A survey by recruitment firm Laurence Simons International found pay for Hong Kong is higher than the UK by as much as US$12,700 at the 2 years’ post qualification experience (PQE) level, and by as much as US$43,400 for individuals with more than 10 years’ PQE.
AIG vice president and deputy general counsel Mario Valdes-Lora said with the economic boom Hong Kong has had over the past few years, it is conceivable the jurisdiction could overtake the UK as the highest paying for in-house lawyers.
Valdes-Lora said the competition for new talent in the Hong Kong market is tight, with AIG having positions open but a limited number of candidates to fill them. “In terms of the number of candidates that have the experience and attitude to fit into a western-style company, the number of candidates is limited,” he said.
PCCW general counsel Philana Poon said she hasn’t noticed that much change in Hong Kong in-house salaries of late, save for corporate finance lawyers. “As the M&A market has been very active of late, corporate finance lawyers are all in demand,” she said.
“This is a big change from a couple of years ago when the M&A market was not as active, so there is a lot of competition right now to hire good people with corporate finance experience,” she said.
She also agrees with Valdes-Lora that the competition for legal talent in general is tight. “It has been the case all along that there is a limited pool of well qualified and experienced bilingual lawyers in Hong Kong and those candidates are the ones that everyone is after – both for private practice and in-house,” she said.
Within the Asian region, Japan came in as the second-highest paying jurisdiction, with the survey claiming a severe shortage of in-house lawyers had put continued pressure on salaries over the past year. The small size of the local talent pool and the difficulty of recruiting overseas candidates for roles in the country were blamed for the shortage.
However, the survey wasn’t all good news for Asia, with China and India coming in as the lowest paying jurisdictions across the 17 countries surveyed, which included European jurisdictions such as Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Russia.
In China, an in-house lawyer with around 5 years’ PQE could only expect a base salary of US$23,000, while in India the figure would be US$33,500.