Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Email to set up a meeting with us!
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
We at Kinney Asia have made a number of FCPA / White Collar US associate placements in Hong Kong / China thus far in 2014. Most of such placements have been commercial litigation associates from major US markets, fluent in Mandarin, switching to FCPA / White Collar litigation. Some have already had FCPA experience, but those are difficult candidates for firms to find (this will change in coming years as US firms are now promoting FCPA / White Collar to their 2L summers who are fluent in Mandarin and have an interest in transferring to China at some point).
Legal Week quoted Kinney’s Head of Asia, Evan Jowers, extensively in the following relevant article here.
There is a new trend in the market, though, where mid-level transactional US associates, fluent in spoken Mandarin and written Chinese, are interviewing for and in some cases landing junior FCPA / White Collar spots in Hong Kong / China at very top tier US firms.
However, most such folks who apply for these positions are not getting interviews, much less offers, even when coming from peer firms. if you are interested in making this switch, and willing to take a year or two (or more) haircut, it will be important to be able to demonstrate an interest in litigation going back years (it’s understandable, for obvious reasons, that one with an eye on returning to HK / China and a preference for litigation over corporate would have in law school chosen corporate up until only a few years ago). It can be difficult to demonstrate such interest, but even the smallest hints, such as moot court competition or applying to a clerkship (but not following through) can help. Some PRC nationals may have had actual litigation experience as PRC attorneys before entering their JD program and that is obviously a big help. Other “switch” candidates have expressed to our Kinney team a desire to make such a switch for a year or more and that can be powerful evidence as well because we certainly will let hiring partners know.
If you want to maximize your chances to get FCPA / White Collar interviews, as a transactional switch candidate, or if you just want to learn more about potentially making such a switch, then we highly recommend that you reach out to our Evan Jowers at . Evan has been helping US transactional associates make this switch to FCPA / White Collar in HK / China for some time now. It’s not an easy switch to make, from the standpoint of getting interviews and offers, but it can be done. Evan has been working with a number of FCPA / White Collar hiring partners in Asia for years who count on our Kinney Asia team to staff their teams. He has also become quite familiar with this practice area, due to his interest in attending various FCPA seminars in both Asia and the US and his own white collar practice background during his in-house days.
Top tier firms with FCPA / White Collar junior associate openings in HK / China over the past few years have struggled to find native Chinese litigation junior associate candidates who meet their firms’ high standards of JD academics and firm pedigree. This is why a few of these hiring partners in HK / China are turning to outstanding transactional mid-levels who can demonstrate a long-time interest in litigation and a current interest in specifically FCPA / White Collar. These hiring partners are asking Kinney’s Asia team for such candidates and are counting on us at Kinney to screen a large number of transactional to litigation switch candidates and present a few who are most suited for the group, office and opening. We have been very successful in doing so, as all of our handful of transactional to FCPA switch candidates, those who we have actually submitted to top firms after screening them for our client firms, are getting interviews and we believe most or all will have offers this year.
If you would like more information on this or any other topic re the Asia markets, as always feel free to reach out to us , or .
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be working out of our Hong Kong offices the week of June 16, if you would like to set up a meeting with them, to discuss your career and the Asia markets. Evan is in Hong Kong monthly and Robert is there very frequently as well. It is not possible to find a recruiter who has placed half as many US associates and counsels in Hong Kong / China as Evan Jowers and you are not going to find recruiters with more experience in US partner movements in Hong Kong / China as Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers, but Robert and Evan have also advised a lot of US attorneys in Asia over the years, including senior partners, who have not had reason to move from their firms. It is ultimately a relationship business more than a placement business, although placements can be a bi-product of a lot of good relationships. Feel free to reach out to Robert and Evan at and to set up a meeting.
During any type of lateral hiring market in Asia, hot or cold, we will have the usual M&A, Cap Markets, FCPA / White Collar and Project Finance openings for Mandarin speaking junior to mid-level US associates in HK / China, as well as Korean fluent corporate openings in Seoul and Japanese fluent corporate openings in Tokyo. We have a bunch of those now, as always, in what is currently average and spotty lateral hiring market conditions (Asia lateral market report coming next week). Here though are two of our more unique openings in Asia:
Our advice to any Mandarin speaking 2L summer associate who is interested in a future transfer or lateral US associate move to Hong Kong / China: It’s not just about corporate and other transactional practices any more. If you are more interested in litigation than transactional, don’t hesitate to choose litigation or a litigation-related practice area. There is a sharply growing need at top US firms in Hong Kong / China for laterals and transfers in US litigation (mostly FCPA / White Collar work), Anti-Trust, and Disputes / Arbitration. This is not just a trend, it’s a permanent change on the landscape. We find it exciting that Mandarin speaking JDs now have more options to choose from in positioning themselves for a future Hong Kong / China move. Feel free to contact us at if you are a summer associate interested in Asia and have any questions about choosing a practice. It can be one of the biggest decisions you make in your career and yet one usually made without much analysis. Also, feel free to contact us if you are an associate interested in joining an FCPA / White Collar practice or Disputes practice in Asia. We have made numerous such placements in the past few years and a number of our candidates are interviewing for FCPA / White Collar positions at present in Asia.
