Legal Market Overview
Law firms in Asia Pacific (APAC) rely on the comprehensive legal expertise, commercial proficiency and first-class advocacy skills of members of The English Bar, who act as both advocates and arbitrators in a broad spectrum of complex and substantial matters emerging in the region. Those who feature in our rankings bring with them considerable experience, having appeared in disputes and arbitrations across the globe, including the Middle East, Africa and the US, as well as the UK. Many continue to grow their presence in Asia Pacific and the local markets, spending a large proportion of their time on APAC-related mandates, with some who are native speakers of Mandarin and Cantonese, or strive to learn the local language. Several members are also based full-time in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia, with others who are licensed to practice law locally.
On account of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), Singapore continues to be the leading hub and most prominent jurisdiction for international arbitration in Asia Pacific, with trade, maritime, construction, corporate and commercial disputes taking up a significant proportion of cases. Owing to this, several sets, including Fountain Court Chambers, 39 Essex Chambers and Twenty Essex, have integrated themselves into the region by establishing local offices.
Hong Kong is noted as the leading hub for local and Chinese disputes, owing the region’s accessibility and proximity to the mainland, which allows the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) to leverage in-depth knowledge of China. With the HKIAC becoming the third most preferred arbitral institution, and Hong Kong being the third most favoured seat worldwide, political unrest presides over its judicial and political systems, but for the time being, has not resulted in a downturn of Hong Kong-related instructions. The Korean Commercial Arbitration Board (KCAB), the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (Cietac) and the Vietnam International Arbitration Centre, are also noted as other key centres of activity. In terms of disputes which boast an international element, the International Court of Arbitration (ICC), The London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), as well as the London courts, seat APAC-related mandates, whereby members of the English Bar have the capability to act for Asia-based clients outside of the jurisdiction.
Whilst COVID-19 persists and infection rates are continuously fluctuating, the consensus amongst participating sets is that there has been no decline in work arising out of Asia Pacific, as a result of the pandemic. Although there has been no downtown (on the contrary, many have commented that they have witnessed a rise in mandates, in terms of advisory work and disputes), there has certainly been a change in the way in which hearings are conducted. Anticipated to happen sooner or later, but subsequently accelerated by the pandemic, closed borders and the ongoing difficulty to travel internationally has resulted in many, if not all, hearings taking place virtually. Restrictions on international travel has proved to be beneficial to members (in terms of the abundance of time previously occupied by travel) and the environment. When the world emerges from the pandemic and returns to a new normal, many have commented that shorter, virtual hearings should continue to take place, but in-person hearings are more suitable, efficient and productive for prolonged cases.