Professional support jobs market update, Hong Kong (part 2) - Autumn 2015
In this, our second part round-up of seasonal trends in the legal market, we take a look at the support roles in law firms and in-house. To see the first part of our Hong Kong jobs market update, covering qualified lawyers and compliance staff, click here.
LAW FIRM – PARALEGALS
Demand for IPO paralegals and quasi-paralegals (native mainland candidates who have passed the PRC Bar exam) remains strong across many international law firms in Hong Kong. Prior experience in IPO is usually required, so are excellent Mandarin skills as IPO paralegals are expected to attend due diligence in the PRC. It has been slightly quieter for litigation paralegals but we foresee more upcoming vacancies in the next few months after the summer period has passed.
IN-HOUSE – PARALEGALS
The need for commercial paralegals is starting to pick up rapidly again. Fluent English and Mandarin language skills and prior experience of drafting a wide range of general commercial contracts are key requirements. There has been some demand for litigation paralegals and those with strong regulatory experience have been sought after by the Banks.
"Demand for IPO paralegals and quasi-paralegals (native mainland candidates who have passed the PRC Bar exam) remains strong"
The market for experienced company secretarial officers within listcos (particularly those with 3 to 8 years’ experience) remains buoyant, particularly those who have prior listed company experience.
Candidates who come from professional service firms may not have listed company experience, and hence may not be the first choice for listed clients. However, given the good training provided by a reputable professional service firm and a stable background, clients have become more flexible with hiring requirements and are willing to take these types of backgrounds. The senior-end of the market in contrast has been relatively quieter.
There are also many major professional service providers (including international law firms) who are constantly on the lookout for good candidates, and who could provide excellent environments for company secretaries to be exposed to a wide range of matters within a professional environment.
One of the key requirements of our clients is stability – so our suggestion to company secretaries is to be more discerning with their careers moves. For others tips on how to climb the career ladder, remember to check out our article on “What makes a great company secretary (inside link here)”!
There has been a constant demand for legal secretaries in law firms throughout 2015, with both English and Chinese language typing skills – some of these roles are newly created to cope with the firms’ expansion, but the majority are replacement positions.
International law firms are now more willing to consider junior legal secretaries and we also see a trend for candidates in local law firms moving across to some international law firms. Stability would definitely play an important role when determining one’s candidacy.
HUMAN RESOURCES AND ADMINISTRATION
There has been less movement in the HR and administration fields in law firms this year. Whilst some HR manager and advisory roles have appeared, firms have struggled to fill these with HR professionals from the legal sector because of the one simple factor, that the peers in other firms are getting paid more and won’t take a pay cut to move across.
In addition, the HR roles that have become available this year only have domestic coverage (ie Hong Kong), thus making these less attractive for those who already cover a regional role.
Meanwhile, in-house HR roles have started to appear in the late summer, though certain industries are getting tougher in their hiring requirements, choosing ‘one of their own’, ie someone already in their industry. Some banks have undergone a little shake up over the summer, creating some good quality candidates to become available in the market.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AND MARKETING
A lot of movements during the past few months and the junior roles in this area appears to have slowed down a bit. However, many of the international law firms are looking for senior managers particularly those with Chinese language skills – as talents at this level are particularly difficult to find, the firms usually are quite flexible on the budget and title. We anticipate more vacant job openings in this sector as we approach Chinese New Year.
OPERATIONS AND FINANCE
With firms growing in size and expanding across the region, we are seeing a trend of increasing numbers of law firms hire a COO for one or more of their offices (with US firms, these are known as Administrators). This is the behind-the-scenes leader, the glue that binds all the support teams and helps the partners make sense of the operational back bone of their organisation.
We will see that the power and influence of the Administrator/COO will grow even further as partners recognise the contribution these professionals will make to the top and bottom lines of the business. Rightly so, their stature will grow and their contribution will be viewed as importantly as a partner.
Mid to senior level finance roles in law firms have slowed considerably since the first quarter of this year. But in-house, both in finance and in general commerce, demand has peaked and troughed in seemingly equal measure.
To go back to Part 1 of the Autumn legal jobs market update, click here.