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Praised for its ‘very strong industry knowledge’ and ‘ability to coordinate on matters across multiple jurisdictions’, Baker McKenzie’s 13-strong team provides ‘very practical and commercial advice’ to corporates from a wide range of industry sectors including banking, insurance and technology, across the gamut of advisory, contentious and corporate support-related matters. Rowan McKenzie has ‘strong Asia Pacific knowledge’ and is noted for his ‘calm and collaborative approach’ across a wide array of matters including policy reviews, human resources strategy and employment risk management. McKenzie recently provided the coordinated Asia Pacific employment advice to a US-based telecoms company regarding its discretionary compensation plan and on the feasibility of adding supplemental factors to the plan. Susan Kendall is best known for her contentious employment expertise; she recently represented an asset manager in the defence of a wrongful dismissal claim brought by a former employee following the termination of his employment contract after alleged dishonest expenses claims and for his absence from work shortly after he returned following an extensive sick leave due to depression. Kendall is also noted for her expertise on privacy-related matters. Jonathan Isaacs has a focus on PRC-related employment law matters including collective bargaining, data privacy and termination issues. Sonia Wong and Catherine Leung are key members of a ‘very strong offering at an associate level’. Clients include Abercrombie & Fitch, BT and Lenovo.

The ‘very strong’ two-partner team at Mayer Brown JSM is ‘responsive and knowledgeable’, and handles contentious and non-contentious matters for many of the largest employers in Hong Kong, including Cathay Pacific Airways, HSBC and Hospital Authority. Hong Tran has an excellent reputation and regularly handles significant employment disputes for employers, such as his work alongside senior associate Jennifer Tam for Cathay Pacific Airways in the defence of a claim made by a number of pilots for bypass pay in the High Court. The ‘very knowledgeableDuncan Abate handles a range of employment issues including discrimination, labour relations and data privacy. As part of her wide-ranging employment knowledge, senior associate Elaine Yeung has developed niche expertise advising on retirement benefits matters.

Simmons & Simmons LLP’s two-partner team has an ‘excellent reputation’ in the region and provides ‘responsive, knowledgeable and well-thought-out advice’ for an enviable roster of local and multinational clients across a range of non-contentious and contentious employment issues including employee misconduct, employment matters relating to business restructurings and incentive schemes. The ‘service-oriented and practical’ Sarah Berkeley provides ‘excellent legal analysis’ to financial services companies including advice on the structuring and operating of incentive schemes, negotiated terminations and employment disputes. With almost 30 years’ experience working in Hong Kong, team head Fiona Loughrey is able to provide ‘very strong advice’ across a range of employment matters for financial institutions and multinational corporates.

Deacons has strong ties with many domestic companies and international companies with offices in Hong Kong and is active across the gamut of contentious and non-contentious employment matters. Team head Cynthia Chung is particularly well known for her pension’s expertise and knowledge of employment visa matters; she recently advised a large UK bank with a significant presence in Hong Kong on the pension implications following a major restructuring exercise. Although Chung prides herself on helping clients avoid disputes, she is increasingly active on the contentious side (as employees become more inclined to litigate in light of market conditions) and continues to defend a US retailer in a claim brought by a former employee for wrongful and unlawful termination while she was pregnant. At associate level, Elsie Chan and Vickie Leung have significant local employment law expertise, while the arrival of senior associate Helen Liao from Thomson Reuters in April 2017 enhances the team’s ability to act on PRC employment law matters given her expertise in the area and language skills.

Howse Williams Bowers handles contentious and non-contentious work for both corporates and individuals. The scope of the firm’s offering ranges from advisory work for international companies on their Hong Kong employment contracts and staff handbooks, to employment-related internal investigations and hearings on behalf of clients before the Employment Tribunal. Recent highlights include advising on the mass termination of employees of an international fashion company going into voluntary liquidation in Hong Kong. Solicitor advocate Kevin Bowershas developed a great practice’ and has significant contentious employment experience, which also includes handling internal disciplinary investigations and proceedings. Michael Withington handles employment litigation for both employees and employers, and has experience at handling termination, remuneration and discrimination claims. Senior associate Patricia Yeung is also recommended.

Independent Hong Kong law firm Oldham, Li & Nie has a focus on contentious and non-contentious work in the local market. On the employer side, the firm handles ongoing human resources and employment advisory work for Indian headquartered global software company Dion Global Solutions, and continues to defend Zedra in breach of confidentiality and restrictive covenant claims.

