Asia Chronicles, Sponsored Content

The Asia Chronicles: Hong Kong / China Lateral State of Market; HK / China Expat Package News

Ed. note: This post is authored by Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney of Kinney Recruiting, sponsor of the Asia Chronicles. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates and partners in Asia than any other firm in the past five years. You can reach them by email:

It has been a busy past several weeks for our Asia team at Kinney Recruiting. Evan Jowers was in Boston earlier this week, participating in Harvard Law School’s Market Series. This is the first year they are including Asia markets in the program and Evan was asked by Harvard to be their recruiter representative for those markets. Evan will work with Harvard’s office of career services and be available to its law students who seek advice on the Asia markets and US and UK firms in Asia, where they may 2L summer and / or start as a 1st year associate. If you are a law student from another top JD program and have questions about the Asia markets, please feel free to reach out to us as well, at Of course, we can’t place law students at firms (that is what on-campus recruiting is for), but we are happy to provide advice and begin positive long-term relationships.

In late April and earlier this month, Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney were working out of our Hong Kong offices for a couple of weeks, meeting with various law firm and attorney candidate clients. Also, in late March and early April, Evan Jowers and Yuliya Vinokurova were working out of our Hong Kong offices for a few weeks. Alexis Lamb is of course based in Hong Kong full time.

In mid April, from our Asia team, Evan Jowers, Robert Kinney, Alexis Lamb, Yuliya Vinokurova, Danielle Cyr, Peter Gutensohn, and Josh Carr were all in Austin, Texas for the annual NALP conference.

Please note that Evan Jowers will be in Beijing for most of July.

While much of our work and advice is over the phone and by email, the meetings we have in-person with hiring partners and other senior partners at our US and UK client firms in Asia are a critical part of our information based recruiting (rather than simply cold call based recruiting). We are fortunate to have been able to establish relationships over time with key players in the market (many who are not only business relations but also have become friends) who take the time to meet with us numerous times per year. We are sure that no other recruiting firm in Asia is able to get as many in-person meetings as we do with managing partners, hiring partners and other senior partners at top law firms. Evan and Robert routinely have 5+ such meetings per day set up on short notice when they are in Hong Kong and we are very grateful to our law firm clients for this.

Thus far in the 2nd quarter ’12, we have added a US partner placement and several new US associate placements in HK / China. We are close on another partner placement and other associate placements, as well as an in-house placement at a fund, and expect those new hires to happen within the next month. It has been a good year for us thus far (we have made 20 US associate placements and 3 US partner placements thus far in Asia in ’12), although the US biglaw hiring market in Asia has been very slow since late summer ’11.

A number of top US firms are simply not hiring any US associate laterals right now in Asia. The largest sector of US biglaw attorneys in Asia, US cap markets, is having still little hiring activity (we have made several US cap markets associates placements in HK / China this year, including one this week, but not nearly as large a % of our placements as is usual), although things are picking up with a handful of very recent new openings.

Local Hong Kong cap markets practices and US Pan Asia cap markets practices have been fairly busy. Some M&A practices we recruit for in HK / China are very busy. We are seeing more associate hiring needs in M&A, especially PE / M&A, than we usually have experienced in Asia over the years. There is also some US cap markets, fund formation, US litigation, finance and project finance hiring going on in Asia. Overall, though, the biglaw hiring market in Asia continues to be down.

Further, while the feeling in the HK / China market is that things are improving (compared to fall ’11) regarding US cap markets deal flow, and that the 2nd half of ’12 will be better than the first half, the degree of optimism is lower now than it was earlier this year. During Evan’s visit to Hong Kong in late March, the US cap markets partners he met with were more optimistic about 2nd half ’12 then than they were during Robert and Evan’s visit to Hong Kong only a few weeks later, in late April and early May. It seems as if the expectations for a robust turnaround in late ‘12, with deal flow similar to 1st half ’11, have tempered quite a bit. Thus, it remains to be seen how much of a rebound we may see in US cap markets work in HK / China in second half ’12. It is too early to predict. US cap markets hiring is the driver though for a large portion of US lateral biglaw hiring in general in HK / China and until that segment of the market picks up, the lateral market overall will continue to be sluggish.

On the expat / cola packages front, things are mostly holding steady in HK / China. There has not been much movement recently. In the past few months, one Wall St. firm has raised their annual package to US associates by $10,000 and a magic circle firm raised their annual package to US cap markets associates by $25,000. Further, one US firm that has not had an expat / cola package up until now is going to implement one soon. As we mentioned in our previous posts regarding expat / cola packages in HK / China (some of them are found in this link –, the trend has been steady or upward regarding expat / cola packages at top firms in Asia has for some years. For the most part, these packages don’t get lower (there have been a handful of exceptions, but at each of those firms a drop in the expat / cola allowance was followed by a quick return to the previous amount or higher within a year).

If you are landing in HK / China as a US associate at a top US firm (or a top UK firm’s US practice, which in some cases is only US cap markets) and your practice area is M&A or cap markets, and you do not have any children (which can raise the allowance at a number of firms) you will likely have an annual expat / cola allowance of anywhere from $55,000 to $105,000. It is a big range, yes, although most top firms will fall within the $65,000 to $80,000 range. There are eleven firms at $80,000 or above and only one firm higher than $95,000 (for associates with no children).

Things become much more cloudy if you are landing a spot in project finance, finance, litigation, fund formation or a UK firm’s M&A practice. Depending on the firm you land at, you may or may not have an expat / cola package. It depends whether that practice is considered a “local practice” or a part of the US team. Up until recently, it was only at non US firms where this problem was likely to exist, but nowadays there are some top US firms where some US associates are in transactional practices and not receiving an expat / cola allowance. This is a growing trend, but in some cases the positions without expat / cola can be a better long-term career move than going to a firm that would pay expat / cola to the same associate. We suggest focusing more on the long-term prospects than expat / cola, but of course compensation is important.

As always, feel free to reach out to us any time at