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Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Labour and employment
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next Generation Partners

Leading individuals

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Next Generation Partners

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Benefiting from longstanding experience in the local market, Baker McKenzie's 'very strong' Hong Kong practice is the fulcrum from which the firm provides advice to multinational clients on their most pressing employment matters, not just locally but also throughout Asia, where it can team up with practitioners in local offices should the need arise. Praised for its 'sensitive and thoughtful advice', the team excels at handling work within heavily regulated industries, including the TMT and financial services sectors, for clients including Wells Fargo, BT and Lenovo. The 'excellent' Rowan McKenzie has broad-ranging expertise across the gamut of contentious and non-contentious matters; he recently successfully defended a global beverages company against a wrongful termination claim brought by a former employee at the Labour Tribunal following their summary dismissal for gross misconduct. Appreciated by clients for her 'even-handed approach', Susan Kendall provides 'fair and balanced advice' to clients engaged in contentious employment matters; her recent cases have included matters relating to misappropriation of confidential information and allegations of sexual harassment. 'An internationally recognised authority in his area of expertise', Jonathan Isaacs is the principal point of contact for clients seeking advice on China employment law matters and is particularly appreciated for his 'knowledge of how the Chinese law is evolving'. Isaacs is also aided in his mainland China-related work by virtue of his ability to leverage the firm's Joint Operation with PRC law firm FenXun Partners, enabling it to provide local law capabilities to clients through a team of PRC-qualified lawyers. Sonia Wong and Catherine Leung are recommended at associate level.

Headed by 'market leader' Duncan Abate, Mayer Brown's two-partner team has longstanding expertise across the gamut of contentious and non-contentious matters, including advice relating to hot-button topics such as data privacy and the growing impact of social media on human resources (HR) issues. The 'excellent' Hong Tran provides 'very commercial advice' to major clients from a broad range of industry sectors, including acting for an international food delivery start-up on a plethora of Hong Kong employment issues, such as structuring the arrangement with riders, managing strikes, and data privacy issues. Senior associate Jennifer Tam is also recommended. Clients include Cathay Pacific Airways, Cathay Dragon and Barclays Capital Asia.

Often working closely with lawyers based in Shanghai and Singapore, Simmons & Simmons LLP's three-partner Hong Kong team provides 'tailored and very commercial advice' to clients from a range of industry sectors, covering employment law matters ranging from ad hoc advice to advice on complex strategic HR planning. 'Offering a depth of experience that few other employment lawyers in Hong Kong can match', Asia team head Fiona Loughrey offers 'a no-nonsense approach to complex problems' and 'works hard to offer practical insights for foreign companies'. Benefiting from a 'remarkable ability to solve problems creatively and pragmatically', Loughrey's broad-ranging employment coverage includes advising clients on handling termination disputes, advice on data protection issues and protection of business interests and injunctions. As head of the firm's Asia dispute resolution offering, Marc Thorley regularly handles contentious matters and, alongside Loughrey, recently represented the plaintiff in proceedings brought against a former employee relating to the disclosure of confidential infomation and breach of a very senior employee’s contractual and fiduciary duties. Sarah Berkeley is 'a very seasoned employment lawyer' and provides 'commercial and practical advice' to clients, including on issues relating to bonus and incentive arrangements and on strategic matters relating to reorganisations and restructurings. Supervising associate Wendy Wong has 'a very good understanding of the technicalities of the law'. The department was further strengthened in February 2018 by the arrival of consultant Russell Lamb from Greenberg Traurig, LLP's London office.

