Challenges of recruiting for the in-house commerce and industries market in Hong Kong

Challenges of recruiting for the in-house commerce and industries market in Hong Kong

Written by Sunny Yung

In-house commerce legal recruitment is not without its challenges. Even the departure of one lawyer within a business can expose a company to risk if not replaced in a timely manner, and accordingly hiring managers are under pressure to fill vacancies quickly. We have considered numerous clients including multinational corporations (listed/non-listed), conglomerates (listed and non-listed), HKEX blue-chip companies, PRC corporations (state owned/ privately run) and we have made the following observations and identified practical solutions to help in overcoming recruitment challenges.

Ethics and Compliance

An increasing number of corporations understand the requirement to have a robust framework in place in order to remain compliant, particularly with the latest legislative changes. This is especially prominent for US Listed and European corporations operating within the life sciences, automation, technology and manufacturing sectors.

The ability to translate global ethics and compliance in line with a model friendly to Asia Pacific is a challenge for most businesses. This is made more difficult with the requirement to secure talent with fluency in Mandarin in order to deliver the training to Greater China businesses. The typical solution to this kind of search might be to bring in talent either from the PRC or Taiwan to Hong Kong. However, this may require a significant package and support for incumbents to move their family as well. 

PRC Legal

We have witnessed the growing demand for PRC legal business partners within legal institutions with the capability to navigate the complex commercial/legal environment of the greater China market and additionally understand the subtle cultural nuances within this business world. The pool of such PRC talent, although increasing, remains finite in comparison to the local talent in the Hong Kong market. In the case of a critical need for a PRC legal professional in Hong Kong, clients are often willing to relocate a strong candidate from first tier PRC cities like Beijing or Shanghai. In some cases, it may be required to extend the search to include candidates from South China.

Corporate Finance

Hong Kong is one of the most lucrative international capital markets hub, making the HKEX an attractive destination for corporations to be listed. Law firms will assist in the initial public offerings and navigate the HKEX compliance regulations to avoid exposure to a potential breach.

We have observed a notable shortage in talent with the required technical depth and understanding. The challenge is finding those with capacity to apply listing rules to corporations while retaining the corporations’ interests as most lawyers in the capital markets/corporate finance space only know how to execute IPOs. When it comes to recruiting, hiring managers might need to have flexibility with their mandates and consider taking equity capital markets lawyers to be IPO lawyers. 

Software and Technology

Because financial services are predominantly the focus in Hong Kong, identifying legal candidates with solid TMT experience is significantly more difficult. It is not uncommon for the search process to last six months to a year, particularly for those with software or IT solutions exposure. Few private practice law firms in Hong Kong focus on the TMT practice area and consequently, it is trickier to see this experience nurtured.

Corporations often utilise internal recruiters to fill such roles, but our findings have been that the success rate for such a hiring methodology has been underwhelming. Again, the solution could be to hire talent from other parts of the region such as Singapore, Malaysia or Taiwan when specialised domain knowledge is required as the infrastructure in place may allow for a larger pool of talent with TMT exposure.

Property and Construction

The real estate space remains an ongoing challenge for property developers, especially those seeking to identify candidates with experience in Cap. 621 first hand residential sales of properties. This could be due to a host of different reasons: firstly, it is reasonably new to the property development sector and there is also a huge difference between the talent pool. Candidates are typically either too junior (between NQ to 3 PQE) or they are very senior; either working as a partner in a law firm or as a general counsel for the company.

The same can be said for construction. Despite Hong Kong being a prime location for infrastructure and engineering projects, there remains a finite and niche pool of candidates who often demand greater packages and are off market.


With this in mind, recruiting firms are required to think creatively when it comes to their hiring solutions. We are pleased to report that we have worked with multiple corporations providing successful recruitment solutions for each of the above challenges and are keen where possible to assist.  Please feel free to reach out for a confidential discussion in relation to any of the above with Sunny Yung, Associate Director at Aquis Search whose contact details can be found below.

For more details please contact -

Sunny Yung
Associate Director
Hong Kong, Asia Pacific
+852 2537 0333

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