Headcount is up in Asia, with U.S. firms’ Hong Kong and Beijing offices seeing the highest percentage of growth, according to data from the 2013 NLJ 350 survey. Yet growth has stalled when compared to 2011’s gains.
The National Law Journal’s annual NLJ 350 Regional Report notes that the two Asian cities far outpaced the overall 1.1 percent increase in headcount during 2012, with a 10.6 percent gain in Beijing being the highest growth of any city worldwide.
This is the second year that headcount in NLJ 350 Beijing offices neared 11 percent; headcount growth hit 10.4 percent in 2011. Yet The Asian Lawyer reports that further law firm expansion in Beijing is unlikely.
“International firms are adding to headcount in an effort to find the right mix of capabilities for Beijing,” Robert Kinney, president of Kinney Recruiting, is quoted as saying. “But I don’t think you’ll continue to see that growth in Beijing. Many [firms] are taking a wait-and-see attitude about further expansion there.”
Hong Kong had the second highest increase the international cities, with a 5.6 percent rise in headcount. That was half of 2011’s gain of 11.8 percent, but Kinney believes that Hong Kong “will continue real, sustained growth” thanks to “a tax system more favorable to U.S. law firms than mainland cities.”
London came in a close third on the international cities list with a 5.4 percent rise in headcount; it remains the international city with the highest headcount of NLJ 350 lawyers, however. And of the eight international cities covered in regional report, only Moscow saw a decline with a 2 percent drop.
As for domestic cities, Denver came in with the highest headcount growth with a 7.5 percent increase during 2012, followed by Houston’s 4.3 percent rise, and Dallas with a 3.1 percent increase in headcount. The three U.S. cities with the largest losses were: Kansas City, Mo., lost 4 percent (which was also the highest loss of lawyers seen worldwide); Chicago was down 2 percent; and Los Angeles decreased 1.5 percent.