Expat Lifestyle Guide: Schooling Options in Asia

Old Globe

Living and moving abroad brings about many challenges besides just landing the right law firm job.  We have started the Expat Lifestyle Series to help our expat candidates make a smooth transition to what can be a disruptive and stressful process.  It’s important that your family feels at home in their new locale and schooling can play a critical role so we have decided to address these issues with a piece on the educational options for school-aged children.

The educational systems of Japan, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore offer a wide variety of choices for the children of expats. Many of our candidates with school-aged children request information on the various options available to them for schooling in their chosen city.  We have provided a general guide below but please feel free to contact us directly for a more practical and in depth analysis as well as ways to cut the bureaucracy you may face in your new city.  Choosing the right school is an important factor in considering whether to relocate your family and advance planning is highly recommended as many top international schools can fill up quickly.

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Living Abroad Spotlight: Hong Kong/Mainland China

Night shot of Hong Kong financial center and the Victoria habourAs the global economy becomes more interconnected, and working abroad becomes more desirable, many attorneys have looked to Hong Kong as an attractive location to work in China. In 2014, Hong Kong increased the number of work visas issued to foreign professionals to 31,676.  Hong Kong is one of the world’s largest financial centers, and right on the doorstep of the rapidly expanding China.  A recent survey this February, 2016 conducted by HSBC found that China has the largest share of high-earning expats with 29% of expatriates in China make more than $250,000 USD, and many expats believe that the country offered them a higher quality of life.  Hong Kong ranks 10th in a list of top destinations by expatriates, Singapore is the top destination in Asia and six of the top ten locations are in Asia according to HSBC.  “This reflects the good schooling, housing, transport connections and availability of goods and services that the territory offers,” says Lee Quane, regional director, Asia, of ECA International. This high standard of living has attracted top-tier law firms like New York-based Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Davis Polk & Wardwell. Hong Kong possesses a number of features that makes it popular for expatriates. 

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It Can’t Hurt To Ask: 12 Questions You Should Ask Any Potential International Recruiter

Although thousands of attorneys will work with a recruiter this year, most will spend less time evaluating recruiters than they do researching airfares on the Internet or on Facebook.  A recruiter should play a much larger role in the job-search process than simply relaying information about opportunities, especially when it comes to Asia based assignments.  Unlike the practice of law, the legal-recruiting profession is not regulated and does not require any type of license. Yet using a recruiter involves temporarily entrusting the course of your career to another person. As many recruiters turned their attention to the Asia legal markets after the domestic economic downturn, we thought it timely to suggest the following questions when interviewing a potential recruiter to determine their experience and expertise in the Asia legal markets.  There are many excellent legal recruiters out there, but not all recruiters are created equal and, most importantly, only a handful of recruiters have yet to gain the experience and the knowledge that the Asia legal recruiting field demands.

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Partner Hiring Trends: Expected Growth In the Year of the Monkey

In FullSizeRender2015, the market witnessed its most robust year in over five years in terms of partner movement at Am Law 200 law firms in Asia (please see Representative Partner Moves in 2015) and this trend is set to continue in the Year of the Fire Monkey.  The Hildebrandt Consulting Report and the Citi Private Bank have both released reports stating that the hiring of lateral partners will be a profound element to law firm financial viability and growth this coming year.  This sentiment has been confirmed by our recent discussions with various Hiring Partners throughout Asia.  Many of our law firm clients are keen to grow through accretive and synergistic group, partner and associate hires.  Given the current economic climate, firms’ growing focus on bottom-line profitability and increased due diligence when conducting lateral partner hires, it’s becoming increasing important to work with a recruiter who is keenly aware of these changes.

While there was some doubt as to the profitability of bringing on lateral partners in recent years, firms took the plunge and have been successfully bringing in more lateral partners as the rapid expansion in both breadth and depth of demand for legal services fuels hiring despite a slowing of recent economic growth.  With lateral partner and group hiring metrics changing, it’s also more important than ever to use a trusted recruiter with local expertise on high level searches and awareness of the current trends, past pitfalls, new internal firm protocols driving partner hiring and a comparative viewpoint of successful procedures in place.  Learning from the past, hiring committees are vetting potential lateral partner hires with more discernment and a more focused eye on overall profitability for the firm as a whole versus gross revenue.

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Trailing Spouses and Other Dependents

If you want to know how an international assignment is really going, ask your spouse.  It is well known that the success or failure of a stint abroad can depend largely on the contentment of trailing family members.  Below you will find some personal insights gathered from our candidates throughout Asia regarding the practicalities of a move abroad and what helps dependents make the adjustment to a new life.  While no single solution will work for everyone, the following suggestions have worked very well for our candidates overseas.

Learn as much as possible about daily life before you leave.

One of our candidates in Hong Kong highly recommends that, if possible, go on a fact-finding trip before you make the move.  This may be best completed when you are visiting the location for interviews.  You may be fortunate enough to find a home on these initial visits, but even if not, at least you will have an idea of what is available and what you may wish to pack or leave behind.  If you have children, be sure to take lots of pictures to show them and pique their interest.  This can often help with pre-trip nerves in that it will help you and your family know what to expect, what a new home may look like, where they might go to school, or what the shops and surrounding streets look like.   Language lessons can also help, and don't sneer at any offer for cross-cultural training-it can really help.

