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: [email protected].


[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 four years. You can reach them by email: asia at kinneyrecruiting dot com.]

Evan here. Please note that Robert Kinney and I will be back in Hong Kong all next week for meetings. Although our schedule is tight, we can fit in some meetings with prospective biglaw or in-house candidates. Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].

In just the past few weeks, we have seen a noticeable rise in the expat / cola allowances for US associates at some of the most competitive group of US and UK firms in HK / China. In fact , it appears that for the first time $80,000 may be taking hold as the eventual standard in HK / China. For the past several years, while there were anywhere from zero to four firms paying as much as $80,000 expat / cola for associates with no children, most of the top US and UK firms remained in the $60,000 to $65,000 allowance range. The competitive range continues to be $60,000 to $80,000, but more firms are at the top of that range than ever before in HK / China. Further, two top US firms pay $90,000 expat / cola (although one of those has tax equalization on the base).

While there has been already a trend in ‘10 for a number of the US and UK firms with less competitive expat / cola allowances to step it up (see http://www.theasiachronicles.com/archives/2264), there has until very recently not been much movement in the competitive group, most of which have allowances in the mid $60,000’s (keep in mind that many major US and UK firms are still not in that competitive expat allowance range of $60,000 plus, but the size of that group is becoming smaller). double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Asia Chronicles: EXPAT ALLOWANCES ARE GOING UP AT THE TOP END IN HK / CHINA”


[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 four years. You can reach them by email: asia at kinneyrecruiting dot com.]

Evan here. It continues to be a very busy year for lateral biglaw associate and partner hiring in Hong Kong / China. Further we have noticed that in HK, BJ and SHG there is more enthusiasm coming from US, UK and PRC firm partners, regarding the market, than we have seen since mid ’07. You can tell a big difference in enthusiasm by simply going to meetings in firm offices in those markets. Earlier this year, while it was a boom, there was optimism, but much more cautioned and guarded. Sure, the IPO boom at its current pace in China is not sustainable forever, but there is much less concern of a bubble burst or other type of economic downturn. Frankly, Hong Kong has become the market of choice for many major international companies and banks to have IPOs, with many choosing HK over NYC and London. Needless to say, US firms are going to be in and expand in HK / China for a long time. Offices are turning from outposts to much more substantial and strategic parts of US firms, globally.

Our Asia team is so busy, we have fallen behind on fully launching our new theasiachronicles.com blog and we apologize for that. Starting this weekend, we will have daily original posts, as promised (to go along with the numerous daily biglaw asia news posts).

For our readers in NYC who would like to meet us, please note that Robert and I will be in NYC again October 20 to 22. I will be back in China in a few weeks for meetings, as well as trying to catch the last days of the World Expo in Shanghai. Alexis is of course based in Hong Kong and Yuliya is based in Russia (not really Asia, but part of our Asia team nonetheless). double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Asia Chronicles: VERY HOT LATERAL MARKET CONTINUES IN ASIA – OPENINGS LISTED HERE”

[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 two years. You can reach them by email: asia at kinneyrecruiting dot com.]

Notes Regarding Recent News from Hong Kong/China

Greetings to our readers. Robert Kinney here. I’m fresh from a visit to our Hong Kong office, where Evan Jowers and I had a big week with literally dozens of client meetings over 10 days. It is difficult to conceive of for most of our readers who are not in Hong Kong/China already, but the legal market there is red-hot. It is probably hotter in many ways than in the boom-times of 2006-2007. The pockets of activity are more hidden than before though, and the requirements are much tougher.

Evan Jowers will be speaking this evening (Monday, September 27, 2010) from 7:30 to 9:30 PM at NYU’s Vanderbilt Hall (40 Washington Square South, Room 204) as part of a panel discussion on the best strategy to land a job in the current job market in Asia. As always, we are grateful to the US-China Legal Exchange Foundation, as well as well as the NYU Asia Law Society and the NYU APALSA for the opportunity to speak as part of this panel. Any of our readers who are located in New York and are interested in hearing the latest information about the job market in Asia, particularly Hong Kong/China, please feel free to attend the discussion. It will certainly be instructive.

