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The Asia Chronicles: NEW FUND FORMATION, M&A, FCPA, LITIGATION, PROJECT FINANCE, KOREA PRACTICE US ASSOCIATE OPENINGS IN ASIA


Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney of Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates and partners in Asia than any other firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: asia@kinneyrecruiting.com

The US associate lateral hiring market in Asia for US and UK firms is in a severe down cycle, at least when compared to recent boom hiring periods (mid ’06 – mid ’08; mid ’10 to mid ’11). The bulk of the US associate hiring in Asia since ’05 at top firms has been in cap markets, especially in HK / China in china focused cap markets. This year lateral hiring in cap markets in HK / China has been extremely slow, for two obvious reasons: a) Many IPOs US cap markets groups have been working on in HK / China are on hold; and b) there was much more than usual lateral hiring in this practice area from late ’10 to mid ’11 (right before the slow down in IPOs). Most top US cap markets groups in HK / China are over staffed at present and a number of US firms have US associate hiring on hold in Asia in all practice groups because of this. With that said, we have recently made a few US cap markets placements in Hong Kong, but this is weak hiring area right now, so weak that some very impressive native Chinese US cap markets associates from top 10 US firms are having a hard time getting interviews, much less offers (and for most of the past 7 years in HK / China, this US associate background has been in very high demand, with such candidates usually having their choice of multiple offers quickly after starting a job search). When the market rebounds, hopefully in ’13, US cap markets associate hiring in Asia will bounce back strong. There are a lot of HK / China related IPOs on hold in and many of those deals will come back to life when the market rebounds, but for now things are very slow in US cap markets in HK / China, with there only being some pockets of cap market strength in Pan Asia (such as Philippines and Indonesia for example).

Coming out of the usual late summer period of hiring partners on holidays and slow interviewing and hiring, we usually get a pop of new openings in September. This year we were not expecting much, considering the market, but we have been pleasantly surprised. It is surely not a strong hiring market at present, but more new openings than to be expected (see below) while the HK / China market is still in a down cycle.

As is typical in a down hiring market cycle, US partners in Asia with hiring needs will move slower to fill these spots than in a hot hiring market and they will usually only go to one to three recruiters / recruiting firms to help them fill such openings. We feel privileged to almost always be approached in these instances, at least by the top tier US and UK firms in Asia, which is due to our past success (for example, 62 US associate placements in Asia in ’11) and relationships with key US partners in Asia (of course relationships with those partners and success in recruiting for them go hand-in-hand, but Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney have been able to take that a step further in many cases). The vast majority of random cold callers (calling all Asian background US transactional associates at top firms) are going to be fishing for resumes and not really have much information on these openings (although they can email a resume to numerous firms in Asia, with or without your permission, and hope for the best, as it what usually happens unfortunately).

Evan and Robert were working out of our Hong Kong office for two weeks earlier this month and met with many of our firm client partners in HK who are currently hiring (as well as many other senior partners who are not hiring). We expect that our firm clients in Asia with new openings will move with varying degrees of urgency in filling these spots (some will move quickly whereas others could take a few months or more). Here is a breakdown of the new openings we have for US associates in Asia:

M&A – we have a number of these openings in HK / China at top US firms, mostly in PE / M&A, including one of our top US firm clients with three such openings. There are also M&A US associate openings in Singapore and Tokyo. Most of these M&A openings in Asia are for 2nd to 5th year associates. A few of these openings in HK / China are of the “english only is ok” variety, while fluent Mandarin is required for others. In Tokyo, fluent Japanese is required. The new hires for these openings can come from US or Asia major markets. In PE downstream US practices, there is a particularly strong pipeline of work nowadays in Asia in public to private deals and M&A activity is relatively strong in the market.

Fund Formation – We have 5 new fund formation US associate openings in HK / China. Three of these are very urgent openings (mid-level, senior associate and counsel level openings). These new hires will likely come from NYC, London or HK / China. Mandarin is not required for any of these openings.

Project Finance – We have a handful of these openings for US associates, in 2nd year to 6th year range, in HK / China, Singapore and Tokyo. In some cases, a transition from bank finance to project finance will be considered, especially for those openings where Mandarin or Korean is needed (it is not easy to find project finance US associate lateral hires with such language skills).

FCPA / White Collar Litigation – We have three of these openings in HK and BJ, junior to mid-level. Mandarin fluency is required.

Commercial Litigation – One of our firm clients with an FCPA / White Collar practice is looking for a senior associate / counsel level US attorney with very strong commercial litigation background from a major US market. English only is ok for this spot.

Korea Practice – A number of US and UK firms will be opening offices in Seoul soon. This has not caused there to be a strong hiring need for lateral Korean US associates (at least not yet), but we do have two new Korea Practice openings. The focus will be on cap markets, but there is some M&A mix as well. These new hires will be in based in Hong Kong, at least initially (although both of these firms plan to open in Seoul relatively soon and the new hires will have the option of being in HK or Seoul at that point).

Cap Markets – A handful of firms in HK and Singapore are interviewing US cap markets associates, for their Pan Asia focused practices, from 3rd year to counsel level. Mandarin not required.

Arbitration – We have a new opening in Arbitration in Singapore for 2nd to 4th year.

In-House – We are also working on one in house opening as the exclusive recruiting firm. The position is for a major publicly traded automobile parts manufacturer and is based in Singapore. It requires native or near native Chinese language ability and international training and experience.

As always, please feel free to contact us at asia@kinneyrecruiting.com, to set up a call with Evan Jowers to discuss the Asia markets in general and / or  to discuss any of these openings specifically (for those who are qualified to fill such positions).

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