Much like its preceding year, 2019 marked another tumultuous and politically charged year for Asia. Protesters marched in Indonesia following its general election; in Hong Kong, the city’s “summer of protest” has continued into autumn, and U.S.-China trade relations continue to be fraught. Throughout it, all law firms, for the most part, have succeeded in managing to keep their headcounts steady, against a backdrop of uncertainty.

 

INTERNATIONAL FIRMS

Overall the Asian Legal Business International Top 50 numbers show more of a picture of stability than of tumult. Despite the usual poaching, expansion of the Big Four’s legal services aggressively pushing into the market and rising alternative legal service providers, traditional law firms were able to hold their ground, and many of their staff, this year.

Once again Magic Circle firms dominated the top spots. In the international table, Baker McKenzie retained its number one spot for the second year in a row, slightly upping its head-count from last year. It was a big year for the firm, which elected its Hong Kong head as global chair, while also expanding its presence in Singapore with new hires.

Meanwhile, Linklaters shot up from third to second place, with a total lawyer headcount of 381, up from 334 last year. Allen & Overy secured fourth place, up from fifth last year. This year A&O broke ground when the firm advised Hong Kong on its first green bond issuance. Agnes Tsang in the firm’s Hong Kong office and Alex Stathopoulos in its Singapore office led the team.

There was also movement else-where. Mayer Brown and Ashurst both climbed in the rankings to #8 and #9 respectively. Morrison & Foerster also sailed up the table, swapping 13 for 12. The firm has continued its Asia expansion with a flurry of hires, most recently Nicholas Sheets from Kirkland & Ellis.

But some firms did drop. The biggest fall came from Norton Rose Fulbright, originally ranking eighth, now 14, meanwhile, Shearman & Sterling moved from 34 down to 36, after losing six lawyers in Asia over the year.

TOP 50 INTERNATIONAL LAW FIRMS

These numbers pertain to the Asian offices of these firms. Australia and New Zealand not included.

2018 RANK

2019 RANK

FIRMS

HEADQUARTERS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

1

Baker McKenzie

U.S.

304

585

989

3

2

Linklaters

UK

72

276

381

2

3

Clifford Chance

UK

84

233

355

5

4

Allen & Overy

UK

65

184

320

6

5

Taylor Wessing

UK

114

163

292

7

6

DLA Piper

UK/U.S.

79

189

246

4

7

Herbert Smith Freehills

UK/Australia

72

96

242

9

8

Mayer Brown

U.S.

80

131

230

14

9

Ashurst

UK

44

160

208

10

10

Hogan Lovells

UK/U.S.

47

115

206

12

11

Stephenson Harwood

UK

59

117

199

13

12

Morrison & Foerster

U.S.

58

132

190

21

13

Withersworldwide

UK

60

103

174

8

14

Norton Rose Fulbright

UK

46

125

171

24

15

Sidley Austin

U.S.

38

58

164

11

16

Eversheds Sutherland

U.S./UK

44

71

161

19

17

White & Case

U.S.

40

97

157

15

18

Jones Day

U.S.

53

62

152

18

19

Morgan Lewis & Bockius

U.S.

44

65

147

22

20

Kirkland & Ellis

U.S.

48

62

143

16

21

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

UK

40

61

142

17

22

Latham & Watkins

U.S.

42

105

135

30

23

K&L Gates

U.S.

56

69

132

20

24

Reed Smith

U.S.

43

76

129

28

25

Bird & Bird

UK

28

84

123

29

26

HFW

UK

40

60

111

27

27

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

U.S.

18

81

110

32

28

Davis Polk & Wardwell

U.S.

14

72

108

33

29

Simmons & Simmons

UK

51

20

98

40

30

Watson Farley & Williams

UK

17

43

93

26

31

Pinsent Masons

UK

34

58

92

35

32

CMS

UK/Germany

25

63

88

31

33

Squire Patton Boggs

U.S.

