In the dynamic realm of Hong Kong SAR’s legal sector, 2024 is anticipated to usher in a blend of trials and opportunities, largely impacted by government policies, digital transformation and the after-effects of the global pandemic. As the legal industry adjusts to these shifts, trends in job creation, retention and specialised hiring niches are emerging with increasing clarity this year.

Navigate the evolving job landscape and secure top talent in 2024 with Randstad Hong Kong's Market and Salary Outlook Report. Discover key labour trends and employer insights on salaries, bonuses, hiring trends and talent expectations in the legal industry.

Download the full report to gain valuable insights for your talent attraction and workforce planning strategy in 2024.

legal professionals ar in demand in hong kong
legal professionals ar in demand in hong kong

the economic impact of 2023 has tipped the talent scale

2023 witnessed a significant number of layoffs in law firms, caused largely by the slow comeback from the pandemic. This inevitably caused a ripple effect across other sectors like global financial services, luxury and retail as well as logistics, where organisations reassessed their existing headcounts as part of cost-saving measures.

The slow growth of the legal industry in Hong Kong SAR has led many employers to take a conservative approach towards hiring, with organisations still waiting for the global financial economy to stabilise before proceeding with important business deals. This cautionary stance has led to a surplus of legal professionals in the job market compared to the year prior, lending employers greater negotiating power than before.

Despite these challenges, law firms in Hong Kong SAR have demonstrated resilience, with attorneys tactically moving to larger firms involved in cross-border collaborations with mainland China.

thriving opportunities for niche and in-house talent

In the aftermath of the widespread layoffs in 2023, the job market saw a growing pool of available legal talent for in-house employers to choose from.

Throughout 2023, a considerable number of lawyers opted for in-house roles for better career stability rather than choosing new job opportunities in agencies. With a softer talent market, in-house employers found themselves in a better position to negotiate with professionals. 

In a proactive bid to attract top workers, employers have enhanced their talent referral programmes to attract talent and secure top-tier professionals. This shift in dynamics marked a distinctive trend in the legal landscape, where both in-house employers and legal professionals found avenues for mutual growth and collaboration.

the rising demand for technical skills and knowledge of legal technology

The technology industry is seeing a growing talent demand for legal professionals in large banks as well as technology and telecommunication companies. Organisations are actively seeking experienced attorneys equipped with a foundational understanding of the digital landscape. It is especially useful if they are proficient in contract negotiations and can collaborate with in-house technology teams.

In response to this trend, many legal professionals spent 2023 actively enhancing their skills and obtaining qualifications in legal technology and data privacy. This strategic upskilling has given them a competitive edge when exploring diverse job opportunities in cryptocurrency, digital banking and e-commerce.

In the commercial sector, there is a significant focus on recruiting professionals with data privacy expertise. Numerous companies, having experienced or are at high risk for data breach incidents, are now bolstering their compliance and data privacy measures. This has created a heightened demand for senior lawyers with specialised knowledge in this domain.

soft skills, especially communication and business development, are high in demand

With the recent downsizing of legal teams, there is a greater focus on talent’s soft skills. In addition to the essential qualifications and technical knowledge, legal professionals are increasingly expected to have strong communication skills. This emphasis on effective communication is particularly crucial as these professionals will be required to work closely with top executives for better visibility and collaboration.

Law firms are also fostering a sales-oriented mindset among junior attorneys, underscoring the significance of pitching and business development skills early in their careers to drive revenue growth for the business. This dual focus on technical proficiency and soft skills not only equips legal professionals for their roles but also positions them as versatile assets in an ever-evolving legal environment.

legal professionals must have communication and sales skills
legal professionals must have communication and sales skills

key trends shaping the legal industry in 2024

As we turn our focus towards this year, the legal labour market in Hong Kong SAR holds a promising outlook. In spite of global pressures, there is still ongoing hiring activity, particularly within litigation and finance practices.

While the financial services sector has been moving at a slower pace, there is a concerted effort to enhance regulatory and compliance functions. The acquisition of custodian offices and licenses has also resulted in a notable uptick in legal headcounts within the industry.

There is also a significant trend where Hong Kong-based legal professionals are earning qualifications to practise law in the Greater Bay Area, indicating a strategic move to work on regional projects.

Businesses in the e-commerce sector are establishing offices and expanding their footprint in Hong Kong SAR. This expansion not only solidifies Hong Kong's role as a global gateway but also fosters greater cross-collaboration within Southeast Asia, emphasising the region's importance in Hong Kong’s e-commerce landscape.

2024 legal salary trends

Salary expectations for 2024 remain relatively flat, aligning with similar trends observed in 2023 after the layoffs, as professionals place greater importance on financial security and stability.

When employees consider moving to a different company, financial incentives such as base salary and bonuses continue to play a crucial role in talent decisions. Those who are already employed and looking for greater career opportunities are seeking a 15% to 20% salary increment.

In the current market, employers have a stronger negotiating power when hiring legal professionals who are immediately available to start work as there still is a surplus of legal talent available. 

The existing talent landscape has also ushered in extended hiring timelines, with employers occasionally taking up to 12 months to find the right people. Though this approach allows for greater flexibility with changing prerequisites, it often leads to a poorer candidate experience due to the long turnaround time.

Regardless of the role’s seniority or the market’s supply of talent, employers should always focus on managing candidate experience from the start. This proactive approach not only ensures a positive recruitment journey but also contributes to strengthening the company’s employer brand value for the future.

download hong kong SAR’s legal industry 2024 market and salary outlook report.

The 2024 Randstad Hong Kong SAR’s Market and Salary Outlook report looks at talent analyses, key trends and new salary benchmarks in the following industries:

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