Asia Chronicles

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

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

Things have changed recently in Korea – a few of our US and UK client firms are looking, very selectively, for a lateral US associate hire. Until just recently, there was not much hiring like this going on in Korea, since US and UK firms started opening offices there. We have already placed two US associates in Korea in the past month at top firms. Most of the hiring partners we work with in Korea do not actively work with other recruiters.

If you are a Korean fluent US associate in London, New York or another major US market, 2nd to 6th year, at a top 20 firm, with cap markets or M&A focus (or mix), or project finance background, and you are interested in lateraling to Korea to a top US or UK firm, please feel free to reach out to us at asia@kinneyrecuiting.com or evan@kinneyrecruiting.com. Our head of Asia, Evan Jowers, was just in Korea recently, and Evan and Robert Kinney will be in Korea in a few weeks.  We are in the process of helping several firms open new offices in Korea (a number of which are interviewing our partner level candidates)  and also helping existing offices there fill openings.

Even if you have no interest in moving to Korea any time soon, but just want to discuss the market in general and what we are predicting there for the next few years, feel free to reach out to us.  Those are interesting conversations we always enjoy.

As most of our readers are probably already well aware, just about every major US firm in Hong Kong / China is interviewing and hiring US associates for at least one opening, in M&A or cap markets or a mix.  Many firms have multiple such openings. There are also openings in FCPA / White Collar, project finance, and other areas.

The above is only newsworthy in that it is, as we predicted at Kinney earlier this year, a mini-boom hiring market in HK / China for US associates that started late August and will last at least two months.

It is during such a hiring boom that its going to be very helpful for you to speak with us and evaluate the best possible landing spots to consider in Hong Kong / China, according to your background, career and life goals, rather than simply finding a landing spot.  The relationships that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney have with just about any US hiring partner (including some who we have placed) of significance in Hong Kong / China, along with the many current and former US associates there (including many we have placed), give us the ability to help you make the most informed decision at various steps in the process.  These steps include, but are not limited to –  whether to simply transfer within your firm to or within Asia; how and when to request such a transfer; if targeting other firms, when and which to target; which hiring partners may have the better practice fit or be better mentors; and how and whether to negotiate on offers and counter offers.

We recommend you don’t consider a move or transfer to Asia or within Asia unless you know you can be fully informed going in to such a process.

Feel free to contact us at asia@kinneyrecruiting.com and we would be happy to discuss your Asia prospects with you, regardless of whether you want to start a job search any time soon. If you do speak with us and decide to start a job search,  we won’t try to convince you to use our services and representation. That’s entirely up to you to ask for our help and representation.

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

Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans.  If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet!  There is no need for an agenda at all.  Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.

Email asia@kinneyrecruiting.com to set up a meeting with us!

Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog.  Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia.  We  are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings.  These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful.  As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.

Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia.  There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia.  So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!

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

We at Kinney Asia have made a number of FCPA / White Collar US associate placements in Hong Kong / China thus far in 2014. Most of such placements have been commercial litigation associates from major US markets, fluent in Mandarin, switching to FCPA / White Collar litigation. Some have already had FCPA experience, but those are difficult candidates for firms to find (this will change in coming years as US firms are now promoting FCPA / White Collar to their 2L summers who are fluent in Mandarin and have an interest in transferring to China at some point).

Legal Week quoted Kinney’s Head of Asia, Evan Jowers, extensively in the following relevant article here.

There is a new trend in the market, though, where mid-level transactional US associates, fluent in spoken Mandarin and written Chinese, are interviewing for and in some cases landing junior FCPA / White Collar spots in Hong Kong / China at very top tier US firms.

However, most such folks who apply for these positions are not getting interviews, much less offers, even when coming from peer firms. if you are interested in making this switch, and willing to take a year or two (or more) haircut, it will be important to be able to demonstrate an interest in litigation going back years (it’s understandable, for obvious reasons, that one with an eye on returning to HK / China and a preference for litigation over corporate would have in law school chosen corporate up until only a few years ago). It can be difficult to demonstrate such interest, but even the smallest hints, such as moot court competition or applying to a clerkship (but not following through) can help. Some PRC nationals may have had actual litigation experience as PRC attorneys before entering their JD program and that is obviously a big help. Other “switch” candidates have expressed to our Kinney team a desire to make such a switch for a year or more and that can be powerful evidence as well because we certainly will let hiring partners know.

