Job Watch: China/Hong Kong

In booming China there is strong demand for lawyers across a wide range of sectors, says Anouska Tamony, a consultant at RedLaw specialising in the Far East.

“In mainland China senior talent is in great demand,” she comments. “With many international firms hiring to tap into a market that still has great potential, local partners with strong client and governmental relationships are sought-after.”

As Paul Turner of Garfield Robbins notes, rises in M&A activity, IPOs and investment have upped recruitment levels.

“Firms have been staffing up to deal with these needs,” he says.

“In a candidate-scarce market the best candidates have been able to move to the larger international firms on higher salaries.”

Firms have often looked to London to source talent, according to William Chan, a legal consultant at Barclay Simpson in Hong Kong.

“In 2010-11 it was common to see London-trained corporate lawyers move to Hong Kong to handle M&A work and IPO listings for Chinese companies based in Hong Kong,” says Chan.

But Chan stresses that the corporate focus is shifting towards Shanghai. “These positions have been harder to fill as the preference is for Mandarin fluency and the ability to read simplified Chinese,” he adds. “While these candidates do exist, they tend to be in Hong Kong and reluctant to relocate.”

In-house opportunities are also plentiful, according to Eddie Tan of Laurence Simons.

“Within in-house we’ve seen a number of roles being recruited in commerce and industry, IT and manufacturing,” says Tan.

Daniel Cardon, manager of Robert Walters Hong Kong, comments that even sectors in difficulty are looking to recruit.

“The in-house sector has been active in sectors such as gaming, professional services, retail and real estate, although financial services has been quiet, as expected,” he says. “Since Easter there’s been a rise on the buy side, with new entrants to Hong Kong and contract positions with investment banks.”

When it comes to language skills, fluency in Mandarin is more or less a must, says Tan.

“Candidates who can speak Mandarin are at an advantage – especially those applying for managerial roles that require communication both internally and externally,” he says.

“We’re seeing 80 per cent of new instructions requiring Mandarin – in some cases native – and Chinese drafting skills,” adds Cardon.

Native speakers with London training are particularly sought-after, notes Chan.

“Lawyers raised in China, Hong Kong or Singapore and trained in London always have opportunities in Asia,” Chan says. “Lawyers who have proven themselves in London and are able to operate almost natively in Hong Kong/China will always be in demand.”

Mandarin-speaking European lawyers will also always be in demand. “These candidates tend to be able to work in a English-speaking environment and handle Chinese clients,” adds Chan.

China/Hong Kong jobs on
(as of 11 May)

Lawyers registered on who are looking for jobs in China/Hong Kong
(as of 9 May)