35

39

83

23

34

Clyde & Co

U.S.

42

16

81

25

35

Kennedys

UK

28

53

81

34

36

Shearman & Sterling

U.S.

22

57

79

37

37

Ropes & Gray

U.S.

22

57

79

41

38

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

U.S.

13

64

77

42

39

O'Melveny & Myers

U.S.

25

22

69

38

40

Duane Morris & Selvam

U.S.

28

30

68

36

41

Paul Hastings

U.S.

22

30

64

44

42

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe

UK

22

37

59

47

43

Ince

UK

19

18

59

39

44

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

U.S.

15

27

55

48

45

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

U.S.

19

28

52

45

46

Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy

U.S.

26

20

51

43

47

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

UK

6

38

51

46

48

Slaughter & May

UK

12

38

50

50

49

King & Spalding

U.S.

15

26

41

49

50

Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison

U.S.

7

15

38

DOMESTIC ASIAN FIRMS

The legal services market in China continues to flourish, and unsurprisingly, China law firms once again dominated the domestic table. When it comes to headcount, China firms are near impossible to rival, and with domestic clients valuing advice from legal teams with a high level of cultural literacy, firms with the scale to offer well-rounded services and the knowledge to navigate cross-jurisdiction work are thriving.

Yingke Law Firm retained its top spot once again this year with 7902 lawyers – and the Beijing firm has its eye on continued expansion. In August it reached a preliminary MoU with YKR Law to establish a new legal practice in the U.S., as its international presence swells. Yingke’s mammoth scale – boasting 64 domestic branches and providing legal services throughout 55 countries through its member firm alliance – make it a tough operation to beat. Yingke was followed by Dentons Dacheng and AllBright Law Offices with headcounts of 6254 and 2772, respectively.

Joint China-Australia head-quartered operation King & Wood Mallesons moved up the ranks from seventh position to sixth, while Beijing DHH Law Firm moved from eighth to seventh.

Several firms from other jurisdictions did make an appearance in the tables, among the top 30 were Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas of India, Rajah & Tann of Singapore and Lee & Ko of Korea.

This year also saw three new entrants to the domestic table: HanSheng Law Offices, Beijing Kangda Law Firm, and Kingsbridge Law Firm, all headquartered in China.