For the benefit of those readers who are not in New York but are still interested to hear what has changed in Asia, I have the following notes regarding current openings. Please feel free to follow up with me if you have any questions or want to drill into deeper into the needs described:

• Many of our clients are looking for Hong Kong qualified capital markets associates. The most impressive mid-levels to seniors in HK are now perhaps in more demand than any other group of biglaw associates, due to the current trend of top US firms building HK local practices (we know of two US firms about to make announcements regarding lateral HK partner hires).

• A number of our clients want US capital markets associates; several of these offer a mix of M&A and capital markets work. double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Asia Chronicles: Quick Notes”

HK Local Practices Being Built at US Firms

The growing importance of Hong Kong as not only a gateway to China and Southeast Asia, but also as a regional financial center in its own right, has compelled many foreign firms to add a Hong Kong local practice. For the last two years, Hong Kong has been the world’s leading IPO center (surpassing New York and London) and clients are increasingly seeking one firm to handle both the US and Hong Kong side of the IPO. Even General Motors was reported to have seriously considered a Hong Kong listing along with its planned NYSE/Toronto listings, only to drop the idea in part because of Hong Kong’s more restrictive listing requirements. Hong Kong is already the preferred market for international share offerings by China’s behemoth state-owned enterprises, which previously might have considered listing in Europe or the US.

Not all US firms will see an immediate need to acquire a Hong Kong practice as long as they continue to land major deals because of the participation of their US clients (mainly US-based financial institutions) in Asia-based transactions. Yet, as long as Hong Kong continues to be the world’s IPO leader and Asia continues its financial dominance, there will be pressure on foreign firms to add a Hong Kong arm to their practice.

Furthermore, a US firm adding a Hong Kong practice to an already strong US law practice is a throwing down of the gauntlet, so to speak – a signal to the more-established Magic Circle firms that they are committed to Asia and intend to be “all in” as a major regional player. In response, some British firms in Hong Kong have recently invested heavily in expanding their already strong US practice in Hong Kong, with Allen & Overy being a perfect example. double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Asia Chronicles: BIGLAW HIRING TRENDS IN ASIA”


[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 four years. You can reach them by email: asia at kinneyrecruiting dot com.]

** Check out our new daily Asia biglaw blog at THEASIACHRONICLES.COM! *

Evan here. Senior cap markets associates at top US firms who are native Chinese have never been as marketable in HK / China as they are today. While such persons have over the past five years always had attractive HK /China options at US and UK firms, as well as in-house, in ’10 we have seen these opportunities expand and improve (more clear shot to partner opportunities than usual) significantly. Further, this may be a relatively small window of time, one to two years perhaps, where these clear shot to partner positions are available in such relative abundance (a handful available at one time, versus zero to one usually at any given time).

To clarify, a clear shot to partner opportunity is one where a business case already exists at a new hire’s new firm for that person to make equity partner. In other words, there is already an equity partner slot open and pegged for such new hire. Of course the senior associate / counsel / salary partner will have to perform, but there is already plenty of deals for that person to execute and the only variable (baring a catastrophe in the market) to making equity partner is that person’s performance, rather than the many variables outside of one’s control that almost always come into play for equity partner promotion (even in the most realistic and strong partnership tracks, there is most usually not already a business case for a new hire to make partner before he / she joins the firm and the business case can be in part made by the new hire’s performance, but also even more usually relies on supervising partners’ and / or new hire’s ability to expand the current practice). double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Asia Chronicles: Golden Opportunities for Native Chinese Senior Cap Markets Associates”


[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 two years. You can reach them by email: asia at kinneyrecruiting dot com.]

