Mergers and acquisitions lawyers were top prospects for global law firms practicing in Asia in 2016. Our analysis of 140 partners hired by Global 100 firms in Asia and Australia last year found that more than one-third were M&A specialists. Out of the 48 M&A partners, 33 were hired to work out of their firms’ Hong Kong or mainland China offices. This isn’t a big surprise, given the record-setting outbound M&A volume coming from China last year. According to data compiled by Dealogic, more than $219 billion in deals came out of China in 2016. For the first time, China overtook the United States in outbound M&A deal volume.

U.S. firms played a big part in driving this trend. Among the biggest moves: Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison picked up Linklaters’ M&A duo Betty Yap and Judie Shortell; Jones Day poached former King & Wood Mallesons energy M&A partners Dirk Walker and Dina Yin; and DLA Piper nabbed former O’Melveny & Myers Shanghai office head Li Qiang.
Beyond China, M&A work was strong across the Asia-Pacific region last year. According to Dealogic, total outbound volume in the region also hit a record, at $445 billion. In Australia, Hogan Lovells lured two M&A specialists from leading local firms—Andrew Crook from Gilbert + Tobin, and longtime Clayton Utz partner Matthew Johnson. In Japan, the Anglo-American firm also recruited former Morgan, Lewis & Bockius Tokyo managing partner Lisa Yano.

Although international firms concentrate less on capital markets work than they did several years ago, capital markets lawyers still accounted for nearly a quarter (25) of the 105 lateral hires of transactions partners. Sixteen of those 25 were in Hong Kong. Despite a 26 percent drop in funds raised from 2015, Hong Kong still retained its rank as the world’s top IPO market in 2016.
Recovering from a few earlier losses, Allen & Overy made three capital markets hires in Hong Kong last year, including former Ashurst office head Lina Lee and partner Jonathan Hsui. Hogan Lovells also picked up two veteran capital markets partners in Hong Kong: Sammy Li from Paul Hastings and Stephen Peepels from DLA Piper.

Thirty-six lateral hires were made in project development and finance practices. White & Case was responsible for more than one-third of these moves, taking on partners as it launched in Australia last year. The firm, which opened offices in Melbourne and Sydney, raided Herbert Smith Freehills, taking 10 partners and three associates who were made partner with the move. On a smaller scale, Jones Day hired a five-partner projects team from Hogan Lovells in Singapore and Beijing. Two of the five were promoted from counsel to partner with the move.

Disputes lawyers accounted for a smaller portion of global firms’ Asia hires. Last year, only 31 out of the 140 partners recruited by Global 100 firms in Asia and Australia specialized in investigations, litigation or arbitration. Recruiters and partners report strong demand in the region for investigations lawyers, especially specialists in the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. But last year the largest international firms in Asia hired only seven investigations partners.

Among the seven, four focused on China-related work. In 2016, 22 of the 53 FCPA enforcement actions brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission involved misconduct in China, the highest number for any foreign country. Last March, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom made its first partner-level Asia hire since 2012, recruiting investigations partner Steve Kwok, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. Morgan Lewis, Latham & Watkins and Squire Patton Boggs also hired partners in that practice.

Among the Global 100 firms, White & Case made the most lateral hires in Asia and Australia last year, taking on 17 new partners, largely due to its launch Down Under. Jones Day came in second, with 12 partners hired across China, Japan, Singapore and Australia. K&L Gates rounded out the top three, with 11 new partners working in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Australia.

Last year also saw several veteran Asian partners exit private practice. In February, Teresa Ma, who had been with Linklaters for 23 years, retired to pursue nonprofit work. That same month, Neil Hyman left Slaughter and May in Hong Kong after 30 years with the firm. He is now the chairman of a venture capital and private equity company. And in March, former Simpson Thacher & Bartlett China head Leiming Chen quit the firm to head the in-house legal department at Alibaba Group affiliate Ant Financial Services Group. He was joined later in the year by longtime Allen & Overy intellectual property partner Benjamin Bai.