If you want to maximize your chances to get FCPA / White Collar interviews, as a transactional switch candidate, or if you just want to learn more about potentially making such a switch, then we highly recommend that you reach out to our Evan Jowers at evan@kinneyrecruiting.com. Evan has been helping US transactional associates make this switch to FCPA / White Collar in HK / China for some time now. It’s not an easy switch to make, from the standpoint of getting interviews and offers, but it can be done. Evan has been working with a number of FCPA / White Collar hiring partners in Asia for years who count on our Kinney Asia team to staff their teams. He has also become quite familiar with this practice area, due to his interest in attending various FCPA seminars in both Asia and the US and his own white collar practice background during his in-house days.

Top tier firms with FCPA / White Collar junior associate openings in HK / China over the past few years have struggled to find native Chinese litigation junior associate candidates who meet their firms’ high standards of JD academics and firm pedigree. This is why a few of these hiring partners in HK / China are turning to outstanding transactional mid-levels who can demonstrate a long-time interest in litigation and a current interest in specifically FCPA / White Collar. These hiring partners are asking Kinney’s Asia team for such candidates and are counting on us at Kinney to screen a large number of transactional to litigation switch candidates and present a few who are most suited for the group, office and opening. We have been very successful in doing so, as all of our handful of transactional to FCPA switch candidates, those who we have actually submitted to top firms after screening them for our client firms, are getting interviews and we believe most or all will have offers this year.

If you would like more information on this or any other topic re the Asia markets, as always feel free to reach out to us asia@kinneyrecruiting.com, evan@kinneyrecruiting.com or robert@kinneyrecruiting.com.

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

Please note that Robert Kinney is in New York today and tomorrow and available for meetings. Please reach out at Robert@kinneyrecruiting.com or asia@kinneyrecruiting.com if you would like to meet with him to discuss the Asia or Texas markets.

Later this month, from August 20 to 31 Robert and Evan Jowers will be working from Kinney’s Hong Kong offices and available for meetings.

In September, Evan Jowers will be back in Hong Kong and also in London.  Yuliya Vinokurova will be working from our Hong Kong offices for part of August and  September as well.

The Asia lateral hiring markets remain in fairly good condition.  Things usually slow down dramatically in July and August, due to it being the traditional two week vacation time of year, but things are busier than usual.  Hiring and interviewing  continues to take place, but typically some hirings get put on hold until September at this time of year.

There are M&A openings, especially, at top US firms in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai – such a good selection of spots that you should speak to our Evan Jowers about each firm, particular office and particular hiring partner, before deciding which to target. Those top tier firms with M&A openings in HK / China are being very selective, but those qualified can also be selective in which firms to target – as each opening, while similar on the surface, is completely different with respect to the personality of the particular team, the type of M&A work, the client list, deal sheet, career advancement expectations within that firm, level of responsibility planned for new hire, the precedent for past associates in group to land great in-house or partner track positions in region or lateral back to US, and how established that practice and that hiring partner are in China or in Asia in general.

Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney placed some of these M&A hiring partners at their current firms and just about all of them Robert, Evan and Yuliya have known very well for years.

Targeting these openings without being very well informed about them , without an hour or more discussion with your recruiter / agent about each opportunity – the pluses and minuses of joining each team, working for each hiring partner – is a disservice to yourself and your career.  It’s flying blind sort of speak, and intentionally doing so.

There may be more cap markets openings by October, if the market comes back strong in September, as we expect, after vacation season.  Earlier this year, the IPO market was very hot in Hong Kong but only a handful of top tier US firms were hiring US cap markets associates, and others were not.  That market is spotty now for all but the very top tier US cap markets practices in HK / China – things have been red hot for those groups since late ’13, both with New York and Hong Kong listings, as well as other cap markets work. Outside of that very top tier, there are very solid US cap markets practices in HK / China that are struggling to stay consistently very busy and also getting work without substantial discounts.