Bird & Bird's dedicated six-practitioner employment team has the critical mass and breadth of expertise to provide an extremely comprehensive service on behalf of a raft of multinationals and local clients across a plethora of employment matters, including contract reviews, employment due diligence, sensitive terminations of top-level managers, and trade-secrets litigation. Benefiting from 'a huge depth of experience', team head Pattie Walsh garners 'incredible client loyalty, earned through great dedication and smart solutions'. Walsh excels at handling high-level multi-jurisdictional strategic mandates, where she is also able to leverage the expertise of practitioners across the firm's international network; she recently advised a global financial services company on how to respond to a potentially reputation-threatening sexual harassment claim made against a senior employee. Described as 'a huge pleasure to work with', managing associate Jeannette Tam is gaining a strong reputation in the market and is increasingly handling her own workflow as well as regularly assisting Walsh. At an associate level, Stephanie Wong is 'an insightful lawyer who understands the important human aspects of labour and employment matters', and Sarah Blennerhassett is 'great at handling employee personal data and privacy issues'.

Deacons provides 'responsive and practical advice' to domestic companies as well as to international corporates with offices in Hong Kong. The scope of the firm's work covers the waterfront, from dismissal cases to advice on drafting employment contracts and staff handbooks, as well as M&A-related employment issues. 'Very efficient and professional' team head Cynthia Chung provides 'practical solutions' to local and multinational clients, and is a fluent speaker of English, Cantonese and Mandarin; she covers a range of contentious and non-contentious employment issues, including recently providing a significant amount of strategic advice to employers in the wake of a surge of sexual harassment claims following the #MeToo movement. Chung also has significant pensions expertise and recently assisted a major global financial services entity on the consolidation, restructuring and streamlining of its pension schemes. Recently promoted to partner, Elsie Chan has a flourishing reputation in the market and is a key member of the team, which also includes well-regarded associates Vickie Leung and Helen Liao; Liao's dual PRC and Hong Kong qualification enables her to be a very useful resource for mainland China clients.

Active across the full range of employment, regulatory and immigration matters, independent Hong Kong firm Howse Williams has strong ties with many local businesses, and provides 'practical, responsive and solutions-oriented advice' to both employers and employees. Recently promoted partner Patricia Yeung has a core focus on employment matters, and is the go-to practitioner for many clients' highest-profile strategic and advisory employment matters, including advice relating to high-level terminations, discrimination claims and team moves. Michael Withington handles employment litigation for both employees and employers, and has experience in handling termination, remuneration and discrimination claims. Kevin Bowers is now a consultant at Tanner De Witt.

Deeply entrenched in the local market, independent law firm Tanner De Witt's two-partner team provides 'excellent service' across the spectrum of employment matters impacting local employers and their mid-senior level executives. By dint of its independent status, the firm receives a significant amount of referral work as well as a regular flow of direct instructions, in particular from clients in the financial services industry. The team is best-known for its contentious expertise, and in this respect the 'very responsive' Russell Bennett has 'in-depth experience' and is appreciated by clients not only for his robust representation before the courts and tribunals but also his 'willingness to explore options to settle out of court'. Leveraging her litigation background, Kim Boreham has extensive experience representing clients in the Hong Kong courts in relation to injunction applications, enforcement of restrictive covenants and other contentious employment issues.

The 'friendly and down-to-earth' team at Allen & Overy provides 'practical, cost-effective advice' across the spectrum of contentious and non-contentious employment matters, including advice relating to internal employee investigations and employee data privacy, benefits and large restructurings. Often working closely with lawyers based in mainland China, and able to tap into the expertise of employment specialists spread across the firm's large international network, the team offers particular value to Asia-based international corporates seeking coordinated employment advice across their offices. For example, 'very responsive' team head Susana Ng provides advice to China Unicom across a wide variety of employment issues affecting its business, including on the coordination of local employment advice on issues that may impact its global HR strategies. Leveraging the firm's preeminent global reputation for handling M&A matters, the team is also regularly engaged in employment-related matters pursuant to major corporate transactions; Ng provided vital employment law advice to Thomson Reuters pursuant to the $17bn sale of its global financial and risk business to a consortium led by Blackstone. Other clients include Tesco, Mizuho Capital, HSBC and Merck.

