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Legal Focus: Are my skills applicable in Asia?

17 May 2016


As Asia’s thriving economies continue their ruthless upward march, the requirements from supporting services such as legal are becoming even more refined. Likewise, legal teams are expanding (albeit cautiously) but employers are now requesting greater skill sets from the lawyers they hire. The growth of the Asian market, in particular for outbound legal work from Asian companies and investors, is touching almost every law firm. Whether you are already in-house or seeking to make the move from private practice, Oliver James Associates Hong Kong are well placed to support you if you are considering a move or investigating legal jobs in Asia.  

With Asian countries being amongst the most dynamic economies in the world, Asia is now undoubtedly a top destination for global and regional business operations. Legal professionals are drawn to Asia’s culturally rich lifestyle and the assurance of an impelling, incomparable work experience. The rapid growth in the Asian market has led to a continent of economies that are progressing quickly but with a severe lack of infrastructure. In conjunction with this, the education sector in Asia is not up to speed with this growth, resulting in a lack of training and a shortage of trained professionals across multiple disciplines, one of which being the legal sector.

Not only are Asian law firms considering how to protect their position in their home markets in the face of a competitive landscape, law firms outside the region are now realising the importance of Asia to their firm’s future. What’s fuelled this competitive growth? And why now? With the wealth distribution in Asia having changed drastically in the last 50 years, the growth in Asia has been predominantly fuelled by the middle class with greater disposable income. There are now a vast number of entrepreneurs, investors and spenders who are ploughing money into opportunities within the prospering Asian market.

Rapid growth in the market is of course exponentially linked to the rise in demand for legal professionals. The increased demand across the legal practice area is primarily due to the drastic changes in wealth distribution; we’re seeing the middle class dominate the emerging market countries with much more disposable income to invest. Coupled with increased investments, regulatory frameworks are becoming much more sophisticated and with China growing quickly, this is leading to greater opportunities within the transactional arena.

Opportunities within the market are not limited to UK lawyers. US lawyers are also in great demand for several reasons; the increasing Regulatory landscape (with FCPA there is a need for Asian business to address SEC investigations), the greater number of US companies listing on the Asian Stock Exchanges and the increased number of international companies investing in Asia.

Historically, Asia has been dominated by the London law firms who have over 100 years’ experience in the Asian market. US Law firms are relatively new in comparison, but the demand for US lawyers is in fact so high, that many firms offer an extensive COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) as a key attraction tool. US lawyers who have good quality transactional experience, preferably from a firm widely known outside of the US, are most likely to achieve success in Hong Kong. Experience in debt and/or equity capital markets, derivatives, American securities and international corporate work in M&A are the most marketable skill sets.

Why relocate to Asia? Moving to Asia can truly benefit your career as the rate at which you can move your career forward is absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. Talented lawyers climb up the ranks quickly, demonstrated by the fact that partners in Hong Kong are on average 4 years younger than their counterparts in the London or the US. What’s more, the expat communities in Asia have a much closer bond of business leaders so meeting key decision makers and potential clients is much more fluid. It’s important to note that cultural sensitivity and awareness are becoming increasingly important for expatriates keen to work in the region. Many companies tend to recruit purely on commercial and technical ability rather than considering the ‘fitability’ of the individual. Oliver James Associates Hong Kong will consider your cultural adaptability alongside the more tangible skills and offer honest advice in order to benefit your career aspirations and expectations.

For further advice on whether your skills are transferable in Asia, or if you’re simply interested in having an open conversation on the options available to you, please contact Jonny Plews, Oliver James Associates Hong Kong +852 5804 9200 /






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