Southeast Asia cap markets work outside of Hong Kong (which was pretty hot in ’12 and ’13) has been slower this year but is picking up after a very slow early part of ’14.  Philippines continues to be hot, for example. Another example is India showing signs of perhaps picking up after being down for some years. Openings for this type of work can be in Hong Kong or Singapore.

Things continue to be red hot in FCPA / White Collar but there are only so many of these groups already established on the ground in Hong Kong / China.  Finance hiring for US associates at top tier US firms in Asia is not a frequent occurrence, but it happens here and there, similar to arbitration / disputes (in Singpaore especially) hiring of US associates. Hiring for antitrust US associates has been picking up recently in China, but is still small in number.

As always, feel free to reach out to asia@kinneyrecruiting.com to set up a phone call with the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, Robert Kinney or one of our other Asia team members.

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

It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.

For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.

For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls.  This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.

Evan and the rest of our Asia team – Robert Kinney, Yuliya Vinokurova, Andrew Lin, Jack Hopper and Danielle Cyr  - are of course happy to advise law students from other JD programs as well.

To set up a phone call with Evan or one of our other Asia team members, please email Evan Jowers at evan@kinneyrecruiting.com or asia@kinneyrecruiting.com.

The choices a JD makes during their IL and 2L summers and 2L falls can have an enormous affect on their future marketability in Asia, should they be interested in such a move.

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

The head of our Asia recruiting, Evan Jowers will be in Seoul all next week and available for meetings. Evan was in Hong Kong all last week and was unable to meet with everyone who reached out, due to a completely booked schedule. Apologies for that. He is in Hong Kong monthly and Robert Kinney and Yuliya Vinokurova are often in Hong Kong as well, so feel free to reach out to us at asia@kinneyrecruiting.com to schedule a Hong Kong meeting for later this month or next month, or just a phone call if you prefer.

Kinney has had the privilege of representing and placing a number of Korean background US associates and counsels and one partner in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore over the years. We are now getting more involved in the expanding Seoul market. We are helping two of our law firm clients open up offices in Korea at present and that will be taking up some of Evan’s time, but he will have time also to meet with US, UK and Australia trained associates at international firms and Korean firms who would like to meet Evan or re-establish a connection with him. By all means any of the attorneys in Korea who we have worked with and placed in the past should also feel free to reach out to Evan as well at evan@kinneyrecruiting.com. Having any reason to look for a move in the foreseeable future is never a pre-requisite to setting up a meeting with any of our Kinney Asia team. Most of the folks we meet and establish relations with over the years in Asia are not interested in considering a move at our first meeting (or the next several meetings). We always enjoy a good discussion on the market and an individual’s career plans. Ultimately, over 50% of those attorneys we place in Asia have had such discussions with us for 2 or more years prior. Some of our closest relationships in Asia we may never place because they are doing so well at their firm for years and have no reason to move, and that’s fine by us.

We do have a limited amount of Korean background US associate openings in Seoul in project finance, asset finance, M&A and cap markets. It is not a very hot market for lateral hiring at present, but things are picking up when compared to the past two years. We think that the lateral hiring market in Korea will be stronger in ’15 and ’16, conditioned upon market conditions of course, as the dust settles on all these new offices having opened in Korea recently. Most of the US firms in Korea are small offices of perhaps one partner and one associate and will stay small, as they are there to connect their firm’s litigation or other practices back in the US with important potential or actual large Korean clients. The smartphone wars have become extremely lucrative for some US firm’s litigation practices. There are other firms though, some that were among the first US or UK firms to open in Korea, and some which more recently opened or are still working out plans to open, that are true Korean corporate, cap markets, project finance and / or finance practices. In the coming years these larger Korea transactional practice groups (and now or soon to be Seoul offices) will hire from time to time, just as some of the well established Korea practices hired in Hong Kong over the years (before they moved to Seoul).

