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by Dawn P. Robertson, Esq. | June 17, 2010


Although thousands of attorneys will work with a recruiter this year, most will spend less time evaluating recruiters than they do researching airfares on the Internet. A recruiter should play a much larger role in the job-search process than simply relaying information about opportunities, especially when it comes to Asia based assignments. Unlike the practice of law, the legal-recruiting profession is not regulated and does not require any type of license. Yet using a recruiter involves temporarily entrusting the course of your career to another person. As many recruiters turn their attention to the Asia legal markets with the domestic economic downturn, we thought it timely to suggest the following questions when interviewing a potential recruiter to determine their experience and expertise in the Asia legal markets. There are many excellent legal recruiters out there, but not all recruiters are created equal and, most importantly, only a handful of recruiters have yet to gain the experience and the knowledge that the Asia legal recruiting field demands.

How long has the recruiter been working in the country of your choice? Cypress was launched in 2001, long before the Asian markets stepped into the world’s economic spotlight and became the focus of the world’s attention. As the first and only US-based legal recruiting firm to specialize exclusively on law firm and in-house placements in the China, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea legal markets, Cypress has built unparalleled relationships with the Hiring and Managing Partners of top-tier US and UK law firms as well as domestic and international corporations. With our narrow focus and profound understanding of the market, Cypress is uniquely positioned to provide accurate and up-to-date information regarding job opportunities as well as logistical, cultural and practical advice organic to the region.

How many recruiters on their team are dedicated solely to the Asia legal markets? Unlike other large U.S. based recruiting firms with one recruiter assigned to the Asian region, the entire Cypress team focuses exclusively on the Asian legal markets and consists of research associates, marketing and H.R. specialists and ex-practicing attorneys from top-tier law firms. Cypress has the staff and resources to accommodate associates and partners looking for a wide variety of opportunities and firms. Cypress has more recruiters focused exclusively on the Asia legal markets than any other recruiting firm in the US or Asia. Our recruiters have extensive knowledge of the Asia markets and throughout the years have practiced at firms such as Skadden Arps, Davis Polk and Fried Frank.

How responsive is your recruiter? We hear many stories about unresponsive recruiters in this market who are overwhelmed and taking on too many Asia candidates at one time. We pride ourselves on being responsive and believe that there must be an open and honest flow of communication. With our full staff and offices in New York and Asia, we have the resources and support that allow our recruiters to focus on one thing-their candidates’ professional and personal well-being. Cypress recruiters are highly selective and it’s our policy that we only work with a handful of candidates at any given time. All of our recruiters aim to answer each phone call and respond to every email in a timely manner. It is paramount that all of our candidates’ questions are answered and that we build relationships with each candidate with whom we work.

Does the recruiter have longstanding relationships in Asia (where most of the hiring decisions are actually made) or the US? About 95% of our contacts are not only located in Asia but in the very office for which they are recruiting. As the oldest and only recruiting company devoted to attorney placement in Asia, Cypress has unparalleled relationships throughout the region. Nowhere in the world are relationships more important than in Asia and using a recruiter who has trusted relationships is, without question, paramount. The inherent intimacy of these relatively small legal markets demands a certain level of regional expertise, cultural awareness, finesse and professional integrity in order to survive, and Cypress has established an impeccable reputation throughout the Asian legal community. These relationships don’t happen overnight, so locating a recruiting firm like Cypress, that has been in the market for almost a decade, ensures that you will benefit from our unparalleled relationships, proven track record, regional expertise and reputation for simply the best associate and partner candidates in these emerging markets.

When and how does the recruiter receive information regarding active job opportunities? Our strong relationships typically allow us to receive active job opportunities before they enter the market. As recruiters flood the Asia markets, more and more of our jobs are becoming exclusive to Cypress as law firms increasingly rely on a shortlist of trusted legal recruiters. We prefer to only send our candidates to active openings [link to job search page] as we understand that saturating a small market with a resume could foreclose the possibility of future consideration.

Does the recruiter have any conflicts that preclude him/her from working with all of the US and UK firms in the country? Because we are candidate driven, we have no conflicts and are well-positioned to present you to any US and UK law firm in the region. We have worked with every firm that has entered the market in the previous two years which means that we work with virtually every US and UK law firm in Asia. Unlike most recruiting firms, Cypress has unparalleled relationships with all of the US and UK law firms in Asia. We are uniquely positioned to operate as a candidate driven search firm-presenting our candidates with all the opportunities available based on their interest, skill set and short and long term career goals rather than our own agenda or client needs.

