US firms in Hong Kong attract top talent with big money

February 9, 2012 The legal services market in Hong Kong has long been dominated by British firms, but US law firms are now a potent force, attracting top talent by offer larger compensation packages than their competition.

While British firms have traditionally paid associates in asia at lower rates than those at home, the US firms appear to have maintained the standard pay for all associates in the organization, meaning that new associates in Hong Kong may be getting a starting salary about 75% more at a US firm than associates at a British firm in the same city. US firms Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, for example, pay all associates according to the “New York scale” beginning at $160,000 for fresh entrants.

Magic Circle firms maintain recruitment power on the basis of their brand image, but the pay disparity is hard to ignore, and talented and hardworking associates are flocking to US firms, which in turn builds the brand value of those firms.

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