TOP 50 DOMESTIC LAW FIRMS

2018 RANK

2019 RANK

FIRMS

HEADQUARTERS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

1

Yingke Law Firm

China

838

7064

7902

2

2

Dentons Dacheng

China

1824

4359

6254

4

3

AllBright law Offices

China

672

2018

2772

3

4

DeHeng Law Offices

China

695

1809

2504

5

5

Grandall Law Firm

China

752

1623

2375

7

6

King & Wood Mallesons

China/Australia

380

1482

1869

8

7

Beijing DHH Law Firm

China

131

1327

1828

6

8

Zhong Yin Law Firm

China

312

1284

1596

9

9

Zhonglun W&D Law Firm

China

610

784

1394

10

10

Zhong Lun Law Firm

China

309

979

1288

11

11

Long An Law Firm

China

271

899

1277

15

12

Tahota Law Firm

China

350

857

1223

12

13

Kim & Chang

Korea

180

808

988

14

14

Hylands Law Firm

China

273

701

974

18

15

Guangdong Guanghe Law Firm

China

263

636

929

13

16

Jincheng Tongda & Neal Law Firm

China

290

618

910

NEW

17

HanSheng Law Offices

China

216

687

903

32

18

Duan & Duan Law Firm

China

230

588

900

16

19

Hiways Law Firm

China

180

572

894

NEW

20

Beijing Kangda Law Firm

China

140

729

869

17

21

Tiantai Law Firm

China

268

515

796

21

22

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas

India

130

620

750

20

23

Guantao Law Firm

China

221

515

745

30

24

Hui Ye Law Firm

China

162

556

728

22

25

Sichuan Mingju Law Firm

China

81

642

723

26

26

ETR Law Firm

China

168

543

718

19

27

JunHe LLP

China

184

511

714

23

28

Rajah & Tann

Singapore

234

451

685

45

29

Zhongwen Law Firm

China

259

374

663

24

30

Lee & Ko

Korea

215

430

645

29

31

Khaitan & Co

India

131

497

645

25

32

Bae Kim & Lee

Korea

261

383

641

40

33

China Commercial Law Firm

China

144

468

612

27

34

Nishimura & Asahi

Japan

149

403

606

31

35

Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas

India

118

476

594

49

36

Tian Yuan Law Firm

China

140

427

567

36

37

Allen & Gledhill

Singapore

182

363

549

34

38

Mori Hamada & Matsumoto

Japan

140

330

529

37

39

Anderson Mori & Tomotsune

Japan

147

267

504

48

40

TMI Associates

Japan

108

313

492

42

41

V&T Law Firm

China

202

286

489

39

42

Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu

Japan

122

289

468

38

43

Shin & Kim

Korea

194

263

465

43

44

AZB & Partners

India

104

358

462

33

45

King & Capital Law Firm

China

120

341

461

41

46

Yulchon

Korea

201

239

440

47

47

JunZeJun Law Offices

China

103

327

430

44

48

Yoon & Yang

Korea

115

308

423

46

49

East & Concord Partners

China

117

305

422

NEW

50

Kingsbridge law Firm

China

68

333

401

NORTH ASIA

Hong Kong’s international law firm’s rankings have jumped around some-what this year. King & Wood Mallesons scooped up prize position, up from second spot last year, while Mayer Brown stepped down to second spot. Linklaters stayed steady at third.

Latham & Watkins dropped to #16 from #13 the previous year, while Reed Smith moved from sixth spot to #13 after losing double-digit staff late last year – including six partners.

The Hong Kong domestic tables were steadier. Deacons, Li & Partners and Woo Kwan Lee & Lo once again rounded out the top three spots, while the rest of the submissions showed only minor movements.

In Japan, among international firms, Baker McKenzie and Morrison & Foerster towered over the competition when it came to head-count. White & Case, Clifford Chance and Linklaters were at the head of the chasing pack.

Among domestic firms, Nishimura & Asahi topped the list with Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu and Mori Hamada & Matsumoto behind it. With only 12 lawyers separating MHM and TMI Associates at #5, there is a case for Japan’s Big Four to be renamed as the Big Five.

In Korea, the six largest firms appear in three distinct clusters. Kim & Chang is in a league of its own, with a headcount of 1,000 likely soon, given its current tally.

Then come Bae Kim & Lee and Lee & Ko, each with more than 600 lawyers. Below them are Shin & Kim, Yulchon and Yoon & Yang, all within striking distance of each other.

They are followed in order by Barun Law, Jipyong, DR & Aju and Hwang Mok Park.

HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL

2019 RANK

FIRMS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

King & Wood Mallesons

39

155

205

2

Mayer Brown

61

122

183

3

Linklaters

22

118

168

4

Baker McKenzie

50

81

159

5

Clifford Chance

41

98

153

6

Kirkland & Ellis

40

50

110

7

Allen & Overy

22

33

102

8

Herbert Smith Freehills

22

41

96

9

Sidley Austin

18

29

96

10

Stephenson Harwood

28

56

94

11

Davis Polk & Wardwell

11

59

85

12

Norton Rose Fulbright

20

59

79

13

Reed Smith

24

45

70

14

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

10

18

70

15

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

19

42

68

16

Latham & Watkins

22

38

67

17

Ashurst

15

51

66

18

Eversheds Sutherland

18

28

62

19

Withersworldwide (formerly Withers)

16

45

62

20

DLA Piper

27

13

56

 

HONG KONG DOMESTIC

2019 RANK

FIRMS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

Deacons

53

167

284

2

Li & Partners

9

88

97

3

Woo Kwan Lee & Lo

40

43

83

4

HWB (Howse Williams Bowers)

25

56

81

5

Stevenson, Wong & Co.

