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PROFESSIONAL SERVICES/LEGAL | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Singapore's 25 largest law firms 2014

Wanted: Lawyers who are specialists in niche industries

Vacancies at Singapore’s top law firms and in-house legal teams are still very much at their peak. However, this is not necessarily good news for freshly graduated lawyers. “We are seeing an oversupply of fresh law graduates in the job market as they were not signed onto the law firms after completion of their training contracts,” says Evelyn Lee, manager, financial services and legal at Robert Walters
Singapore.

The Singapore Business Review sought the insights of the industry’s top hiring insiders and the verdict is in – specialization will be a key theme for legal hiring in Singapore this year.

A drought in specialists

As hinted at in Lee’s earlier statement, a key hiring trend within Singapore’s legal industry
is a preference for specialists. More specifically, “law firms are still hiring within the range of 3-5
year’s PQE as experienced lawyers are sought after,” says Lee.

Ben Cooper, head of legal and compliance - Asia Pacific at GRMSearch, says that regulatory knowledge of specific or niche industries is highly sought after in the industry, and that this trend is likely to continue. “This is especially true in financial institutions, especially in relation to funds and derivatives or structured products,” adds Cooper. Lee echoes this sentiment, adding that “there is a particular demand for telecommunications, media and technology (TMT) lawyers.”

Chris Mead, regional director at Hays in Singapore, explains why most recruiters prefer to hire a mid-level candidate over training a more junior one. According to Mead, “most employers, both in house and practice, seek candidates in the mid-level range. Candidates at this range have significant experience, require little training and have yet to become too ‘expensive’.” He adds that firms and legal teams simply do not have enough time and resources to devote to training fresher lawyers.

Aside from the need for more specialist knowledge, hiring within the industry will likely be driven by growing industry presence. Mead believes that hiring will be especially robust from prominent international law firms who are looking to grow their presence locally.

“We anticipate seeing a surge of joint legal ventures in the market this year, with many international firms hiring Singapore qualified lawyers in preparation for such change,” says Mead. Other areas where hiring could further increase include intellectual property, TMT, and employment.

Who made it to SBR’s list?

Allen & Gledhill has once again topped Singapore Business Review’s ranking of the 25 largest law firms in the city based on total number of legal professionals.

Data compiled from individual company surveys and media reports show that Allen & Gledhill is ahead of its closest competitor Rajah & Tann in staffing numbers by 11 legal professionals.

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, which has climbed its way up two positions, reported 17 additional professionals. According to Tan Chong Huat, managing partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, their market is no longer just Singapore. The firm enjoys referrals from their international network of Taylor Wessing firms worldwide.

While the top 5 firms didn’t shake up their spots, this year’s list welcomes the new entrant, Holman Fenwick Willan, on the 25th spot with 36 total number of professionals.

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