Deeply embedded in the local market, Tanner De Witt’s five-strong team picks up direct instructions and referral work on behalf of many local employers and employees, where the firm is best-known for its ‘excellent employment litigation capability’. The team excels at handling work within the financial services sector and is representing a fund management company in an internal investigation relating to the summary dismissal of a senior executive following alleged breaches of duty and misuse of confidential information. Russell Bennett handles a range of employment litigation within the financial services sector and as well as core work in relation to bonuses and termination entitlements, is also well versed in handling the increasing overlap between employment and financial services regulatory matters. Kim Boreham is the other partner within the team and is noted, in particular, for her ‘expertise in injunction work’, which regularly sees her involved in big-ticket litigation.

Led by Susana Ng, Allen & Overy’s team is particularly accomplished at handling local and pan-Asian employment issues in the context of multi-jurisdictional projects. For example, Ng is a key practitioner providing advice – along with colleagues in New York and London – to Google regarding relevant changes in employment law across a multitude of jurisdictions, particularly impacting its supplier relationships, internships and terms and conditions. The team also provides regular employment law support to J.P. Morgan on global employment considerations relating to its international business.

Bird & Bird continues to gain increased market penetration and visibility in the region as a result of the growth of the firm’s Hong Kong employment practice. Now permanently based in Hong Kong, Pattie Walsh leads the team and is well regarded in the market across a range of non-contentious and contentious work including in relation to the employment considerations associated with transactional work. Leveraging the firm’s overarching expertise within the sector, the employment team has been active across a range of issues affecting companies in the technology space including on matters relating to the protection of trade secrets and confidential information. Managing associate Jeannette Tam is another key member the team, which also includes up-and-coming associate Stephanie Wong, who excels at handling the employment issues associated with multi-jurisdictional projects. Pádraig Walsh has left the firm to join Tanner De Witt.

Clifford Chance’s ‘responsive and knowledgeable’ employment practice is now headed by ‘detailed-oriented’ consultant Anita Lam, following her move in May 2017 from DLA Piper. It handles standalone work for clients from a broad range of sectors, as well as the employment issues generated from the firm’s impressive corporate practice. The team is particularly noted for its representation of financial services clients, which it advises on a raft of employment matters, including those relating to personal data, privacy and remuneration issues. Benefiting from higher rights of audience, Lam is recognised for her contentious expertise and regularly handles discrimination and data privacy disputes. Brian Gilchrist is also well versed in employment litigation and is currently representing pan-Asian equity hedge fund Nezu Asia Capital Management in a case involving an ex-employee’s misuse of confidential information and her counter-claim against the company for deferred incentive payment. Associate Rachel Cheng provides ‘clear and helpful advice on local labour matters’. Clients also include HSBC, Standard & Poor’s, CVC Asia Pacific and British Consulate General.

DLA Piper suffered the recent departures of Julia Gorham and David Smail to Seyfarth Shaw LLP and Anita Lam to Clifford Chance. Nevertheless, the team is still able to call upon the expertise of numerous associates, who regularly works alongside lawyers in the firm’s strong Beijing office on a range of employment issues including those associated with major multi-jurisdictional M&A/restructuring projects handled by the firm.

Often working closely with its Shanghai office, Eversheds Sutherland’s Hong Kong team specialises in complex and strategic regional employment engagements for clients seeking a coordinated Greater China approach. ‘Very talented’ team head Jennifer Van Dale has an ‘excellent reputation in Hong Kong’ among both employers and senior executives, primarily regarding non-contentious matters including sensitive employee separation matters. Clients include Next Media, Rolls-Royce and State Street Bank.

Leveraging its strong reputation for dispute resolution, Gall is particularly well placed to handle contentious employment matters on behalf of both employers and employees. Andrea Randall’s employment litigation experience including claims for breach of contract, wrongful termination, unlawful dismissal, discrimination, whistleblowing and bonus disputes. Randall is currently defending TFS Derivatives against a claim for wrongful and unreasonable termination, and unpaid wages and bonus, brought by a former employee; this is a closely watched case, which is likely to have significant ramifications for employees who are paid commissions, bonuses or other benefits. Senior associate Katherine Jones is also involved in the aforementioned matter and is gaining market recognition for her employment litigation expertise. Senior partner Nick Gall handles contentious employment work as a function of his overarching commercial litigation practice.