As always, feel free to reach out to Kinney Recruiting at asia@kinneyrecruiting.com if you have any questions regarding the Asia markets.

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

Our advice to any Mandarin speaking 2L summer associate who is interested in a future transfer or lateral US associate move to Hong Kong / China: It’s not just about corporate and other transactional practices any more. If you are more interested in litigation than transactional, don’t hesitate to choose litigation or a litigation-related practice area. There is a sharply growing need at top US firms in Hong Kong / China for laterals and transfers in US litigation (mostly FCPA / White Collar work), Anti-Trust, and Disputes / Arbitration. This is not just a trend, it’s a permanent change on the landscape. We find it exciting that Mandarin speaking JDs now have more options to choose from in positioning themselves for a future Hong Kong / China move. Feel free to contact us at asia@kinneyrecruiting.com if you are a summer associate interested in Asia and have any questions about choosing a practice. It can be one of the biggest decisions you make in your career and yet one usually made without much analysis. Also, feel free to contact us if you are an associate interested in joining an FCPA / White Collar practice or Disputes practice in Asia. We have made numerous such placements in the past few years and a number of our candidates are interviewing for FCPA / White Collar positions at present in Asia.

Check out this relevant recent Legal Week article by Elizabeth Broomhall, where Kinney Recruiting’s Evan Jowers is quoted several times: Courting Eastern promise – the drive by international firms to recruit more disputes lawyers in Asia.



Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be working out of our Hong Kong offices the week of June 16, if you would like to set up a meeting with them, to discuss your career and the Asia markets. Evan is in Hong Kong monthly and Robert is there very frequently as well. It is not possible to find a recruiter who has placed half as many US associates and counsels in Hong Kong / China as Evan Jowers and you are not going to find recruiters with more experience in US partner movements in Hong Kong / China as Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers, but Robert and Evan have also advised a lot of US attorneys in Asia over the years, including senior partners, who have not had reason to move from their firms. It is ultimately a relationship business more than a placement business, although placements can be a bi-product of a lot of good relationships. Feel free to reach out to Robert and Evan at robert@kinneyrecruiting.com and evan@kinneyrecruiting.com to set up a meeting.

During any type of lateral hiring market in Asia, hot or cold, we will have the usual M&A, Cap Markets, FCPA / White Collar and Project Finance openings for Mandarin speaking junior to mid-level US associates in HK / China, as well as Korean fluent corporate openings in Seoul and Japanese fluent corporate openings in Tokyo. We have a bunch of those now, as always, in what is currently average and spotty lateral hiring market conditions (Asia lateral market report coming next week). Here though are two of our more unique openings in Asia:

Korean fluent, Project Finance / Asset Finance, mid-level to senior associate (Hong Kong / Seoul)

-This spot is for a 4th to 8th year US associate and will be initially based at a top US firm’s Hong Kong office. However, the hire will likely need to move to the firm’s Seoul office within a year or so. There is a realistic partnership track for this role, especially because of the new hire’s important role in building the Seoul office. Already based in Asia is preferred, but candidates will also be considered from US and Europe. This position is unique for two reasons: Firstly, it is not common to have project finance or asset finance openings for Korean fluent US associates. We have filed a number of such spots over the years, but its not a common opening. Secondly, this new hire will have the special circumstance of arriving into a position where there already exists a business case for promotion to partnership in the future.

PE Fund Formation, mid-level to senior associate, English only ok (Hong Kong)

-This spot is for a 3rd to 7th year associate at one of the top PE fund formation practices in Hong Kong, at a top US firm. What makes this opening uncommon is that English Only is ok for this spot and the expectation is that the new hire with come from New York, London or another major western market where there are very strong PE fund formation practices. The vast majority of the time we have a PE fund formation opening in HK / China, Mandarin is required or at least preferred. There is a business case for this funds group to add a partner in some years so this is a realistic partner track position if the new hire is on the senior end of the 3rd to 7th year range. The range is big because the hiring partner is more focused on finding the highest quality hire with the best PE fund formation experience, who can lead deals, rather than focusing on an exact class year. Of course, the expectations for the new hire will vary depending on their seniority.