Leveraging the firm's corporate and litigation expertise in particular, in addition to being able to tap into resources spread throughout the firm's vast international network of offices, Clifford Chance provides 'very responsive and accessible service' across the gamut of employment issues to an impressive roster of clients including Shell, the University of Hong Kong and CVC Asia Pacific. 'Helpful and proactive' team head Anita Lam has expertise across a wide range of employment matters and has recently been advising a financial services client in handling several whistleblowing complaints, and, alongside 'very personable and professional' general litigator Brian Gilchrist, is representing Edmond de Rothschild in the defence of claims brought by a former senior executives for outstanding performance fees of over HK$40m. 'Very accessible' senior associate Rachel Cheng is also recommended.

The 'customer-oriented' team at DLA Piper provides 'practical and insightful' advice across the gamut of contentious and non-contentious employment matters for China-based, Hong Kong-based and overseas corporate entities from a broad swathe of industry sectors, including financial services, retail and transport. Despite a number of departures over the past couple of years, the team has rebuilt with some significant strategic hires of which Helen Colquhoun, who now heads the team following her arrival from Withers in October 2017, is the most notable. Praised for her 'in-depth global knowledge across employment law matters' as well as for her 'ability to use laypeople's terms to make her clients understand the risks and benefits', Colquhoun has hit the ground running since her arrival and has been particularly effective in advising on multi-jurisdictional matters. Alongside practitioners in the firm's mainland China offices, she recently advised AllSaints on its redundancy procedure in China and Hong Kong due to the closure of its business in Asia. 'Extremely knowledgeable' associate Wundy Lee displays 'a personal touch; being a Hong Kong local she very much understands the employment ordinances and reality from both the employer and employee viewpoints'.

The 'excellent' team at Eversheds Sutherland provides 'cost-effective advice' to regional and global corporates from a range of industry sectors across the spectrum of non-contentious and contentious mandates including designing global HR strategies, exit packages and post-merger integration. Team head Jennifer Van Dale 'has the ability to think outside the box' and provides 'very strong service' to employers and senior executives, on purely local matters in addition to multi-jurisdictional mandates, where she is able to leverage resources across the firm's global network.

Independent Hong Kong-based firm Gall is best-known for its 'superb contentious employment offering', where it is able to resource matters using core employment practitioners as well as those in the broader litigation team. Many of its cases relate to the financial services industry, either on behalf of the employer or the employee. The 'very through, detail-oriented' Andrea Randall displays 'an excellent understanding of the law', and spearheads the team alongside head of litigation Nick Gall. Recent highlights include Randall's representation of TFS Derivatives in its defence of claims for wrongful and unreasonable termination and unpaid wages and bonus brought by a former employee; Randall also acted for the former CEO of troubled commodities-trading company Noble Group in a claim for millions of dollars of unpaid shares brought against the company's founder.

The 'very efficient' team at Herbert Smith Freehills provides 'clear and concise advice' across a range of standalone employment matters, in addition to issues arising out of major transactions (including post- and pre-acquisition restructurings). Although the team has been historically better-known for its contentious expertise, it has been increasingly active on non-contentious matters, including providing advice on incentive plans as well as advising corporates on implementing robust compliance safeguards in light of the increase in sexual harassment claims. 'Excellent problem-solver' Gareth Thomas is 'a real expert' at handling employment matters. Thomas has handled numerous employment disputes for global financial institutions, including recently representing one in successfully recovering bonuses paid to several former employees under the claw-back provisions of the bonus scheme plan.

As well as Kennedys' ongoing employment work for institutional insurance clients of the firm, such as defending one major insurer against a sexual harassment claim by an employee, the firm continues to pick up a growing amount of broader financial services-related employment work, including a significant amount of employment contract drafting for private equity and hedge funds clients. The firm also handles a significant amount of employee-side work, and regularly acts for financial services senior executives on transitioning between employers, advising them on severance and termination matters, including termination payments, employment restrictions and discrimination issues. Richard Bates and Rupert Skrine are the primary practitioners at a partner level, while senior associate Emily Duncan is also recommended. Clients include Prudential Hong Kong, Mercer and Hospital Authority.

