Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

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Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Apr 30, 2016 5:02 pm

Hey guys,

I've heard some people on this board and in real life state that it is difficult to come back to the US after being in Asia for a couple of years. Can anyone verify that?

Also, in terms of work it seems that most of the work is M&A or capital markets. How bit is the demand for other fields such as tech transactions?

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Londonbear » Sun May 01, 2016 4:52 pm

I cannot verify, but I've heard the same that if you start in Asia, it is hard to come back to the States. I don't think it would be as hard if you start in the States, then go to Asia, then come back. I summered at an international law firm in Asia, and mentor told me even if I was interested in practicing in Asia, it is better to get the first few years experience in the US. It goes further and is much more mobile. But if you start in Asia, I think the problem is US firms might think that you don't have as much depth or range of experience as a lawyer would get say in NY. I guess my question is why are you thinking of starting there if you want to come back to States? If you can get Biglaw in the States, particularly in NY or CA (if you're interested in Tech), then it would be better to get training and experience here and then lateral to Asian markets. That shouldn't be hard. The lawyers I talked to in Asia said that English based lawyers get brownie points. Try to get a Biglaw firm that has offices in HK (I think there's quite a few that does), and if the economy works out in that part of the world, then they'll likely be open to having you transfer into those offices.

I think one of the reasons there's more M&A and Capital Markets in Asian countries comes down to the fact that many of those countries limit what practice areas foreign lawyers can do, so you tend to only see corporate practice areas or arbitration flourish. I don't know about tech though.

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 01, 2016 4:58 pm

Both markets are almost exclusively transactional work, though arbitration is growing in both cities.

M&A and restructuring are hot right now. Seen the Chinese economy lately? Capital markets is very weak.

Singapore offices do not compensate significantly above New York market, and this has been a huge source of angst for U.S.-qualified Singapore associates. The maximum COLA I have heard of is around $30k in Singapore. The biggest issue is that many American/British firms compensate in local currency and not US dollars, so you are asked to assume currency risk. With the dollar strengthening, this may eat away your COLA to very little, if anything.

Hong Kong compensates NY market plus COLA (which varies from $35k to $100k depending on the firm). The market is hot right now, but you may be asked to do a lot of mainland Chinese work. With limited exceptions, advanced written and spoken fluency in Mandarin Chinese is essential for these positions.

Hours are brutal in both cities; expect to work much more than in already brutal New York hours, but with a lot more responsibility early on. You will become adept at running a deal much sooner on and see the "bigger picture". But the actual quality of the work is somewhat less precise than in New York.

Going back to the States is hard, but can be done, especially if you are willing to drop down a few class years since some/much of your experience will not be relevant.

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 01, 2016 5:09 pm

I don't think it's particularly hard, depending on the needs of some specific firm, you are not disadvantaged in any sense just because your prior experience is in another jurisdiction doing pretty much non-jurisdiction-specific work, i.e. transactional work. With good reasons for lateralling into US again, and good reasons why you started off in Asia, you can be still a strong candidate in the lateral market here.

If you for whatever reason want to start off your career there (with your US J.D and your NY Bar), go for it. But bear in mind that you accrue seniority(colloquial sense) from the day 1.

Also, I don't think you can circumvent some hiring process just because you have some international experience, that is, if you are under qualified for lateral hiring here, chances are probably only marginal bonuses will be added up to your resume based on your "international exposure". To put in another word, biglaw experience in Asia is not an advantage nor a disadvantage( with good reasons for lateral in and good reasons for working in Asia to begin with).

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 01, 2016 6:48 pm

Can someone with knowledge comment on the COLA numbers for HK? For US firms (e.g., Cleary, DPW, Shearman, Skadden)? And for magic circle firms too? And what about Deacons?

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 01, 2016 10:10 pm

US firms are $60k to $100k, with the more prestigious firms offering toward the bottom end of the sale, and the less prestigious ones towards the top.

UK firms are around $30k to $60k.

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Mon May 02, 2016 5:20 pm

Don't do it.