Both of the above spots have very competitive pay packages, including NYC top market base and bonus, and very competitive expat / cola / housing allowances for Hong Kong. The hiring partners for both spots have great reputations in the market, not only for their practice, but also for being great mentors and treating their associates well.

As always, feel free to reach out to us at asia@kinneyrecruiting.com if you are interested in one of these openings, one of our many other US associate openings in Asia, or if you just want to talk about your career plans and how to make yourself more marketable in any of the Asia big law markets.

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

Our advice to any Mandarin speaking 2L summer associate who is interested in a future transfer or lateral US associate move to Hong Kong / China: It’s not just about corporate and other transactional practices any more. If you are more interested in litigation than transactional, don’t hesitate to choose litigation or a litigation-related practice area. There is a sharply growing need at top US firms in Hong Kong / China for laterals and transfers in US litigation (mostly FCPA / White Collar work), Anti-Trust, and Disputes / Arbitration. This is not just a trend, it’s a permanent change on the landscape. We find it exciting that Mandarin speaking JDs now have more options to choose from in positioning themselves for a future Hong Kong / China move. Feel free to contact us at asia@kinneyrecruiting.com if you are a summer associate interested in Asia and have any questions about choosing a practice. It can be one of the biggest decisions you make in your career and yet one usually made without much analysis. Also, feel free to contact us if you are an associate interested in joining an FCPA / White Collar practice or Disputes practice in Asia. We have made numerous such placements in the past few years and a number of our candidates are interviewing for FCPA / White Collar positions at present in Asia.

Check out this relevant recent Legal Week article by Elizabeth Broomhall, where Kinney Recruiting’s Evan Jowers is quoted several times: Courting Eastern promise – the drive by international firms to recruit more disputes lawyers in Asia.


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

Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.

The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now. Evan Jowers also has over 150 US associate placements in Hong Kong / China in the past 6 years, and our full Asia team has numerous more placements, and each of those placement experiences (as well as other persons we represented but did not place, usually due to an internal transfer choice that we supported) adds in some measure to our understanding of the market. There is a story behind every placement after all. It’s therefore pretty easy for us to get a good read on the market and what hiring trends will likely be like during the next 6 months or so, in any market condition. In fact, one main reason that senior US partners meet with us regularly in Hong Kong / China is because even when they are not hiring they look at Evan and Robert as a great source of information on the market and to get a feel of what their counterparts at other firms are thinking, simply because we know so many key folks in the market and get their opinions and predictions on things on a daily basis.

Back in October ’13, it seemed pretty obvious that by February and March we would be in a bit of a hiring boom, as long as the markets continue to ramp up as they were starting to. Clearly, we are now in a full blown IPO boom in Hong Kong / China.

But what does this mean for US associate lateral hiring in Hong Kong / China going forward in the coming weeks and months? Obviously, the lateral hiring market has become a lot better. However, it’s not simply a situation where the relatively early stages of a hot market upturn (let’s hope it lasts a year or more) translates into immediate US associate hiring. It is also not a situation where if a hot market continues for a year or more that a hiring boom coincides with the length of such a nice corporate / cap markets deal flow boom.

Thus, despite a buzz in the lateral hiring market and the inevitable 5 fold increase in cold callers claiming they would like to make some quick cash with your resume by emailing in on your behalf to firms they greatly exaggerate ties to (well they don’t say those exact words, but I am accurately translating 95% of them for you), it simply is not the case that all or even most of the better US corporate / cap markets practices (referred to as “corporate” from here on out) are hiring multiple US associates in Hong Kong / China right now and in fact about half of them are not (yet) actively hiring more than one, and in some cases still not hiring at all. With that said, we find that the better US corporate practices in Hong Kong / China commonly hire in bunches (meaning 2 or 3) when they do decide to hire in the relatively early stages of a deal flow boom, especially the HK IPO / US cap markets boom that is occurring now in Hong Kong / China.