13

32

57

6

P.C. Woo & Co.

14

30

50

7

Wilkinson & Grist

25

17

49

8

ONC Lawyers

13

29

48

9

Gallant

16

17

43

10

Robertsons

14

18

37

 

JAPAN INTERNATIONAL

2019 RANK

FIRMS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

Baker McKenzie

45

81

146

2

Morrison & Foerster

33

81

114

3

White & Case

10

23

46

4

Clifford Chance

7

28

45

5

Linklaters

9

32

42

6

Hogan Lovells

7

22

34

7

Squire Patton Boggs

12

13

33

8

Jones Day

7

8

30

9

Herbert Smith Freehills

6

23

29

10

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe

8

17

25

11

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

6

12

23

12

DLA Piper

4

19

23

13

Allen & Overy

5

17

22

14

Ashurst

4

16

20

15

Withers

9

9

18

16

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

3

13

16

17

Shearman & Sterling

5

9

14

18

Sidley Austin

2

4

12

19

Latham & Watkins

6

7

10

20

Ropes & Gray

4

6

10

 

JAPAN DOMESTIC

2019 RANK

FIRMS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

Nishimura & Asahi

133

346

528

2

Anderson Mori & Tomotsune

147

267

504

3

Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu

110

283

432

4

Mori Hamada & Matsumoto

114

248

403

5

TMI Associates

126

348

391

6

City-Yuwa Partners

58

78

158

7

Atsumi & Sakai

74

55

152

8

Oh-Ebashi LPC & Partners

62

64

143

9

Kitahama Partners

35

42

89

10

Nakamura & Partners

42

35

79

 

SOUTH KOREA

2019 RANK

FIRMS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

Kim & Chang

180

808

988

2

Bae Kim & Lee

261

383

641

3

Lee & Ko

212

417

629

4

Shin & Kim

190

253

451

5

Yulchon

199

229

428

6

Yoon & Yang

113

300

413

7

Barun Law

104

98

202

8

Jipyong

54

68

202

9

Dr & Aju

99

77

176

10

Hwang Mok Park

47

73

120

SOUTH AND SOUTHEAST ASIA

In Singapore, the Big Four firms justified their nomenclature by taking the leading spots in a combined international and domestic table: Allen & Gledhill was followed by Rajah & Tann, WongPartnership and Drew & Napier, with Dentons’ Singapore office sitting just outside that group.

In India, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas ranked first once again.

This year, the firm promoted 19 lawyers to its partnership, more than 40 percent of whom were female. And while people-power is something the firm has in spades, it is also strengthening in other areas. In 2019, its newly launched legaltech startup incubator chose its first cohort, while it also established an educational programme that targets legal and business professionals, offering access to the firm’s legal knowhow.

Khaitan & Co and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas took the next two spots, consistent with last year’s numbers. AZB & Partners continued to hang onto fourth spot, while Trilegal moved up from seventh spot to fifth. J Sagar Associates and L&L Partners followed them.

In Indonesia, the top spots underwent a minor reshuffling as Hadiputranto, Hadinoto & Partners moved up into top spot, while Assegaf Hamzah & Partners (Rajah & Tann) moved into second. Lubis Ganie Surowidjojo was in third place.

Malaysia also showed minimal movement, with Zaid Ibrahim & Co (ZICO Law) retaining the top spot. Similarly, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines maintained steady positions in 2019. While this year has proved a testing year for those working in Asia, headcounts and firms have remained resilient. Where there are challenges, many are also quick to spot opportunities, and with this comes a hunger for new skills and headcount.