Do they work with the actual partners making the hiring decisions? More than 75% of our contacts are actual Managing or Hiring Partners located in an Asian office. The rapid expansion and resulting intricacies of the Asian legal markets necessitate that Cypress offer far more than the standard level of recruiting services. The recruiting procedures and points of contact are continually changing as the markets mature, and we rely on our strong relationships with actual partners to ensure that our candidates are considered by the actual decision-makers. It’s imperative that our candidate’s resume makes its way to the actual decision makers in a foreign office and we can guarantee that a resume is actually reviewed by the appropriate partner who recognizes that Cypress vets each and every candidate.

How many placements have they made in your preferred country and to how many DIFFERENT law firms have they made placements? Cypress has generated more offers throughout Asia than any other US based firm focused on Asia. Over the last decade, we have placed associates and partners at more than 75% of all of the US and UK law firms now in Asia.

What sort of regional expertise do they have to offer? Have they published any articles or regional guides on the legal markets in Asia? Cypress has become the trusted authority on legal placement in Asia, and both law firms and candidates reach out to us for accurate and up-to-date logistical, cultural and practical advice organic to the region. We have complied such research in our guide to the law firms in Asia and also provide up to the minute market information and expat lifestyle pieces on our blog. We also know the personality, firm culture and reputations of foreign offices throughout Asia, which often differ than those of their US counterparts. Our intimate knowledge of the personalities and practice areas of law firm offices throughout Asia allows us to make long lasting placements and have an outstanding retention rate. Regional knowledge and expertise are the cornerstones of our philosophy and what set us apart. Our team has several research associates who focus a tremendous amount of energy and resources helping our candidates navigate this complex and exciting legal landscape. We also provide guidance on remuneration such as ex-pat packages, relocation expenses and tax consequences. We understand that it is our job to gather and present our candidates with timely and relevant information to aid them in making the best possible decisions. Our name recognition, specialization and legal know-how in the region set us apart from other legal recruiters. Cypress was started by, and is currently run by, a Harvard Law School graduate who has practical corporate legal experience at a large international law firm and understands the nuances and complexities of the sophisticated large law firm legal practice. This enables Cypress to make thoughtful, reasoned matches and recommendations. We know the issues that attorneys face, the right questions to ask, and we understand the importance of due diligence as well as current and reliable information. Given our Asian specialization, we spend a good portion of our time and resources researching opportunities, firms, market trends and activity in the region.

How well do they understand the components of the CURRENT expat packages being offered? Do they have significant experience negotiating with firms in this regard? Following the last two years of salary freezes and lowered bonus structures, ex-pat packages in China and Japan have become a hot topic among our candidates. Historically, law firms in Asia have been reluctant to release salary and benefit information making it very difficult for candidates to evaluate and compare an offer. This secrecy has risen to an all time high as firms try to gain a competitive advantage in this challenging economic environment. Cypress has built an extensive database of offer letters and has years of experience negotiating with law firms to receive the best packages for our candidates. Law firms understand that we know the market and what a competitive offer should look like. In fact, Cypress is frequently approached by law firms to provide market information regarding remuneration. For more information on the basic components of an expat package, see our article here.

Given the small size of these markets, how can they ensure your materials are held in strict confidence?Cypress understands the importance of confidentiality in the hiring process, and as such, adheres to a strict confidentiality policy with both the firms and individuals with whom we work. It is our corporate pledge to deliver exceptional service coupled with professional discretion. Cypress acknowledges that working with only exceptional candidates requires the utmost discretion, respect and professionalism.

What distinguishes them from other recruiting firms? Our unique niche, responsiveness, expertise and professional integrity set us apart from any other US or Asia based legal recruiting firm. Simply put, no other US based recruiting firm has our unparalleled relationships, a reputation for superior candidates and a dedicated team focused exclusively on the Asia legal markets.


Dawn P. Robertson, Esq. is the managing partner of Cypress Recruiting Group. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 1997 and the University of Pennsylvania summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. After law school, Ms. Robertson lived abroad and traveled extensively throughout Asia. Ms. Robertson was a corporate associate at both Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson and later, Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler. Ms. Robertson works primarily out of our New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo offices.

In 2001, Ms. Robertson saw a need for a legal recruiting firm to service the growing needs of both expats and foreign qualified attorneys hoping to practice in Asia. Given the nature of these often confusing and complex emerging markets, Ms. Robertson wanted to provide reliable and up-to-date cultural, legal and market information to the growing number of attorneys entering these markets. Ms. Robertson envisioned a solution from an entirely fresh perspective and launched Cypress Recruiting to guide and consult attorneys rather than focus on just filling particular job opportunities. Ms. Robertson has watched the markets mature over the years and is known for her expertise and the unique, professional and honest approach that she brings to the legal recruiting industry.


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