For example, one of our top 10 US firm clients in Hong Kong / China hired 2 new junior US corporate associates in December, hired again recently, and are looking for two more at present. Another one of our top 10 US firm clients in Hong Kong / China had a key opening to fill in their US cap markets practice, and they have found their new hire (through Kinney, on an exclusive search), but because they also like very much some of our other candidates, they are likely to hire a 2nd US associate soon, and possibly even a 3rd. Another top 10 US firm client of ours has two fantastic mid level M&A associate openings and we are helping with that on an exclusive basis as well and those hires will likely be made this month. That same firm hired an M&A associate from Kinney in HK late last year. These are just examples and there are other positive ones. Things are obviously hot on the hiring front at these top US firms in Hong Kong / China, but these hiring sprees are only of 2 to 5 associates and once that is done there will not be a big need most likely for the rest of the current deal flow boom in Hong Kong / China that could last through ’14 and even well into ’15 (should we be be so lucky).

However, there are also just as many top US corporate practices in Hong Kong / China which are either not hiring US associates at all yet or are have one opening at the moment (the type of opening that can exist in the slow to average hiring market that we saw in Hong Kong / China for much of ’13). First off, if a top US firm in Hong Kong / China does not have a leading US cap markets practice in China and a leading local HK IPO practice (they pretty much go hand in hand), then they will not have such urgent staffing needs in the current IPO boom. Also, some of the top 5 US cap markets practices in China, while being very busy, simply did not have to hire multiple lateral US associates in order to keep up with the deal flow increase (due to being well staffed already and also having mandarin fluent internal transfers from their US offices to come over), at least for now. Also, keep in mind that top US firms’ global management, while loosening the purse strings quite a bit since the great recession, are still going to make their even busiest partners jump through some hoops to get approval for new hires and this can slow down the pace of US associate lateral hiring in Hong Kong / China, even in a boom market, at some firms. Top US firms are, for the most part, going to still be conservative in green lighting new lateral hires, even though the great recession is pretty far back in our rear view window by now. Until there is a true boom market again in the US, deals will continue to be leanly staffed in US and abroad at major law firms, because until then, firms have the leverage in the hiring market (unlike, for example, in ’06 and ’07 when the market leverage resided more with associates).

So what type of US associates are getting hired in Hong Kong / China during this current and relatively young cap markets boom in Hong Kong / China? Taking a look, for example at the recent, current and expected shortly new hires at top 10 US firms in Hong Kong / China described two paragraphs above, it becomes pretty clear what is required – All of these recent and current lateral hires are fluent in spoken Mandarin and written Chinese, most being native Chinese (for most of these spots being native chinese would not give a per se advantage over a non native who is fluent in mandarin and chinese). Less than half come from top 10 peer firms, with most coming from top 30 firms. This is quite a difference from ’12 and ’13 when it was difficult to land at such US firms in Hong Kong / China without coming from a peer top 10 firm, although there were relatively few such openings then, compared to the current boom market, and naturally a log jam of great candidates competing for those spots.

Yes, it is easier to upgrade your firm (regarding prestige ranking) in a US to Hong Kong / China move or a within Hong Kong / China move now, but firms are continuing to be very selective and any upgrading of firm type in such a lateral move has a lot to do with a limited number of Mandarin fluent US associates available on the market (due to firms hiring them and also NYC market getting better and such folks not always as quick to move to Asia now as they were from ’08 to ’12) and being able to start quickly (already on the ground in Hong Kong / China). The top US firms in Hong Kong / China are going to continue to be very selective and have the same JD academic requirements during this boom period. However, some top 10 US firms in Hong Kong / China are fine with hiring associates from top 30, 40 or 50 firms because of the state of the market and the skill set and background they are looking for. Almost all of such positions are going to require Mandarin, and most will require reading and writing Chinese as well. JD academic remain same as before, although there are usually a few cases in boom hiring markets in Hong Kong / China where a firm’s Asia partners get an exception granted by global management regarding a new hire’s grades being just off the cut off for the firm’s policy on that particular law school.