Herbert Smith Freehills handles employment work for multinational employers with offices in Hong Kong. The team regularly acts for clients in the financial services sector and recently advised an international bank on the revision of its template employment contract for work in Hong Kong and its exit documentation. Praised for his ‘strong practical litigation skills’, Gareth Thomas regularly handles employment disputes as part of his broad commercial litigation offering. Senior associate Gillian McKenzie has expertise across both contentious and non-contentious matters and regularly provides the necessary employment law input on M&A transactions undertaken by the firm in the region. Clients include Barclays, Credit Suisse, Lidl and Hyperion Group.

Although it is active across a range of industry sectors, Kennedys’ employment team generates a particularly high volume of instructions from clients in the financial services sector including insurance companies, which is a particular sector strength of the firm as a whole. Work includes advising on policy and training, the employment issues associated with business reorganisations, as well as a host of employment disputes including discrimination claims. Senior associate Emily Duncan is the primary contact for employment work and is particularly noted for her ‘excellent advice to individuals’. Richard Bates and Rupert Skrine are also recommended on the non-contentious and contentious side respectively.

Jointly headed by associates Samantha Cornelius and Emma Pugh, Linklaters’ Hong Kong employment team provides an ‘excellent service’ across a range of employment issues including data privacy, employment handbook drafting and employee incentive arrangements to an impressive list of clients, many of which are firm-wide institutional clients. As well as discrete standalone employment advice, the team is also regularly called upon to provide the necessary input on M&A transactions with a nexus to the Asia Pacific region; Cornelius recently assisted Dah Sing Financial Holdings with the employment aspects of the HK$10.6bn sale of its life insurance business in Hong Kong and Macau to Fujian Thai Hot. The arrival of associate Joshua Li from Tanner De Witt in November 2016 enhances the office’s ability to effectively service PRC clients as a result of his Mandarin and Cantonese language skills. Clients also include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, HSBC and RBS.

The key names at Reed Smith Richards Butler are Desmond Liaw and Asha Sharma, who are lawyers in the commercial litigation practice. The firm handles a fairly balanced roster of contentious and non-contentious work including matters relating to remuneration packages, employee handbooks, terminations and immigration-related investigations. As well as regularly handling purely domestic employment law advice, the team also excels in providing the employment law input on cross-border matters. In one such matter, Sharma is working alongside US-qualified lawyers in the Hong Kong office to provide advice for a US-listed company and its Hong Kong subsidiary on the employment of Hong Kong staff and remuneration packages.

Stephenson Harwoodcombines reliable legal advice with a client-friendly approach’ and provides a ‘cost-effective service’ to international companies, SMEs and executives across a broad range of employment issues including day-to-day human resources advice, obtaining and defending injunctions to enforce restrictive covenants, trade secrets, and employment law issues associated with team moves between competing financial institutions. ‘Responsive and friendly’ team head Jessamine Fewins has a ‘solid understanding of the law and can provide appropriate advice without having to resort to literature’. Fewins is particularly noted for contentious matters and has recently secured favourable settlements on behalf of numerous domestic helpers whose employment has been terminated after their employers discovered they were pregnant. Consultant Yeeling Wan also regularly handles employment litigation.

Clyde & Co LLP acts for local and international clients in advisory and contentious matters relating to workplace policies, executive recruitment, enforcement of restrictive covenants and the defence of unfair dismissal cases. Simon McConnell is the primary contact within the team and regularly advises employers on the transfer of employment issues associated with corporate restructurings.

Although it is a relatively small team, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer provides ‘excellent advice’ across contentious and non-contentious matters to an impressive roster of multinational corporates. Counsel Laura Chapman leads the team and has experience handling international transactions, multi-jurisdictional investigations, restrictive covenant disputes and advice across all types of human resources change programmes. Leveraging the firm’s well-respected M&A capability, the team also regularly provides the necessary input on multi-jurisdictional corporate transactions with a nexus to Hong Kong, Greater China and South-East Asia. For example, in a deal which involved multi-disciplinary input from a number of the firm’s offices, (including Washington DC, London and Shanghai) Chapman provided the due diligence and advice on various employee transfers in conjunction with Creat Group’s £820m acquisition of the Bio Products Laboratory business from Bain Capital and the UK Department of Health.

At Hogan Lovells, corporate partner Tim Fletcher regularly provides the employment advice pursuant to corporate transactions and is noted for his expertise in transfer of undertakings matters and on post termination obligations. Litigator Allan Leung handles contentious employment matters, including disputes involving misappropriation of confidential information. Clients include PVH Corp, Dun & Bradstreet and BUPA (Asia).

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