** Check out our new daily Asia biglaw blog at THEASIACHRONICLES.COM! *

Evan here. While Korea practices, mostly based in Hong Kong, have been busy over the past year and in some cases even quite understaffed, there has up until just recently not been much hiring going of US associates with Korean background. We recently made a couple such placements at top 10 US firms in HK, one class of ’07 and one ’08, and appear close on another ’08 and an ‘05. However, there are many more very well qualified Korean US associates on the market in Asia than there are openings. Further, firms that do have needs in this area are moving very slowly to make hires, sometimes waiting months to complete an interview process.

Part of the reason is because firms have so much leverage in the lateral hiring market, due to the large number of native Korean US associates seeking to lateral at present from top US firms in NYC to Asia. The other main reason is that many of the top US and UK firms in Asia, while off hiring freezes months ago, still do not have the full green light to hire all the US associates they need. When firm management back in US or UK is only allowing one or two US associate hires in HK, for example, those offices are hiring the biggest area of need – native Chinese US cap markets associates.

We are predicting that there will be more hiring US associate hiring in Korea practices this fall and in early ’11 than was the case in the first half of ’10. There will also be more hiring of Korean native US associates at firms in HK that do not have a Korean practice, per se, but have a strong need for an associate or two with Korean fluency and ability to work on the ground in Korea for much of the year. One of our recent ’08 placements fits this description. Such needs arise as firms have more deal flow out of Korea, but not any Korean native associates. This type of hire will not be for only Korean deal work, but will be a mix of Korean and Pan Asia markets deal flow, with special responsibilities coming in the Korea work of course. double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Asia Chronicles: STATE OF LATERAL US ASSOCIATE HIRING – KOREA PRACTICES”


[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 two years. You can reach them by email: asia at kinneyrecruiting dot com.]

** Check out our new daily Asia biglaw blog at THEASIACHRONICLES.COM! **

Evan here. When considering a move to Singapore, it is more important than in other Asia markets that you have some type of credible connection to the city-state. This would seem ironic, since in Singapore firms routinely hire English-only US associates, so on the surface it would seem the perfect Asia market to target if you do not have an Asian background.

While it may have been true during the ’07 hiring boom that associates without Singapore ties were able to penetrate that market , this is no longer the case. US and UK firms all over Asia in ‘07 were dealing with a shortage of well-qualified US associate candidates, so even though Singapore was not hiring nearly as much as Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, and Tokyo, it was an easier place to land in ‘07 for someone who had no connection at all to Asia.

Today, things are quite different. While the number of openings in Asia are once again relatively high (especially in Hong Kong / China and Singapore), there are many more qualified candidates for these positions than there were in ‘07. A number of our Singapore Biglaw client firms are hiring now, but are being understandably very selective.

One of the key factors our candidates for Singapore are dealing with is the issue of why, exactly, they are moving to Singapore. Why Singapore, why this particular paradise tropical location? Unprepared candidates or recruitment consultants are sometimes caught off guard. Were your parents or grandparents born in Singapore, were you born in Singapore (as Evan was), do you have an aunt in Kuala Lumpur? Think about what you can come up with in terms of nexus before contacting us, let alone sitting for an interview. double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Asia Chronicles: Singapore Nexus”


[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 two years. You can reach them by email: asia at kinneyrecruiting dot com.]

** Check out our new daily Asia biglaw blog at THEASIACHRONICLES.COM! **

Evan here. While PRC firms, Korean firms and Japanese firms have for years successfully recruited US biglaw associates, in ’09 such recruitment was more successful than usual. There are two reasons for this trend: i) most top US firms in Asia were on hiring freeze throughout ’09, making it extremely difficult for even the most impressive US associates to lateral to a US practice in Asia in ’09 (such lateral moves did happen, most with Kinney involved, but not in great number, relative to ’06, ’07, ’08 and ‘10); and ii) there has been a feeling in the market in the past couple of years that some local firms in Asia, especially PRC firms, are catching up to US practices there.

