Hong Kong Legal and Business Support 2019 Mid-year Update

Written by Kelsey So

We released the Aquis Search 2019 Hong Kong Corporate Services & Human Resources Salary Survey in January this year.  Kelsey So provides us with some insights and updates as we explore how the hiring market what has changed, if at all, in the last few months.  

At the beginning of the year we were seeing an increase in contract and temporary paralegal positions, is this still a trend?  
There are not many temporary paralegal positions with international law firms, and this hasn’t changed in the last few months. But it is different  in-house legal teams, so yes, we are still seeing an increase in temporary and contract roles coming to market especially in a number of financial institutions where we have seen only contract paralegals  positions as there’s no headcount available for permanent positions, but there is a need for talent to manage the department’s heavy workload.   

Have salary levels remained stable for paralegals and legal secretaries so far this year?  
Yes very stable, not much difference and pretty much the same as 2017 and 2018.  

The HR function in Hong Kong has been stable over the past couple of years, how can HR professionals make themselves stand out from the crowd?  
Some firms have merged two positions into one at the mid to senior level. Candidates with all-round HR experience including both recruitment + C&B exposure are definitely at an advantage as we move to the second half of this year. Mandarin language skills are essential, especially for those who handle regional projects or cover China as well.  

New headcount for Company Secretary roles was predominantly at the senior level last year, is there any sign that there may be more opportunities for junior professionals in the coming months?  
There are more company secretarial opportunities at the junior level with professional firms. We’ve witnessed that more boutique size in-house companies are happy to offer junior staff an opportunity and they are keen to train the young professionals.  

Is there any sign that interim or contract positions are on the rise in Hong Kong for any of the corporate services areas Aquis Search covers?  
There is always talk of contract roles becoming more common as there are many advantages for hiring firms and employees. However, I am yet to see any evidence of this so far in 2019, and generally, the only contract positions coming to market are for maternity cover.  

What advice would you give to anyone looking to make a move in the next few months? 
I would advise them to have reasonable salary expectations. Given broader market conditions and various external economic influences, there is evidence that some firms are more cautious when hiring or in some cases freezing headcounts, or lowering budgets.  It is a challenging time for senior professionals with cost-cutting or restructuring, so I advise junior to mid-level candidates to not to be too anxious about any senior team movements. The consequences seem to be junior to mid-level professionals will see more options in the market over the next few months.