June 2024


Tokyo and Seoul have been busiest over the last month, where leading international and regional law firms made significant moves in Asia. Bird & Bird announced plans to launch in Tokyo and 8 major partner hires in Seoul, mainly with local prominent players such as Yulchon, Yoon & Yang and Shin & Kim. Hong Kong recorded 4 lateral hires, with Singapore making just 3, which is probably a sign of a cooling market.


The China market remains dominated by PRC law firms hiring peer to peer, as well as expanding overseas. However, there is still the occasional international firm making lateral investment, such as Pillsbury bringing in a senior partner from Paul Hastings, and Duane Morris making an IP hire, both in Shanghai.


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May 2024


Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney were the three busiest locations for international law firms in terms of lateral hire activity last month, recording 7, 4 and 5 major partner movements respectively. Chinese mainland market has been overwhelmingly dominated by PRC law firms with no international law firms making any major hires. Tokyo also witnessed two significant lateral hires made by Latham & Watkins and White & Case.


Five major international law firms announced their annual partnership promotions last month, namely, A&O Shearman, HSF, Ashurst, Clifford Chance and DLA Piper. The relevant jurisdictions that took the most from these were Australia, followed by Singapore. In addition, the global merger of A&O and Shearman and the uncoupling of Mayer Brown and JSM both finally happened in early May, which will undoubtedly cause a ripple across the legal community.


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April 2024


The Hong Kong and Singapore lateral markets have been very active over the last month with each city recording 8 major partner moves by local, regional, and international law firms. These included Wilkinson & Grist, Appleby, Jingtian & Gongcheng in HK, and Drew & Napier, Greenberg Traurig and Charles Russell Speechlys in Singapore. In Seoul, the local giant Yulchon hired 7 partners in different practice areas, showing their ambition to remain dominant in their market.


The China market still presents a very mixed picture. PRC firms such as Jun He and East IP set up their new offices/teams in Xi’an and Hong Kong, respectively, and Stephenson Harwood’s China alliance firm Wei Tu newly launched Shanghai. On the other hand, there seems to be a new wave of foreign exits from the country, with Weil Gotshal, Orrick and Perkins Coie all announcing closures of their China offices in the past month or so.


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March 2024


Due to the CNY holiday, the mainland Chinese legal market was relatively quiet last month, with Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen recording 7 partner moves in total – the majority of which were between PRC law firms. Comparatively, in each of Singapore and Hong Kong, there were 5 major lateral moves, mainly involving major international law firms. The Seoul market was particularly busy last month where all the three major local firms Yulchon, Shin & Kim and Yoon & Yang hired teams of partners in addition to DLA Piper’s hire from Milbank.


PRC firms continued to expand their domestic footprints with Jun He launching their Xi’An office and Hylands establishing a joint alliance firm with Woo Kwan Lee & Lo at Qianhai, Shenzhen.


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February 2024


After a quiet December, Hong Kong’s lateral partner activity got busier, recording 13 serious partner moves into US, UK, major PRC and Hong Kong firms. The Singapore market followed with 8 partner moves across a variety of international and local Singaporean firms. Beijing and Shanghai markets remain dominated by PRC law firms with all 11 lateral partners moving to major Chinese firms, while in Tokyo there was a major 3-partner real-estate team move from White & Case to Greenberg Traurig.


Allen & Gledhill’s latest launch in Shanghai shows the unique resilience of the China market where for a long time there hasn’t been such movement among foreign law firms. From an opposite perspective, JunHe’s recent announcement of their 3rd US office in Seattle represents the continued outbound interest from Chinese law firms investing and growing overseas.


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January 2024


Across all major Asian jurisdictions, December 2023 recorded probably the fewest lateral hire activities in the year. There was only one partner move in Hong Kong, made by Chinese law firm Jingtian & Gongcheng from US law firm Akin Gump, while in Singapore there were only four partner moves – two joined Dentons Rodyk and Allen Overy and the other two joined the local firm Rajah & Tann. In China, PRC law firms continued to hire from their peer PRC firms for growth – twelve recorded in tier-one cities Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, while another six in other tier-two and tier-three cities.


Jones Day, Norton Rose Fulbright, Hogan Lovells and Quinn Emanuel announced their annual partnership promotions which saw 9 in Asia, including 3 in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong – all of whom are disputes-focused. In addition, 4 major Chinese law firms launched new offices last month including Han Kun’s latest entry into New York. In contrast, it was also announced that Akin Gump will be closing its doors in Beijing.


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Shawn Chen


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