You get paid more, but they will work you to absolute death. It is hard to transfer back to the US because you will only be given one particular type of transactional work (most likely capital markets high-yield bonds), so if you want to lateral back to the US later you'll have to work for a firm that does a lot of the same stuff. Your choices are limited and you won't be particularly competitive because the training there is, um, basically non-existent. They don't care about you. Plus HK at least is a terrible place to live. Like someone else mentioned, at least spend a few years in the US and get the training first so you'll always have the option of coming back!

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 04, 2016 9:56 pm

Echo the observations that hours are much worse than NY big law and the partners don't care about your well being and career development at all.

I've heard from a project finance lawyers that the experience is not transportable at all since most documents are UK-based.

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 04, 2016 10:56 pm

I summered at an office at one of these cities and I will pile on and say that hours are absolutely hellish at these places. Maybe NYC is better at hiding it, but people in Asia seem to routinely pull all nighters

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 23, 2018 12:44 am

What are the hours like in Singapore? I'm pulling 2900 right now at a NY firm. Can't imagine it'd be worse in Singapore.

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 23, 2018 11:35 am

Agree about the hours at those offices. I only have a summer experience at a different Asian office. Even summers work a lot more at Asian offices.

But at the end of the day, the choice depends on other factors too such as whether your family is there.

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Veronica2015 » Wed May 23, 2018 5:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Hong Kong compensates NY market plus COLA (which varies from $35k to $100k depending on the firm).


Can anyone provide a number for any specific firm please?

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 27, 2018 1:35 pm

Veronica2015 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Hong Kong compensates NY market plus COLA (which varies from $35k to $100k depending on the firm).


Can anyone provide a number for any specific firm please?


Hong Kong
Skadden HK: $60k
Latham HK: $68k
Davis Polk HK: $70k (heard it may be $80k now -- this practice shrank by 18 Corporate associates in Q1 2016 and, frankly, deviates materially from the above general rule of high prestige = less COLA. Truly bizarre backstory to the shrinking you should ask people in the know.)
Kirkland HK: $80k
Cleary HK: $65k
Ropes HK: $90k (more if married and even more if married with kids -- this used to be $110k for a single guy/gal several years ago)
Shearman HK: $80k (I think - please confirm)
Magic Circle: $50k-$80k (I think A&O is at the higher end, while Freshfields is at the lower end)

This should give you a general idea of the market and what a firm, based on its relative prestige, pays in the Hong Kong market. (Note exception for our British friends: Magic Circle is categorically unprestigious to American lawyers.)

Singapore

Singapore is in local currency, and the amount above New York market was traditionally $25 to $30k at many American firms. Singapore is a disaster for U.S.-qualified attorneys since a lot of the American firms place England & Wales and locally qualified attorneys on American pay scale, and they don't want to pay foreigners more than necessary. Getting paid New York market is already a massive huge win for a England & Wales or Singapore-qualfiied attorney. It is not advisable to spend time as an American in Singapore because you're not getting paid more and you're basically fungible with non-American lawyers on the securities/corporate matters you will work on. By contrast, in Hong Kong, international firms treat American lawyers with a much higher level of respect and deference and will bend over backwards to keep them happy. (On top of New York market salary, they will let you expense things that they won't for their local/British attorneys.)

COLA should be much, much higher than it currently is to attract and retain top American talent in the Singapore market.

Tokyo

MoFo Tokyo's package is housing up to 400,000 JPY ($3,600) per month plus $24k per year as a COLA. (The housing is tax-deductible for the firm under Japanese law, but taxable income to you under American law! Though note very high foreign housing exclusion for Tokyo.) The COLA fluctuates based on the relative strength of the Japanese yen. A very strong yen requires higher COLA to make up for the high cost of living in the Japanese capital.

MoFo has a huge practice in Tokyo (100+ lawyers) and it is not considered difficult to land offers here if you come from a very prestigious law school (T6 median on up is eligible; less preference for MVPB/DCNG).

