Legal jobs market update (Hong Kong in-house lawyers) Autumn/Fall 2016
Hong Kong’s in-house legal jobs market has been consistently strong throughout 2016. Factoring in more compliance and regulatory burdens, and dealing with the fallout from the devaluation of the Yuan, Brexit, major global job cuts in the banking and finance industries, as well as increasing investments in Asia, more and more responsibilities are bestowed on in-house legal teams. And with recent developments in the the US Presidential elections, more uncertainty for businesses lie ahead in the short term (the paradox to this, being that it's a 'good thing' in that it will keep in-house legal functions busy!).
The future looks bright for the in-house legal jobs market.
IN-HOUSE PARALEGALS & LEGAL MANAGERS
There has been high demand for experienced paralegals, legal executives and legal managers with solid commercial contracts drafting experience, with many MNC’s implementing a written test or contract review analysis as part of their interview process for new hires.
In-house opportunities continue to pose an exciting and challenging alternate career path for Private Practice paralegals who are looking for broader job scope, a wider range of duties and greater exposure to the commercial and business functions of a company.
There continues to be some demand for Regulatory Litigation paralegals, and Banking/Transaction paralegals for financial services firms and banks. In most, if not all, cases, a strong command of written and spoken Putonghua is required, in addition to strong English.
IN-HOUSE – HEADS OF LEGAL/GENERAL COUNSELS/SENIOR COUNSELS
Amongst the multinational corporations and local companies in Hong Kong, there has been a high demand for senior or heads of legal with solid people management skills as well as Mandarin Chinese language skills. Most of the demand has arisen due to movement of legal professionals, who in turn are moving for external advancement prospects. There has been a noticeable rise in competing offer opportunities at the senior level.
In the banking and financial services arena, there has been a rise in demand for senior lawyers from PRC backed financial service companies and/or investment banking.
During 2016, the most sought-after technical skills-set at the senior level has been M&A, real estate/property development, construction general commercial and listed company compliance experience.
‘Pure’ Intellectual Property In-house Counsel roles have been less readily available since sometimes these functions are incorporated into a general in-house lawyer’s remit. However, commercial litigation/regulatory roles have become more popular.
"there has been a high demand for senior or heads of legal with solid people management skills as well as Mandarin.."
Large conglomerates and listcos as well as multinational corporations have been ‘beefing up’ their compliance functions. In some cases, these functions have been incorporated within or been separate from the legal departments. Over the past year, we have placed senior compliance professionals (with a legal background) into non-financial services/banking compliance roles where they have had the remit to set up and roll out the internal compliance program. Such functions include developing or enhancing the company’s compliance programs and delivering internal training as well as ensuring on-going compliance policies.
Some listed companies have been incorporating the company secretarial functions into the legal function and hence, we envisage that a dual lawyer/company secretary profile will become in higher demand.
IN-HOUSE – JUNIOR TO MID-LEVEL COUNSELS
The demand for in-house lawyers remains very high, even as we are in the final quarter of the year. The need for in-house lawyers with good commercial contract drafting and negotiating skills is especially high. Moreover, as not all international law firm lawyers have this kind of experience, prior in-house experience is very attractive to clients.
For those without in-house experience, candidates are reminded that for many roles, there is a very high chance that you will need to take a pay cut to make the move in-house from an international law firm, but also remember that there are many positives to offset the potential lower base salary (no billable targets, hours are more controllable, gain more commercial/business experience).
We have found that over the past 3 to 6 months, 3-5 PQE lawyers have been highly sought after by multinational corporations as well as local listed companies in a variety of sectors, including retail, fashion, construction, and insurance.
The financial services sector and especially banking remains a volatile market, with many head counts being cut or frozen, and a preference to taking on staff on a contract basis/seconding from law firms.
For further information, please contact (contact details on our team biography):
Annie Tang, Managing Director (senior in-house legal): email Annie
Michael Kwan, Manager (in-house legal): email Michael
Christy Ho (paralegals and legal managers): email Christy