stephenson Harwood’s China affiliate firm.

19 February – Baker McKenzie (Melbourne, Australia)

Baker McKenzie Hires Melbourne Banking Lawyer From KWM. Charlie Detmold has represented banks, borrowers and sponsors. He joins the firm at a time of increasing client demand for banking and finance services in Australia.

19 February – BlackOak (Singapore, Singapore)

Singapore’s BlackOak has hired restructuring and insolvency specialist Debby Lim as a director from local firm Shook Lin & Bok, where she was an equity partner.

17 February – Hogan Lovells (Sydnesy, Australia)

Hogan Lovells announced today that Bryan Paisley will be joining the firm as a partner in the Finance practice later this month, based in the Sydney office. He will be joining from Baker McKenzie in Sydney where he has been a partner for 13 years. Prior to joining Bakers, Bryan worked at Lovells (as it then was) in the London office from 1997 to 2005 including a secondment in Frankfurt in 2000 following the Boesebeck Droste merger.

17 February – King & Wood Mallesons (Hong Kong)

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) is pleased to announce the continued expansion of our capital markets practice in Hong Kong with the addition of Jason T. Kuo, who joins as counsel.

17 February – Hall & Wilcox (Sydney, Australia)

Leading independent business law firm Hall & Wilcox has expanded its technology and digital economy and corporate and commercial expertise with the appointment of partner John Gray to the firm’s Sydney office.

14 February – Norton Rose Fulbright (London, UK)

Norton Rose Fulbright has appointed London partner Peter Scott as the firm’s next managing partner for Europe, Middle East and Asia.

13 February – Watson Farley (Hong Kong, China)

Watson Farley & Williams has strengthened its finance practice in Hong Kong with the hire of Khin Voong as a partner from King and Wood Mallesons, where he was a counsel.

12 February – Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (Delhi, India)

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) has hired Platinum Partners lawyer Vijay Pratap Singh Chauhan as a partner in its competition team, based in Delhi, according to the firm’s press release.

12 February – Carey Olsen (Hong Kong, China)

Channel Islands-headquartered Carey Olsen has hired litigator Jeremy Lightfoot as a partner in Hong Kong from fellow offshore firm Campbells.

11 February – Ince (Hong Kong, China)

International legal and professional services firm Ince has today announced the appointment of Zhao Rong Ooi, a seasoned commercial litigator, as a new Partner in its Hong Kong office. This appointment highlights the firm’s commitment to further expand its dispute resolution practice across the region.

10 February – J Sagar Associates (Mumbai, India)

Shafaq Uraizee Sapre has joined J. Sagar Associates as a retained partner in the Mumbai office. Sapre will be part of Sandeep Mehta’s team in Mumbai.

10 February – Pinsent Masons (Beijing, China)

International law firm Pinsent Masons has hired Kanyi Lui into its Beijing office to expand the firm’s finance offering in China and across Asia.

9 February – Indiabulls Housing Finance Limited (Mumbai, China)

Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (SAM) Mumbai capital markets partner Kaushik Mukherjee has joined Indiabulls Housing Finance Limited as president legal.

7 February – Clyde & Co (Melbourne, Australia)

Global law firm Clyde & Co has announced the hire of three partners from Norton Rose Fulbright. Nicole Wearne, Ganga Narayanan and Mark Attard will join the firm’s Melbourne office as partners. Their practice focuses on contentious and non-contentious insurance work in the areas of professional indemnity, Royal Commission and inquiries, class action defence and coverage claims work, D&O, life insurance, general liability, property, healthcare, personal injury, contentious regulatory response and risk advisory.

4 February – Haiwen & Partners (Shanghai, China)

Haiwen & Partners has hired Taoye Ye as international partner in its Shanghai office from Allen & Overy, where she was counsel.

4 February – Norton Rose Fulbright (Brisbane, Australia)

Ren Niemann will join as a major projects, construction and government partner in Brisbane in April 2020.

3 February – Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow (Singapore, Singapore)

Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow, the member firm of Baker McKenzie International in Singapore, is expanding its Competition practice with the strategic appointments of Harikumar (“Hari”) Sukumar Pillay as principal and Lip Hang Poh as competition economist.

January 2020

30 January – Harneys (Hong Kong & Singapore)

Offshore law firm Harneys has named Hong Kong partner Paula Kay as its head of litigation for Asia and named Lishi Fong as managing partner of its Singapore office.