That said, MoFo is far below the top of the Tokyo market. COLA would be a flat $120k to $160k per year on top of New York market at prestigious New York firms (see, e.g., STB, S&C and DPW). But good luck getting a job at one of these latter firms, which are impossibly small practices. And they almost never hire out of law school. (I would say that they might go so far as to cherry-pick the best from MoFo Tokyo.)

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby 2013 » Sun May 27, 2018 2:37 pm

Just curious - what is the allure of moving to HK, Tokyo, etc.? Is it just for the money and experience of living abroad or are people who do this perfectly fine living outside of the US permanently?

I just couldn’t see myself uprooting everything to move to any of the countries listed here and was wondering why people talk about this topic a lot.

I understand my former classmates from Asia wanting to work there, but no one else.

I know this is a bit off topic, but I’m genuinely interested as to why people would do this.

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Veronica2015 » Sun May 27, 2018 11:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:That said, MoFo is far below the top of the Tokyo market. COLA would be a flat $120k to $160k per year on top of New York market at prestigious New York firms (see, e.g., STB, S&C and DPW).


:shock: This is surreal. Doesn't make sense that firms need higher COLA to attract lawyers to Tokyo, given the pathetically low quality of life people get in HK.

And thanks for the info! Sounds like Kirkland has the the best balance of money and prestige in HK.

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 27, 2018 11:54 pm

Veronica2015 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:That said, MoFo is far below the top of the Tokyo market. COLA would be a flat $120k to $160k per year on top of New York market at prestigious New York firms (see, e.g., STB, S&C and DPW).


:shock: This is surreal. Doesn't make sense that firms need higher COLA to attract lawyers to Tokyo, given the pathetically low quality of life people get in HK.

And thanks for the info! Sounds like Kirkland has the the best balance of money and prestige in HK.


I have heard the $80k figure from a few people now at DPW HK, so I would say DPW is the go-to place for the best prestige/COLA. Kirkland is excellent, too, and they are definitely hiring right now. Also note that Cleary's COLA sunsets after three years (!).

For Hong Kong positions, the market has shifted from Mandarin preferred to fluent Mandarin to, more recently, native Mandarin. And there are enough PRC JDs to fill that demand. You need to have impeccable Mandarin to land a HK position these days, unlike just two, three years ago.

For Tokyo positions, there are essentially no educated Japanese who do U.S. JDs. So the demand has to be filled by Americans. And there are fewer than 50 American attorneys in the world who can read, write and speak excellent Japanese – maybe less than 30. If you are bilingual English-Japanese and attended HYSCCN, you're a virtually irreplaceable candidate for a top law firm. Those practices mentioned earlier with super-high COLAs have maybe 10 people each, so they aren't a huge cost center for those firms. And while they may be the top of the Tokyo market, they're really small, so I wouldn't consider that pay the market rate. (I think whatever MoFo pays in Japan is the market rate for U.S. JDs.)

And just for kicks, the COLA in London is $80-100k at Cravath, Kirkland, Latham, etc. for U.S. qualified JDs working on those matters, which I understand, are typically high-yield debt work (i.e., trashy and unprestigious work for trashy clients). $50k to $65k at Magic Circle.

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Re: Biglaw in HK or Singapore as a Jr. Associate??

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 29, 2018 7:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Hong Kong
Skadden HK: $60k
Latham HK: $68k
Davis Polk HK: $70k (heard it may be $80k now -- this practice shrank by 18 Corporate associates in Q1 2016 and, frankly, deviates materially from the above general rule of high prestige = less COLA. Truly bizarre backstory to the shrinking you should ask people in the know.)
Kirkland HK: $80k
Cleary HK: $65k
Ropes HK: $90k (more if married and even more if married with kids -- this used to be $110k for a single guy/gal several years ago)
Shearman HK: $80k (I think - please confirm)
Magic Circle: $50k-$80k (I think A&O is at the higher end, while Freshfields is at the lower end)

This should give you a general idea of the market and what a firm, based on its relative prestige, pays in the Hong Kong market. (Note exception for our British friends: Magic Circle is categorically unprestigious to American lawyers.)


Thanks for sharing! Super helpful info.

Bump for data about SullCrom, STB and PW.



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