We know a number of US associates who made the move from top 10 US firms to PRC firms in ’09 (some with Kinney’s help). We also know a handful of US associates from top tier US firms that moved to Korean and Japanese local firms in ’09. This type of lateral move has been a good one for those looking for more of an entrepreneurial role early on in their career, especially if they have very strong personal connections at banks and other relevant entities in the target country. However, this type of move has been a bad one for those who are focused on keeping their technical skill set at a top US practice level of sharpness (in order to open up career doors now and in the future).

Unfortunately, most lawyers realize at some point that the skill set is paramount in importance in a legal career, typically coming ahead of even client control when working at top-tier firms. Having joined a local firm, it is very difficult to move from a local firm back to a top US firm, even within the same market where the associate has been getting unique major domestic firm experience. This is true, even if (in that market) US associate lateral hiring has picked up tremendously (which is the case in HK / China this year). double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Asia Chronicles: CONSIDERING A PRC FIRM OR OTHER LOCAL FIRM IN ASIA?”


[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 two years. You can reach them by email: asia at kinneyrecruiting dot com.]

Evan here. Please note that we have launched a new daily blog – THEASIACHRONICLES.COM – that will include our posts here at Above The Law, but also add additional daily posts, as well as source relevant Asia biglaw news from various media. You can search through all posts using “tags” (ie, expat packages) or any search term you come up with. Here is the latest post below:
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WHY EXPAT / COLA DID NOT FALL IN HONG KONG

By Evan Jowers

A great draw of US biglaw associates to Hong Kong is the lucrative and somewhat illogical expat / cola allowances. Even though the cost of living in Hong Kong is not much different than New York (housing is a bit higher in HK), it is common to receive an expat / cola allowance of well over $60,000 USD.

Last year most in the Hong Kong market expected the lucrative US associate expat / cola allowances to lower dramatically, due to the global recession (which did greatly reduce deal flow in HK / China from late ’08 to mid ’09) and with many firms on global hiring freeze at the time. However, in reality, the expat / cola allowances at the more competitive US and UK firms in HK were never really in danger of dropping much, even during the very slow lateral biglaw hiring period in HK from December ’08 until October ’09.

Actually, when it comes to expat / cola at major US and UK firms in HK, there are two groups:

Competitive: the majority of the top 20 US and UK magic circle firms, and a minority of lower ranked firms, pay expat / cola somewhere in a range of $60,000 to $90,000 (for singles with no children; some of these firms give much higher expat / cola to associates with kids, especially school-aged), with the majority of those in mid 60’s and only a handful at $80,000 or above. These firms all have set in stone non-negotiable expat / cola allowances for each US associate and it is the same allowance at all associate seniority levels. double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Asia Chronicles: KINNEY LAUNCHES DAILY ASIA BIGLAW BLOG – THEASIACHRONICLES.COM / WHY EXPAT / COLA DID NOT FALL IN HONG KONG”


[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 two years. You can reach them by email: asia at kinneyrecruiting dot com.]

Evan here, writing from Hong Kong. Robert and I are just finishing up another busy trip to visit clients and candidates in Hong Kong. During the course of ten days we had over 50 meetings (mostly with firms regarding US associate hiring) and potential candidates (at associate and partner level).

We have Alexis on the ground permanently in HK, but it is always good for Robert and me to continue to visit HK about once every two months, to stay informed and meet our clients in person. I will be heading to Beijing later this month and Robert and I will be back in HK in August. Although Dubai is not exactly a hot lateral market this year, I will be also in Dubai in August (unfortunately at the time of year when it is literally too hot to walk down the street very far).

Firms where we have very recently made placements of US associates in HK / China, in the past several months: (* – multiple placements)

· Simpson Thacher *
· Milbank *
· Paul Hastings *
· Allen & Overy *
· Latham*
· Cleary
· Skadden
· Sidley Austin
· Ropes & Gray
· Kirkland & Ellis
· Jones Day
double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Asia Chronicles: KINNEY’S RECENT HK / CHINA US ASSOCIATE PLACEMENTS / LATERAL MARKET REPORT”

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