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by Vault Law Editors | November 23, 2008

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 Today’s Times business section gives top billing to a  loooong look at the emergence of Asia and the Middle East—especially Dubai—as BigLaw’s hottest talent markets. 

Shorter version: Unlike here in the U.S., real estate, securities and M&A legal work hasn’t (yet?) evaporated.  Legal recruiters are now seeing an unprecedented flood of résumés from candidates looking for law-firm or in-house jobs in Hong Kong, Dubai and other overseas locales.  As firms are cutting and contracting in the U.S., landing an expat gig is more competitive than ever.

Last month, our very own Anu Rao made all of these points (and more!) in a decidedly less longwinded fashion:

 

Despite the shakiness of the U.S. legal market, there are still options for those looking for work. New York and London will see the most fallout, but the emerging markets of the Middle East and Asia are still fertile. Certainly no regions will be immune to upheaval, but these have time and geography on their side.

 

In Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, Qatar, it’s not just oil and gas interests at play — the question is what to do with all the moolah made from rising oil prices. Sovereign wealth funds looking to invest earnings will provide their lawyers a regular supply of work […]

 

Rather than lay off or recruit, firms prefer relocating talent. Sometimes this occurs domestically, but the slowdown in the United States is proving an opportune time for firms to transfer experienced staffers to areas where they hope to establish or strengthen a market presence. … The caveat is that while Hong Kong, China, Japan, Singapore, Moscow and Dubai are still busy, that doesn’t necessarily equate to more jobs. For one, hiring partners in these regions are ever more selective, and they can afford to be, with such a marked increase in resumes. When staffing these outposts, firms are looking for the best of the best—the top 10 law school, stellar grades, language ability or cultural facility.

Regardless of one’s academic pedigree, this is clear: As the U.S. economy regroups, foreign market savvy and a demonstrable interest in working abroad will only widen an associate’s choices. The time to position oneself as a global thinker is now.

Despite the “Gray Lady-come-lately” aspect of the piece, it is worth reading for its chockablock factoids, quotes, stats and predictions.  A small sample:

   In Hong Kong, there was a 48 percent increase in the number of lawyers from the 250 biggest American law firms from 2007 to 2008.  In Abu Dhabi, their ranks grew 144 percent.

  Approximately 40 American and British firms have opened branches in Dubai in 2008 alone.

   Expat lawyers pay no local taxes in Dubai.

   The next new law firm destination will be Qatar.  (Dubai is getting saturated and the word is out about Abu Dhabi.) Global trendsetters  Latham & Watkins, DLA Piper and  Covington & Burling all opened outposts in Doha this year. )

   “In 2006, firms in Hong Kong were panic-hiring because they knew that if they didn’t hire a guy, the next firm would,” [a legal recruiter says] “Now they can afford to be more selective because there are more highly qualified candidates coming over.”

                                    -posted by brian

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