Co-headed by Emma Pugh and Samantha Cornelius, the 'professional, efficient and responsive' team at Linklaters has broad and in-depth experience in advisory, transactional and contentious issues across a wide range of employment, incentives, immigration, pensions, discrimination and data privacy matters. The team is particularly noted for its employee incentives expertise and, with cooperation from the firm's Singapore office, recently advised an insurance company on a legal and compliance review of the company’s four equity plans for its employees and agents across 17 Asia-Pacific jurisdictions. Other highlights included advising Sony Music on various employment-, incentive- and data privacy-related matters affecting employees in Hong Kong. Other clients include AlixPartners, ANZ, Bain and BUPA.

Although it does also handle employer-side work, independent Hong Kong law firm Oldham, Li & Nie is best-known for its representation of employees (including many high-level executives at financial institutions), and as well as receiving direct instructions also receives a significant amount of referral work from other law firms. The team was recently considerably weakened at partner level by the departure in September 2018 of Adam Hugill, who left to establish boutique law firm Hugill & IP. Senior associate Jade Tang  excels at handling M&A and transaction-based employment work, and recently provided Hong Kong law input advice to an international law firm that was instructed by the seller of a Hong Kong company to a Korean purchaser. Since the seller was still maintaining a minority interest in the company, the documentation had to ensure that its minority rights were protected and that the key employees’ interests were taken care of under the employment contract and the share option agreement. Christopher Hooley also recently left to join Hugill's new firm. Clients include Zedra, FT Life Insurance, Aldi and Platinum Wines.

Led by Asha Sharma, Reed Smith Richards Butler handles a fairly balanced spread of contentious and non-contentious work including matters relating to remuneration packages, employee handbooks, terminations and immigration-related investigations. Former co-practice head Desmond Liaw, along with senior consultant Jonathan Green, has joined Minter Ellison.

In addition to handling a considerable amount of day-to-day employment advisory work for small and medium-sized enterprises, Stephenson Harwood has a strong reputation for handling contentious matters for international corporates, particularly relating to theft of confidential information and trade secrets. Jezamine Fewins is the principal partner for handling employment litigation and is representing Thomson Reuters Hong Kong in the defence of an unlawful dismissal claim, alleging disability discrimination, brought by a former employee. Although he is principally involved in corporate matters, Paul Westover regularly handles employment-related work, including advising on share options and other employee incentive schemes. Consultant Yeeling Wan also regularly handles employment litigation. Other clients include Duff & Phelps, Formia Airline Supplies, Generali Assicurazioni and Generali Worldwide.

Clyde & Co LLP handles a significant amount of non-contentious and contentious work for financial services clients, and has been particularly active advising on the employment issues associated with team moves and downsizings. Simon McConnell's ability to combine general commercial litigation expertise with extensive knowledge of the regulatory issues faced by financial services clients enables him to provide 'a very pragmatic and commercial offering' to clients in the industry on the employment matters associated with M&A mandates, as well as on contentious issues including enforcing restrictive covenants, and advice on contentious team moves. The 'excellent' Mun Yeow excels at employment work at the intersection of financial services regulatory matters, including regulatory investigations and disciplinary proceedings conducted by Hong Kong regulators such as the Securities and Futures Commission and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Led by commercial litigator Allan Leung on the disputes side, and corporate partner Tim Fletcher on the non-contentious front, Hogan Lovells handles a significant volume and range of work (including advice on employment contracts, transfer of employees and restrictive covenants), primarily for existing clients of the firm. Fletcher is providing employment advice to 21st Century Fox on the $52.4bn sale of certain of its businesses to The Walt Disney Company in a stock transaction.

Established in September 2018, Hugill & IP is the new boutique law firm co-founded by employment expert Adam Hugill following his recent departure from Oldham, Li & Nie. Hugill has a particularly strong reputation advising on contentious employment matters and has excellent ties with local businesses from many industry sectors, which should enable him to offer a viable alternative to some of the larger, more established firms in the market. Christopher Hooley handles non-contentious employment matters as part of his broad-ranging corporate and commercial practice.

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