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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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 $4,000USD 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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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 turn their attention to the Asia legal markets with 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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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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Living Abroad Spotlight: Singapore

As the global economy expands and more and more companies move overseas, many law firms have begun to open offices in Southeast Asia.  In particular, Singapore has been an active area for international firms.  Firms such as Latham & WatkinsO'Melveny & Myers, and Morrison & Foerster have all opened or expanded offices in Singapore in the last year.  One of the reasons Singapore has been such a popular destination is that it is a great country for expatriates. Of all the common expatriate destinations in Asia, Singapore has been consistently voted as one of the friendliest to expatriates’ families.  A number of features help make Singapore welcoming to guests from abroad:

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Compensation Report

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

Interestingly, the Hong Kong market for the last twelve months has been experiencing the beginning of tussle for HK qualified associates as a few American firms have begun to pay their Hong Kong 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 11% gain and Hong Kong firms experienced a 5.6% gain.

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Expat Lifestyle Guide: Raising an Expat Child in an Asian Country

lifestyle-planeFor lawyers working overseas in an Asian country, raising an expatriate family could be difficult. Though traveling might provide a wealth of job opportunities, sometimes it might be quite hard on the uprooted child who must readjust to a completely new social setting. Whether it is culture shock or homesickness, a child can be truly affected by the experience. However, on the flip side of that, being an expat child also provides a chance to earn unique experiences that promotes growth and maturity.

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Living Abroad Spotlight: Hong Kong

As 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. Between 2011 and 2012, Hong Kong increased the number of work visas issued to U.K. citizens by 45% to 3,907, and the number of work visas issued to U.S. citizens by nearly 96% to 4,290.  Hong Kong is one of the world’s largest financial centers, and right on the doorstep of the rapidly expanding China.  A recent survey conducted by HSBC found that 69% of expatriates in China make more income than expatriates in other countries, and 44% believed that the country offered them a higher quality of life.  “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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Asia Market Update

As the global economy continues to feel the effects of the 2008 recession, it faces both short and long-term challenges. But new and exciting opportunities are being created as the world’s markets walk the road to recovery. Southeast Asia has become an area of growth, attracting many firms and attorneys wishing to expand their portfolios abroad. The legal market in Asia is continuing to grow at record speed, changing the landscape for expatriate lawyers with an increase and broadening of opportunities for associates, partners and firms, a rapid and substantial deal flow.

According to the American Lawyer, Am Law 100 law firms had mild gains in 2012. They reported that gross revenue for Am Law 100 law firms was up 3.4 percent, average revenue per lawyer was up 2.6 percent, and average profits per partner were up 4.2 percent. Notably, this growth was uneven and the more successful firms tended to have a strong international presence, and well as a diverse set of practice areas.

Asia is a strong area of international growth and this extends to the legal sector. The Asian legal market is on pace to double in size by 2017, according to Asia Law Portal. Their analysts project the Asian legal market to grow 6 to 7 percent over the next 8 years, creating a strong incentive for U.S. and U.K. to get on the ground floor for fear of being left out.

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China Courts Latin America

As the world’s economies still feel the aftereffects of the global financial crisis, the traditional flow of capital in those markets has been changing dramatically.  New investment opportunities have arisen between emerging markets, and China is at the forefront of the new development.  China is now the world’s second largest economy, largest consumer of energy, and fifth largest overseas investor.  Driven by a demand for energy and commodities, China has begun courting Latin America as a prospective new trading partner for years to come.

In 2012, Chinese outbound investment to Latin America more than doubled to 17% of all outbound investment as compared to 6% in 2011.   Initial investments into Latin America were in the form of oil for money loans that eventually became long-term procurement contracts with mining and petroleum companies.  These loans were followed up by Chinese state-operated enterprises (SOEs) acquiring shares in natural resource companies.  Much of the notable activity was in Brazil, and the most the active player was China’s second largest oil and gas producer and biggest refiner, Sinopec. In 2010, Sinopec acquired 40% of the Brazilian operations of Repsol-YEP for $7.1 billion, making it the largest Chinese investor into Latin America. While much of the Chinese action in Latin America is still driven by SOEs, an increasing number of private equity (PE) firms are showing interest in the region.

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