28 January – Audent Chambers (Singapore, Singapore)

Former managing partner of Cavenagh Law and global partner of Clifford Chance, Senior Counsel Harpreet Singh Nehal, and counsel Jordan Tan, formerly also from Cavenagh Law and Clifford Chance, have launched their disputes practice Audent Chambers LLC and plan to attract young lawyers by introducing a work-anywhere, no-fixed-hours, no-dress-code, unlimited-leave work culture.

23 January – Mills Oakley (Sydney, Australia)

Australian firm Mills Oakley has hired real estate specialist Richard Cohen from Norton Rose Fulbright, where he will be a partner.

22 January – DLA Piper (Singapore, Singapore)

Anglo-American firm DLA Piper has added David Kuo as a partner in its Singapore office from Milbank.

16 January – Mayer Brown (Hong Kong, China)

Amita Kaur Haylock is a partner in the IP & TMT group of Mayer Brown in Hong Kong. Amita’s practice focuses on litigating intellectual property, competition and commercial disputes across a broad range of industries. Amita also advises on telecommunications, broadcasting and information technology matters.

16 January – Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher (Hong Kong, China)

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is pleased to announce that Brian Gilchrist and Elaine Chen will join the firm’s Hong Kong office. They will focus on disputes, including high-end litigation in the Hong Kong courts, arbitration and contentious financial regulatory matters.

15 January – Eversheds Harry Elias (Singapore, Singapore)

Eversheds Harry Elias recruits former Baker McKenzie Partner in Singapore and has strengthened its disputes practice after hiring former Baker McKenzie partner Weiyi Tan.

13 January – Han Kun (Hong Kong, China)

Han Kun’s Hong Kong associated law firm has hired Angela Cui as partner from King & Wood Malleson’s Hong Kong office where she was counsel.

13 January – Paul Hastings (Hong Kong, China)

Paul Hastings LLP, a leading global lawShaun Wu firm, announced today that Shaun Wu has joined the firm’s Investigations and White Collar Defense practice as a partner in Asia.

13 January – DWF (Singapore, Singapore)

Manchester-headquartered law firm DWF has hired Indonesia specialist Joel Shen as a partner in Singapore from Stephenson Harwood, where he was a counsel.

10 January – CMS (Hong Kong, China)

International law firm CMS is continuing its Hong Kong expansion with the appointment of a 3-strong Intellectual Property (IP) team. Partner Jonathan Chu joins associated Hong Kong firm Lau, Horton & Wise LLP, together with senior associates Mengyi Chen and Candy Tong, strengthening CMS’ IP offering across Asia-Pacific. Jonathan and his team join from Stephenson Harwood.

9 January – Sidley Austin (Singapore, Singapore)

Sidley Austin has hired M&A lawyer Parthiv Rishi as a partner in Singapore from Linklaters, where he spent more than 15 years, and most recently led that firm’s private equity practice in Southeast Asia.

9 January – CNPLaw (Singapore, Singapore)

CNPLaw ushers in the new decade and grows to 18 partners with the addition of Ms Cinda Sim and Ms Wong Pei-Ling

8 January – Herbert Smith Freehills (Hong Kong, China)

Herbert Smith Freehills has appointed Asia managing partner Justin D’Agostino as its next chief executive officer based in Hong Kong.

8 January – Eversheds Sutherland (Hong Kong, China)

Eversheds Sutherland has added litigation and disputes lawyer Wesley Pang as a partner in Hong Kong from the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC), where he was managing counsel.

7 January – Withers KhattarWong (Singapore, Singapore)

Withers KhattarWong LLP, the Singapore office of international law firm Withers, has boosted its Technology and Intellectual Property (IP) capabilities in Singapore with the hire of partner Jonathan Kok.

6 January – Hogan Lovells (Hong Kong, China)

Hogan Lovells announced today that Jonathan Leitch will join the firm’s Finance practice today, as a restructuring and insolvency partner in the Hong Kong office. Leitch is recognised as a leading practitioner in APME with a broad practice in advising all types of stakeholders in the restructuring and insolvency of financially challenged companies.

6 January – Dechert (Singapore, Singapore)

Dechert has hired Maria Tan Pedersen as a partner in its Singapore office, in a bid to expand and strengthen its corporate and securities practice in the region, its said on Monday.

