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Big demand for lawyers with strong Putonghua

Published on Friday, 11 Mar 2011

Candidates with a corporate finance background remain among the most sought after in the legal services industry as initial public offerings (IPO) continue to pour in. Lawyers with the relevant experience have accordingly secured some of the loftiest pay rises over the past year, a report by Robert Walters says.

With much of the IPO activity centred on mainland-based corporations, however, fluency in Putonghua is fast becoming equally, if not more, important.

"In relation to corporate IPO roles, almost 99 per cent require Mandarin speakers," says Ricky Mui, Robert Walters' head of legal recruitment. "Language skills have become one of the most important things of late."

Mui cites notable increases in the number of in-house and private positions on offer. But much like in the past, the former continues to dominate the market.

"Financial institutions are still outsourcing a lot of a work," he says. "But what we're starting to see is companies, like private equity houses, that are looking to hire their first in-house lawyer. Investment banks and investment management firms are also looking to bolster their legal teams, so as to keep at least some of the work in-house."

The arrival of new firms from the United States meanwhile, who the report says are quickly expanding their footprint in the market, is also helping fuel demand for candidates, mostly - again - for those with IPO experience. And given that many of these outfits have been offering pay packets well above even the top-tier "magic circle" firms, candidates are often all-too-happy to jump ship.

Demand for those with funds experience is also on the rise, as is an appetite for solicitors with a financial regulatory background. The need for litigation lawyers remains strong too, but less so than before for insolvency practitioners.

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