There have been some mixed messages in Asia over the past week. First came Freshfields’ highly-anticipated relaunch in Singapore, confirming the city state’s importance. Then there was Clifford Chance’s shocking move to ask its Singapore capital markets associates to take voluntary sabbaticals, responding to a drop in demand in the market.
Meanwhile in Hong Kong some international firms are said to be exercising “stealth” downsizing - but Slaughter and May has reaffirmed its commitment to the jurisdiction, and is even thinking of hiring US lawyers to build up a US law capability there.
Many would jump to the conclusion that Asia’s bubble is about to burst. But we think it’s a time of change and certain adjustments need to be done. However, it’s a firm’s long-term commitment, patience and selective strategic decisions that will ultimately determine its fate in Asia.
After I completed my Masters at NYU in 2002, I did a half-year attachment with Weil Gotshal & Manges in New York. It was an enriching experience, and I was able to get an overview of the US bankruptcy regime. That continues to be useful to this day, particularly in cross-border insolvency or restructuring cases.