Chris Aukland is the managing director of specialist recruitment agency Ambition and is responsible for the growth and management of the Hong Kong business. He has 15 years’ consulting experience in the UK and Asia.
Experience is key to bigger things
Having been a solicitor for five years now, sometimes I feel more like a salesperson than a lawyer. It’s so hard to break through and I’m stuck in a tiny local law firm. Most of the cases I deal with are either matrimony or property deals which are not very exciting. I’m not naive enough to think I could get a job at one of the Big Five, but working at one of the largest 25 here would make more sense. Should I get a PCLL or LLM at a local university?
Taking the time to match your skills, personality and aspirations to a potential job is crucial to finding a role that suits you. Working in a job you love greatly increases your chances of long-term career success and satisfaction, so it is important to make the right decision.
I assume you are working as a foreign qualified lawyer in Hong Kong and practicing “general practice” law in a local firm. If this is the case and you are looking for a bigger challenge, I suggest looking at moving into a larger firm that offers specialised work that will be more common to international law firms, and will provide you with a different scope of exposure than your current role.
We see many candidates from sizable local law firms moving into international firms, especially if their experience is transferable and they have strong academic background as well as relevant languages skills.
Practicing in local or boutique law firms that work on similar transactions to larger international firms would be a good stepping-stone for you if you are looking to work at the larger international firms in a few years’ time.
If this the case, focusing on firms with some of the more common practice areas that are in demand such as international arbitration, dispute resolution, corporate finance, capital markets, banking finance, intellectual property and projects will help increase the number of future career opportunities.
Bear in mind the legal market in Hong Kong is highly competitive. A strong academic background and relevant qualifications and experience, coupled with Chinese language skills, are often prerequisites to joining a large international law firm.
Currently, most sizable firms value experience above another degree, so, without the local practice experience or qualifications, opportunities to move into a large firm are slim.
As the key indicator of job satisfaction in your case seems to be the opportunity for growth, when considering a role, ensure the job has clear prospects for career development. You can do this by asking if the prospective employer provides a professional training and development programme.
For more advice on deciding if a job will suit you, speak to a recruitment consultant or experts in your field. Their detailed business knowledge will help determine if the role and company is the right fit for you and a positive step in your career progression.