China is on the upswing and lawyers would be well placed to develop their skills in Australia for when the time is right to make a move over to Asia, writes Maciek Motylinski
The last decade has seen a significant expansion of international law firms into emerging markets with a huge increase in the amount of cross-border transactional work around the world.
This in turn has created unique opportunities for Australian firms and individual lawyers to develop practices that are very much focussed in one of these growth areas.
If you are a lawyer looking to further your career by working in Asia you need to ask what skills and experience firms in those countries will look for - essentially where the added value is in recruiting you.
Much of the growth in transactional work through Asia is driven by the growth of the Chinese economies in particular and the work is facilitated by a mix of international and local firms.
Most western-trained lawyers should focus on developing their skills generally in a high-growth sector such as energy and resources, infrastructure projects and related financing, private and public M&A and capital markets - so experience in these types of transactions will be the first step.
International arbitration is also a rapidly growing sector around the world but with a regional focus in Singapore. However, this has traditionally been the domain of more senior lawyers.
Secondly, and importantly because it relates to Asia, Chinese language skills are becoming increasingly important. Those lawyers, particularly in Australia, who have basic levels of Mandarin and Cantonese should do everything they can to build their language skills to a business level if they intend taking their careers for the long term to Hong Kong or mainland China.
There is no substitute for local experience so Australian and other overseas qualified lawyers should seek to take their careers to the regions in which they will get the most relevant experience for their future career plans in Asia.
Maciek Motylinski is the associate director at EA International