Hong Kong is arguably one of the most fascinating cities on earth, with its history having shaped an international hub where Eastern and Western cultures mesh. Hong Kong’s ‘free port’ policies have shaped a City which business has long regarded as a gateway to China, and the rest of Asia. Continued low rates of tax, both professional and personal, have helped that status to remain into the 21st Century.

A move to Hong Kong holds extraordinary potential in regard to lifestyle. Well known for its population density and towering skyscrapers providing accommodation, Hong Kong is a truly vertical city. However, perhaps less acknowledged is its contradictory commitment to space, with 40% given to protected park land. Therefore, however busy day to day life feels, there is always an escape on your doorstep.

Other benefits that you will gain through relocation include access to one of the world’s most revered culinary capitals, serving both traditional Chinese and Asian fare, alongside exceptional international food. Culturally, you gain a similar advantage, with an overwhelming amount of choice as to how to spend your precious free time. Music, art, shopping, and outdoor activities are all well represented, with frequent events and concerts. The public transport is excellent, making entertainment fully accessible.

The legal market in Hong Kong is in a state of flux which still follows the hand back to China in 1997. Whereas English-speaking lawyers were once acceptable and employable, it is now more difficult to secure a role with a firm without Chinese language experience. This is becoming increasingly the case, so worth paying special attention to should you wish to find yourself in this wondrous city.

Corporate practice areas continue to dominate – notably IPOs, M&A and disputes. Finance is also popular and strong. Either of these specialities, combined with language skills, will stand you in good stead for a move.

For trainees and junior lawyers, experience suggests a high level of responsibility perhaps not found elsewhere, coupled with a strong ex-pat community, making Hong Kong an attractive proposition to those just starting their legal career.

Economically, Hong Kong has fared better than the West throughout the period of financial turmoil, solidifying its continued popularity with international business. This, however, must be accompanied by a warning around the competition for international firms. Hong Kong remains a tough market to enter, with pressure around fees and high rents proving too much for some firms who have left the market in recent years. Cadwalader hit headlines last September when deciding to close its Hong Kong office (along with its space in Beijing), and many firms are now finding that the influx of work which provided the initial attraction, has slowed to an unacceptable level for profit.

Even with the difficulties, lawyers based in Hong Kong still have plenty of options, from heavyweight firms with longstanding regional offices (Slaughters and Clifford Chance have both held offices in the region for decades), to new openings from the likes of CMS, Carey Olsen and Charles Russell Speechlys, who have all made moves in the last 12 months or so.

Finally, Hong Kong is another market to recognise the importance of work/life balance and the increasing amounts of flexibility desired in the legal profession. Firms here are realising that to attract talent and remain competitive, agility must be considered. Now more than ever before there is a greater opportunity to achieve better balance with a law firm in Hong Kong. The ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude may still remain, but should you have experience in a successful practice area, alongside additional Chinese language skills, there is certainly the opportunity to create a balanced, fascinating life for yourself in this compelling city.

For more information about the Hong Kong legal market, and the opportunities available to you, please contact Espero Consulting on: 0845 241 2127 or email  simon.chadwick@esperoconsulting.com.