How Hughes-Castell Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

2020s: A New Generation Of Leaders

By Katherine Fan

It was exactly January 4, 2010 when I first joined Hughes-Castell, initially as a Researcher and then promoted to Consultant. I had just moved to Hong Kong from Sydney a few months earlier, joining a number of my law school friends who had moved to Hong Kong to pursue their legal careers. Some of them were completing PCLL, some had started as trainees that year. My ambitious friends saw Hong Kong as a land of opportunities where they could leverage their Chinese language skills. I went along for the ride, also keen to see how my own career would develop.  

At that time, I had already decided to leave practice as a litigator so when Hughes-Castell hired me as a recruiter, I accepted – why not try something new I had thought. To my delight, I found that I loved my job. Being able to counsel lawyers, helping guide them to find what they were looking for and gaining insights about the mindset of successful people in our industry gave me enormous satisfaction. 10 years later, after stints leading recruitment at Morrison & Foerster, Baker McKenzie and starting my own businesses, I’m back at Hughes-Castell as MD, equipped with the same passion and determination, but also new skills and knowledge, to join forces with Doreen to lead our company to thrive in the new world today.

In just 10 years, I’ve observed the legal industry change rapidly, with new developments in client needs, candidate expectations and technologies continually transforming the traditional legal and recruitment industries. My peers, once trainees navigating the world we coined “Landmark Legal”, are now in senior positions as Partners, Of Counsels, Heads of Legal and Executive Directors. The legal industry in Asia is a competitive one, and where once long ago we used to brainstorm how to outperform the other interns to secure a training contract, now it’s discussions about how to grow our business, how to generate more revenue, how to manage our teams, how to be influential leaders, how to have a sustainable career and how to continue thriving (and well, at times just surviving) in such an evolving environment.

To my lawyer friends, hats-off to you for surviving this long – I’ve seen you pull those all-nighters, be pressured by demanding stakeholders, and compromise your personal life to stay in the game. As we prepare for the decade ahead, we will continue to work with you and share our perspectives to ensure you have everything you need for your continued success in your positions of leadership.

How Hughes-Castell Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

Market Intel and Trends

As a leader, you are now in a position to make decisions about your team and who you hire or wish to retain. But at the same time, you may also manage your team or department budget and need to be conscious of the financials of your P&L. As a senior lawyer, it is important to be financially astute and aware of market price points to calculate your team budget/financials. In addition to recruitment duties, you may also be expected to put quotes together for client work, forecast your fee income, perform work to relevant budgets, and assess when financial parameters need to be moved. You thought you had left maths behind when you became a lawyer, but you reach a point of seniority and it all comes back. With our broad network comprising of approximately 47,000 candidates in legal, compliance, risk, governance and C-suite positions globally, we have access to the latest market updates and trends, and would be glad to share our findings with you so you have the intel you need. Don’t be shy to ask. 


Traditionally, lawyers are not trained to be managers or entrepreneurs. We spend our first few years honing technical skills and how to manage clients whilst on the job. But then by 6th-7th year, you’re being assessed for the next stage of your career based on your potential to generate revenue, business development, management and leadership skills. With over 35 years’ expertise working with Partners and General Counsels, Hughes-Castell has in-depth knowledge about what employers expect from senior lawyers and we want to work with you on your transition whether as a senior associate/Of Counsel to Partner, or Salaried Partner to Equity Partner, or on the in-house side as you transition up the ranks to Head of Legal or General Counsel. As a qualified career coach and having worked with numerous senior lawyers of all different calibers in the industry, we can provide you with an unbiased assessment of your skills and what you should work on, including leadership and management training, preparing your elevator pitch, presenting your business plan, completing your first Lateral Partners Questionnaire and become more than a triple threat.

Recruitment Technology

Technology has created higher levels of expectations from candidates who want a fast, straightforward application process. Unfortunately, most processes in law firms/legal departments are falling behind to keep pace with the speed and accelerating rate of business transformation. Legal recruitment processes still tend to be long, and at senior levels taking as long as 6-to-9 months (if not longer in some cases). However, we are committed to improving our client and candidates’ experience by incorporating recruitment technology (new website services, online interactive options, conducting video or mobile interviews, working with our clients to create employer branding videos to increase outreach) and essentially implement a technology-driven approach to improve hiring quality and efficiency. We will also work closely with our clients and provide guidance on how to improve efficiency to ensure they do not miss out on good candidates due to inefficient recruitment processes. 

We are excited about the challenging projects that lie ahead and welcome you to join us for the ride. Send suggestions, comments, or inquiries to us at

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


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. ( )

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

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

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:

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 2019 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