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Compensation Report

We are pleased to share this compensation report to provide guidance to our partner and associate candidates.  We have gathered information with the help of our law firms clients and candidates and from our in-depth knowledge of the market.  Please note that this report isn't all inclusive as we represent mostly Am Law 100 international firms and top local firms in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mainland China and Singapore.     

Premier law firms are offering increasingly competitive packages in order to attract and retain top legal talent throughout the Asia market. Hiring conditions across Asia are showing steady and noticable signs of improvement with new openings in litigation, dispute resolution, project finance, fund formation, capital markets and M&A.

Interestingly, the Hong Kong market for the last twelve months has been experiencing the continued tussle for HK qualified and US, UK and AUS qualified associates and a few American firms continue to pay their Hong Kong and UK and AUS qualified associates at New York-scale salaries starting at $160,000 for first years. However, it is important to note that not all of their competitors in Hong Kong have followed suit and some are waiting to see how these salary changes develop.

The Hong Kong and Beijing offices of US NLJ 350 firms also saw large increases in their lawyer headcounts this year. Beijing firms experienced an 15% gain and Hong Kong firms experienced a 12% gain.

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Myanmar Today: Aung San Suu Kyi– A Sign of Hope, Transformation and Opportunity?

Myanmar has become one of Southeast Asia's more alluring destinations for foreign investment and law firms are paying attention along with the world as Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Noble Peace Prize in 1991, was recently sworn in as an MP in Myanmar's first democratically elected government in more than 50 years.  With the country's parliament now having a majority of National League for Democracy MPs along with the announced new foreign banking licenses and stock exchange, it is almost certain that foreign investment and opportunities for foreign lawyers will dramatically increase in years to come.  While some question "western" involvement in the new political regime and hope for sustainable environmental outcomes and humanitarian efforts in the country, one can't deny this will be an economic and legal market and political regime to watch! 

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Myanmar was one of the wealthiest countries in Southeast Asia and since it's first democratic multi-party elections in two decades in 2010 and a new Foreign Investment Law, there has been increasing levels of hope that it can regain its democratic status in the region and shine again.  The recent appintment of PM Aung San Suu Kyi, well known for her of history peaceful resistance against the military that ruled the country since 1962, has resurrected a surge of hope for economic growth, open democracy and resolution to the countries internal political conflicts.  Law firms, foreign attorneys and MNCs see opportunity and are moving in regardless of the still continued military presence and obstacles ahead.

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An Expat’s Guide to Finding an Apartment Abroad

No matter what city an expat relocates to, it is becoming increasingly simple to find living accommodations which cater to a foreigner’s needs and there are people at each step of the process to make the relocation as easy and comfortable as possible.

Tokyo

Once moving to Tokyo, apartments are usually acquired through a real estate agent rather than directly with the landlord because of the uncertainty that landlords have renting their apartments to people who don’t speak Japanese and are not familiar with the legalities of the Japanese rental system. However once contact with a real estate agent has been established it is simple to find an apartment that caters to an expat’s needs since Tokyo offers accommodations specifically for foreigners. For example, expat apartments generally cost over $5,000USD but are equipped with all the major appliances (washer, dryer, dishwasher, phone, phone-line, and refrigerator) while typical Japanese apartments do not come with these appliances. And while Japanese apartments require the renter to pay “key money” or reiken, which is a non-refundable payment worth about two months of rent, and a renewal fee or koushinryou, which is worth one month’s rent, a foreigner renting an expat apartment can forgo these fees and just pay the four to six months security deposit. Most of the US and UK law firms with which we work will make this payment on your behalf and already have a select group of agents that will guide you.

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Pro Bono Spotlight: Asia Law Firms Giving Back to Their Communities

Lend a helping hand.  It can make a difference.

Lend a helping hand. It can make a difference.

International law firms are in a unique position to have a significant positive impact for individuals in need, local communities and our planet and its natural resources. A sterling example of that outreach, Linklaters LLP has donated thousands of hours to various events, non profit organizations, and endeavors to assist refugees worldwide.

Linklaters' annual donations to the British Red Cross and other humanitarian partners are allowing for quick relief and aid to displaced refugees in the mediterranean, and their pro bono work many other services have provided legal advice and aid to asylum seekers and migrant workers fleeing from human trafficking slave labor. They have also been hard at work with the European Council for Refugees in Exiles (ECRE) to review cases in various European nations in an attempt to protect the rights and interests of refugees seeking asylum in those nations.

 

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A Brief Note: The Great Move to China

Moving to China

Moving to China

Modern China offers great opportunities for foreign lawyers, in a climate of geographical and cultural diversity, speed of change, deregulation and unprecedented economic development.  For more information on the expat lifestyle in China, please click here.

In his book, One World, Ready or not, William Graider gives the following useful definition “diverse and contradictory, China is like a black box where both optimists and pessimists can find proof to support their expectations.”

For the pessimists, there are certainly many challenges to confront though with a reliable, trusted legal recruiter with local expertise, these obstacles are easily surmounted and navigated!

 

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