In a boom market hires are made a lot quicker. The interview process can be concluded in a week or two instead of 2+ months (as can be the case in a slow or more normal hiring market in Hong Kong / China. One of our recent placements at a top 10 US firm in Hong Kong was verbally given an offer during her first day of interviews. Hiring partners are aware that their target candidate pool for an opening shrinks quickly in a hot market, they have a full green light from firm management to make a hire, and they have urgent need to staff new deals coming in. Thus, interview processes and offer decisions are made quickly.

We believe that the handful of top tier US firms’ cap markets practices that are hiring US associates now in Hong Kong / China will make most of their US associate hires for ’14 by April. By then, some of their other peers in the top tier that are not yet hiring US corporate / cap markets associates will be hiring multiple laterals. However, the majority of the US associate hires during this current boom in Hong Kong / China at top tier US firms will be made within a 5 month period. Even if the boom goes well into ’15, there will not be another several months period of so much hiring. The top US firms will continue to hire in 2nd half ’14 and into ’15 (as long as the boom lasts), on an as needed basis of course, but there will most likely no longer be a need for multiple associate hires in the same month (or same week as we are seeing now at some firms) by the same office.

A number of firms in Hong Kong / China have urgent M&A US associate openings as well, including at top 10 US firms. Those positions though are being filled differently than the China US cap markets openings – in that for the M&A spots the interviewing and offer decision process is taking longer now than for the US associate hires needed to support all the new IPO work coming in.

Also, keep in mind that during IPO booms US associates hired to be in a mix M&A and cap markets practice or even to have more of a focus on M&A will in many cases have mostly cap markets work in their first 6 months or so at their new firm. This will happen because there will simply be an overflow of IPO work coming in to any top tier US firm in Hong Kong / China which has a solid US cap markets practice in China.

If the IPO boom continues through this year, then at some point this summer or early fall, a number of 2nd tier US firms in Hong Kong / China will be hiring multiple US associates in a relatively short period of time as well, as the over flow of high end deals can’t all fit in the top tier US cap markets China practices. Some deals will be turned down by top tier US practices and then of course get gobbled up by 2nd tier US cap markets practices. We find that the hiring frenzy for those 2nd tier firms in such periods of sudden great deal flow in cap markets can be a bigger hiring frenzy than the earlier one by the top tier firms. This is because some of these 2nd tier US cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China are pretty small sized and they will have to ramp up very quickly.

While things were very hot over the past two years in other SE Asia markets, such as the Philippines for example, SE Asia deal flow has slowed down quite a bit in ’14. There are some openings in HK and Singapore which do not require Mandarin, but in HK most of those positions end up being filled by Mandarin speakers anyways. Singapore is a rapidly growing US big law market, but it can still be difficult to break into that market unless you have a connection to Singapore (or at least SE Asia) and are currently at a top 20 US firm, in the right practice area. Even during busy Singapore markets, there is not all that much hiring and those spots for US associates at top tier US firms and magic circle firms in Singapore are very competitive.

The interview process for US associate candidates at Pan Asia practices is dragging out quite a bit at Hong Kong and Singapore firms at present, because of the focus on hiring needs for China practices and there being plenty of great candidates on the market who don’t speak Mandarin but could fit well in any Pan Asia practice.

We think there will be an uptick in hiring of English only US associates in Hong Kong by the fall, but only if the boom continues throughout ’14. At some point, Pan Asia US partners have openings and in many cases it can be because the mandarin speaker they hired in the past few years has now been recruited by an top US China practice. When the Hong Kong / China markets are booming for a sustained period of a year or more, then almost any hiring need by any US partner in Asia will get green lighted by management (unless the biggest US recession of our lifetime is taking place) and the top tier US firms will sometimes hire a stellar English only speaker for a China and Pan Asia mix role when there is not a suitable (by their high standards) mandarin speaking candidate available for the spot. Until that happens, it will continue to be very difficult for a non Mandarin speaker on a job search in Hong Kong / China, but its not impossible.

In fact, one of our top 10 US firm clients in Hong Kong has now a great 4th to 6th year M&A US associate opening and English only is ok.

As always, feel free to reach out to us at asia@kinneyrecruiting.com to set up a call with Evan Jowers, for detailed information on any opening and also the market in general, or simply to get good career advice.

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