Legal Market Overview
Legal Market Overview

Asia is one of the key markets for companies globally. Overall, both demand and spend for legal services in Asia are growing. Particular areas are experiencing faster growth than others, such as regulatory compliance, M&A and litigation. Within Asia, apart from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and South Korea are the key jurisdictions that have been driving the market forward.

 

As the only city within China applies common law legal system, Hong Kong’s common culture and geographic location attract many top international law firms to grow their Asia businesses. As the Chinese mainland is one of the largest M&A markets in Asia, many top international law firms have made a significant presence in Hong Kong to serve the region. In the meantime, with the development of the Mainland law firms and to satisfy the professional services needs associated with Mainland-related investment, an increasing number of Mainland law firms are setting their footprints in Hong Kong.

 

Singapore has grown as a key international business hub for Southeast Asian work. Singapore has been promoting itself as an international dispute resolution centre. The Singapore government has also put in place several tax treaties and incentives for fund managers to attract them to operate in Singapore and the fund market in Singapore has grown significantly in recent years. On the firm side, "Big Four" law firms hold their dominant positions in the domestic legal market; it is only in recent years that the tightly regulated legal market is opened up for international firms.

 

The South Korean and Japanese legal markets have both struggled for many years to strike a balance between supporting domestic law firms and opening up to international law firms. In Japan, the market is dominated by the four major domestic firms as international firms cannot practice local law. Likewise, domestic full-service firms dominate the South Korean legal market and international law firms primarily focus on advising outbound M&A work. M&A and related activities continue to be a major driving force in the market, in particular the outbound activities.