Herbert Smith suffers Hong Kong mass exit

Herbert Smith’s Hong Kong-based litigation department has suffered an exodus of associates, with more than 75 per cent of its junior lawyers leaving during the past year.

At least 17 associates have resigned during the past 12 months – a “higher than normal” turnover, according to Asian dispute resolution head Mark Johnson.

Litigation partner Gavin Lewis is also set to leave the litigation department, having accepted a job with UBS Investment Bank.

The news comes after The Lawyer revealed that 30 litigation associates had quit Herbert Smith’s London office during the past year (10 October).

Former associates told The Lawyer that the litigation departments in London and Hong Kong have suffered from a lack of morale, poor communication and uncertainty about career progression.

In Hong Kong, Johnson defended the turnover figure, stating that even though the numbers were unusually high, there were a number of contributing factors.

He said litigation traditionally suffered during periods of economic expansion.

“There is a range of reasons why these people have left,” he said. “We view some of the moves as quite positive because a few of the associates have gone to investment banks, which will obviously strengthen out relationships with those teams.”

Johnson admitted some of the senior associates had left to pursue partnership prospects at other firms.

“We like to be straightforward with people and we understand, as do our associates, that not everyone can make partner,” he said.