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Andrew Keith, chief operating officer, recently featured in Asian Legal Business’ Hong Kong Special Report. The article took stock of how the last 12 months have been for the Hong Kong legal market, key trends witnessed and what 2016 holds.
Commenting on in-house legal teams, he said: “The expansion of in-house capabilities has caused some disruption in the workflow from corporates to external firms, mainly at firms that focus on a type of work that in-house teams can handle. While this hasn’t been a major issue for most firms, it has meant that external counsel have had to be more practical, commercial and understanding of their clients’ needs, and do the bits and provide the services and advice that their clients cannot access internally.”
Asian Legal Business reports that Hong Kong has seen an increase in the amount of new entrants in the market and a few firms retrenching, either shutting down or leaving or giving up their Hong Kong status and focusing as a foreign entity. Andrew explained that this is not uncommon in Hong Kong and that most of the movement is cyclical. Of the large foreign firms moving in and out of Hong Kong, he noted many have similar misapprehensions about the market and their ability to make significant headway in three or four years, which can be done in many Western markets. “This isn’t another London or New York, and the streets aren’t paved with gold. China and Hong Kong are long-term places – you have to be here for a while to make it work and all of the firms that have made it work have been here for a while,” he says.
Another development noted in the article is the internationalisation of Chinese law firms. The last few years have seen a number of these firms establish bases or enter into associations outside mainland China, either in Hong Kong or somewhere else. “I think it is a measure of PRC firms feeling much more comfortable and confident about reaching out directly to international markets, whether that is for inbound or outbound work. It will be an interesting space to watch,” he said.
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