INDIA

2019 RANK

FIRMS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas

130

620

750

2

Khaitan & Co

131

497

645

3

Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas

118

476

594

4

AZB & Partners

104

358

462

8

Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan

106

291

397

5

Trilegal

51

339

390

6

J. Sagar Associates

99

298

333

7

 L&L Partners

72

253

325

9

Link Legal India Law Services

30

173

203

10

Kochhar & Co

46

145

191

11

Desai & Diwanji

28

162

190

12

Indus Law

41

118

159

15

Fox Mandal & Co

36

120

156

13

DSK Legal

20

130

150

14

Singh & Associates

8

142

150

16

Wadia Ghandy & Co

36

98

134

17

Economic Laws Practice

49

74

123

18

HSA Advocates

26

80

106

19

Vaish Associates

12

93

105

20

Anand and Anand

29

68

97

21

Phoenix Legal

14

64

79

22

Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe

11

65

76

23

Nishith Desai Associates

8

64

72

24

Dhir & Dhir

11

80

65

25

Singhania & Partners

15

45

60

26

Majmudar & Partners

7

49

56

27

Krishnamurthy & Co

8

47

55

28

Rajani Associates

11

26

37

29

Chadha & Chadha Intellectual Property Law Firm

10

25

35

30

Clasis Law

9

20

30

 

INDONESIA

2019 RANK

FIRMS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

Hadiputranto, Hadinoto & Partners

20

105

134

2

Assegaf Hamzah & Partners (Rajah & Tann)

25

101

126

3

Lubis Ganie Surowidjojo

7

107

115

4

Ali Budiardjo, Nugroho, Reksodiputro (ABNR)

22

89

114

5

Hanafiah Ponggawa & Partners (Dentons HPRP)

13

90

105

6

SSEK Legal Consultants

14

61

75

7

Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung

11

45

56

8

Makarim & Taira S.

10

39

51

9

Mochtar Karuwin Komar

5

45

50

10

Soemadipradja & Taher

11

35

46

 

MALAYSIA

2019 RANK

FIRMS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

Zaid Ibrahim & Co (ZICO Law)

60

105

165

2

Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill

36

87

123

3

Skrine

48

65

116

4

Shearn Delamore

47

63

110

5

Adnan Sundra & Low

32

43

98

6

Zul Rafique & Partners

35

51

86

7

Rahmat Lim & Partners

21

62

83

8

Wong & Partners

13

63

82

9

Christopher & Lee Ong (Rajah & Tann)

27

47

74

10

Raja, Darryl & Loh

22

51

73

 

PHILIPPINES

2019 RANK

FIRMS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

ACCRALAW

55

109

164

2

SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan

43

72

122

3

Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura

50

37

93

4

Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia

20

54

74

5

Villaraza & Angangco

19

44

63

6

Puno & Puno Law Offices

14

45

59

7

Quisumbing Torres

21

35

56

8

Picazo Buyco Tan Fider & Santos

30

18

51

9

Siguion Reyna Montecillo & Ongsiako

26

24

50

10

Castillo Laman Tan Pantaleon & San Jose

22

26

50

 

SINGAPORE

2019 RANK

FIRMS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

Allen & Gledhill

146

244

392

2

Rajah & Tann

141

185

326

3

WongPartnership

102

222

324

4

Drew & Napier

90

111

269

5

Dentons (Singapore)

89

99

193

6

Baker Mckenzie Wong & Leow

29

79

128

7

Shook Lin & Bok

39

80

119

8

Withers Khattarwong

35

48

93

9

Eversheds Harry Elias

23

68

91

10

Clifford Chance

23

56

87

11

Linklaters

14

65

86

12

Allen & Overy

23

56

83

13

Stephenson Harwood

19

47

66

14

Norton Rose Fulbright

15

46

61

15

RHTlaw Taylor Wessing

23

23

58

 

THAILAND

2019 RANK

FIRMS

TOTAL PARTNERS

TOTAL ASSOCIATES

TOTAL NO. OF LAWYERS

1

Weerawong C&P

12

100

112

2

Tilleke & Gibbins

24

85

109

3

Baker Mckenzie Ltd

61

31

93

4

Chandler MHM

17

37

80