Mergers and acquisitions lawyers were top prospects for global law firms practicing in Asia in 2016. Our analysis of 140 partners hired by Global 100 firms in Asia and Australia last year found that more than one-third were M&A specialists. Out of the 48 M&A partners, 33 were hired to work out of their firms’ Hong Kong or mainland China offices. This isn’t a big surprise, given the record-setting outbound M&A volume coming from China last year. According to data compiled by Dealogic, more than $219 billion in deals came out of China in 2016. For the first time, China overtook the United States in outbound M&A deal volume.

U.S. firms played a big part in driving this trend. Among the biggest moves: Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison picked up Linklaters ’ M&A duo Betty Yap and Judie Shortell; Jones Day poached former King & Wood Mallesons energy M&A partners Dirk Walker and Dina Yin; and DLA Piper nabbed former O’Melveny & Myers Shanghai office head Li Qiang.
Beyond China, M&A work was strong across the Asia-Pacific region last year. According to Dealogic, total outbound volume in the region also hit a record, at $445 billion. In Australia, Hogan Lovells lured two M&A specialists from leading local firms—Andrew Crook from Gilbert + Tobin, and longtime Clayton Utz partner Matthew Johnson. In Japan, the Anglo-American firm also recruited former Morgan, Lewis & Bockius Tokyo managing partner Lisa Yano.

Although international firms concentrate less on capital markets work than they did several years ago, capital markets lawyers still accounted for nearly a quarter (25) of the 105 lateral hires of transactions partners. Sixteen of those 25 were in Hong Kong. Despite a 26 percent drop in funds raised from 2015, Hong Kong still retained its rank as the world’s top IPO market in 2016.
Recovering from a few earlier losses, Allen & Overy made three capital markets hires in Hong Kong last year, including former Ashurst office head Lina Lee and partner Jonathan Hsui. Hogan Lovells also picked up two veteran capital markets partners in Hong Kong: Sammy Li from Paul Hastings and Stephen Peepels from DLA Piper .

Thirty-six lateral hires were made in project development and finance practices. White & Case was responsible for more than one-third of these moves, taking on partners as it launched in Australia last year. The firm, which opened offices in Melbourne and Sydney, raided Herbert Smith Freehills , taking 10 partners and three associates who were made partner with the move. On a smaller scale, Jones Day hired a five-partner projects team from Hogan Lovells in Singapore and Beijing. Two of the five were promoted from counsel to partner with the move.

Disputes lawyers accounted for a smaller portion of global firms’ Asia hires. Last year, only 31 out of the 140 partners recruited by Global 100 firms in Asia and Australia specialized in investigations, litigation or arbitration. Recruiters and partners report strong demand in the region for investigations lawyers, especially specialists in the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. But last year the largest international firms in Asia hired only seven investigations partners.

Among the seven, four focused on China-related work. In 2016, 22 of the 53 FCPA enforcement actions brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission involved misconduct in China, the highest number for any foreign country. Last March, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom made its first partner-level Asia hire since 2012, recruiting investigations partner Steve Kwok, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York . Morgan Lewis , Latham & Watkins and Squire Patton Boggs also hired partners in that practice.

Among the Global 100 firms, White & Case made the most lateral hires in Asia and Australia last year, taking on 17 new partners, largely due to its launch Down Under. Jones Day came in second, with 12 partners hired across China, Japan, Singapore and Australia. K&L Gates rounded out the top three, with 11 new partners working in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Australia.

Last year also saw several veteran Asian partners exit private practice. In February, Teresa Ma, who had been with Linklaters for 23 years, retired to pursue nonprofit work. That same month, Neil Hyman left Slaughter and May in Hong Kong after 30 years with the firm. He is now the chairman of a venture capital and private equity company. And in March, former Simpson Thacher & Bartlett China head Leiming Chen quit the firm to head the in-house legal department at Alibaba Group affiliate Ant Financial Services Group. He was joined later in the year by longtime Allen & Overy intellectual property partner Benjamin Bai.