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now. Evan Jowers also has over 150 US associate placements in Hong Kong / China in the past 6 years, and our full Asia team has numerous more placements, and each of those placement experiences (as well as other persons we represented but did not place, usually due to an internal transfer choice that we supported) adds in some measure to our understanding of the market. There is a story behind every placement after all. It’s therefore pretty easy for us to get a good read on the market and what hiring trends will likely be like during the next 6 months or so, in any market condition. In fact, one main reason that senior US partners meet with us regularly in Hong Kong / China is because even when they are not hiring they look at Evan and Robert as a great source of information on the market and to get a feel of what their counterparts at other firms are thinking, simply because we know so many key folks in the market and get their opinions and predictions on things on a daily basis.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
ASIA MARKETS – HALFTIME REPORT
It’s a beautiful summer here in Hong Kong, with the monsoons (winds) blowing all of the nasty pollution away from city’s skies and upward into southern China. This weather pattern generally means that Hong Kong summer skies will often be a clear robin’s egg blue, even if the heat and humidity make outdoor activity, such as hiking, a rather steamy adventure. Fortunately, many of Hong Kong’s great hikes, such as the hike to Sai Wan beach in the New Territories, end at some body of water where you can cool off in a clean, clear sea under a blue sky.
But, are the skies in the economic universe as clear as those in the meteorological one? The answer is, as always, ‘It Depends’.
INVESTMENT GRADE DEBT
The main pockets of debt capital markets activity involve investment-grade debt offerings. These are not your high-yield (read: high-risk) offerings of 2007-2008 with 10%+ yields. In these uncertain times, investors are seeking to find the optimum point between yield and safety. They want to invest in debt securities which will offer more yield than, say, a treasury bond, but they want to minimize some degree of risk.
What this means for Asia debt capital markets is that many of the bond deals which are going through right now involve issuers with a heavy degree of state ownership, or some other factor which makes them a less risky investment. One lawyer at a top US firm here in Asia mentioned to me that bond issuers are scrambling to find any tie to, say, state ownership to increase the perceived safety of the investment in their securities. While the sovereign relationship tie with some issuers is as obvious as a ‘Luke, I Am Your Father’,with other issuers it’s more of an ‘I am your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate’. Which should make the relationship to a sovereign entity absolutely nothing, yet into the prospectus it goes!
SOUTHEAST ASIA AND OTHER DEVELOPING ECONOMIES
Southeast Asia, heralded earlier in July as the ‘engine for economic growth in the world’ by British Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne, is a bright spot in a world of economic uncertainty. Hillary Clinton’s trip to Asia earlier in the month was just as focused on economic issues as it was on security concerns, if not more so, as she promoted US investment in Southeast Asia. And it is Malaysia – not Hong Kong or Singapore – who is in position to take the crown of Asia’s top IPO market in 2012. Robust domestic demand, coupled with a steady stream of investment, is helping to keep the regional 2012 GDP growth forecast of ASEAN economies at a modest, but resilient 5%.
We are working on a number of openings at present in HK / China, Tokyo and Singapore, but one in particular is impressive and urgent enough that we thought we should mention here (something that we rarely do in this column). The position is a Private Equity / M&A focused spot at a top US firm in HK. The ideal candidate will be coming from a top 15 US firm in NYC, other major US markets, or already in HK / China. This top 10 US firm is very selective regarding current firm and JD academics. Mandarin fluency is needed for this role. This is by any measure a top 5 Private Equity practice in Asia and the firm globally is considered on of the best PE practices among all major international law firms. The firm also has offices in mainland China. We have placed a number of lateral US associates at this firm in HK / China over the years and these associates (one of them now a partner) have had very positive experiences there. Further, we have been close for years with a number of partners at this firm in Asia and they are amongst our most favorite hiring partner clients, due mainly to our own high opinions of them and their reputation in the market, including feedback from our many associates placed on their teams over the years.
We realize that many of our readers do get many cold calls from recruiters looking to break into Asia, some of whom have even had some modest success in the Asia markets placing US associates, perhaps with 1 to 10 to their credit. The cold calls are to be expected, especially if your name happens to be of Asian background and / or your firm website bio lists Mandarin, Japanese or Korean as a language you are fluent in. Expect the calls to only increase, even in what is a reduced lateral hiring market in Asia nowadays. Most of the callers are people who have very little experience in Asia but who will be very good in some cases at taking a tiny bit of information and spinning it into “yarn”.
Though many American companies consider conducting financial operations in Asia due to generally lower expense ratios, businesses must still be aware of regional laws that vary greatly from country to country. Paying strict attention to investment banking is especially important, as domestic investors are the backbone of any company expanding abroad.