Originating in the US over 130 years ago, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher is highly regarded among the premier litigation and dispute resolution firms worldwide. The Hong Kong office opened in 2010, adding to its existing Far East presence in Beijing and Singapore.
With international reach comes the advantage of broad expertise. Gibson Dunn offers Hong Kong, English and US legal advice from its HK office. The firm has up-market clientele and often represents high net worth individuals on high stakes disputes. Practice group offerings include niche areas such as strategic sourcing and commercial transactions. The Hong Kong office leads the Asian side of the firm’s practice in compliance. This means that it’s not uncommon to find multilingual teams running matters across a mix of Asian languages, including Korean, Cantonese and Mandarin.
Working here provides the classic US firm feel of small, focused teams. Rookies can expect to have high amounts of responsibility and loads of client contact. They can also expect to work directly with partners. “The low associate/trainee to partner ratio gave me a very rewarding and hands-on training experience,” claims one current trainee. The training is a mix of structured training and learning ‘on-the-job’. That said, trainees aren’t left in the lurch without any support. The firm ensures that training is personalised and tailored to their ambitions. It also tries to provide them with seats of their personal preference wherever possible. A trainee typically works from 9am until 8pm, as revealed in the Legal Cheek Hong Kong Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2023-24.
There’s lots of focus on building quality connections through non-work activities too. “Our junk trip to Lamma Island was the perfect opportunity for colleagues to connect with each other on a much more personal level,” recounts a fourth-seat trainee.
Trainees can take part in a mentoring programme to aid their personal and professional growth. In addition to regular feedback and mid-seat appraisals, support is available in the form of on-the job observations and feedback.
There is said to be a “genuine” open door policy across all levels of the firm. This friendliness and collaboration is found across the firm’s international offices, as pointed out by an associate: “In one situation I emailed one of the firm’s most senior partners in the United States to clarify a point of law, and I promptly received a friendly call from the partner who patiently explained the legal considerations relevant to the advice I was drafting, despite her very busy schedule.”
The training extends beyond the training contract; associates take part in a three-day New Lawyer Academy which lays the foundation for long-term cross-office collaborations and friendships. The firm also prides itself on its ‘Free Market’ system where lawyers are free to accept or decline work assignments from partners, thus ensuring flexibility to develop and shape their careers on their own terms.
As a trainee, you can expect to be regularly involved in the local and global pro bono activities at the firm. Gibson Dunn has signed the ‘Pro Bono Challenge’, which means its lawyers strive to complete at least 60 hours of pro bono work each year. It also has no cap on how many pro bono hours count towards an associate’s billable target – unlike at other firms. And of course, a lot of the firm-wide pro bono activity spills over to the Hong Kong office, with lawyers often collaborating on activities ranging from animal welfare to human rights.
The office is fancy and has lots of charm; think marble floors, modern furniture and glass walls. It’s located on 32/F of The Landmark’s Gloucester Tower which is also home to several other high-profile businesses. Gloucester Tower is connected to an atrium, which is brimming with top luxury brands and restaurants.
Gibson Dunn hired its first-ever Hong Kong trainee in 2015 and has since been offering up to two training contracts annually. Currently, the summer vacation scheme is the only way to secure a training contract, and it takes place for three weeks in June each year. The firm takes up to four (law and non-law) interns. There is also a virtual open day with partner sessions to provide insights into life at the Hong Kong office.
Working hard at Gibson Dunn comes with a more than generous benefits package. In addition to the attractive monthly salary of HK$52,000 as a first-year trainee, you can expect a professional development allowance to fund training sessions. All lawyers also receive a client development allowance to host clients and events. On top of this, there is a rather unique book allowance which enables the firm’s lawyers to purchase books or periodicals aligning with their interest. If you find Gibson Dunn lawyers to be well-read, now you know why!