HFW (Hong Kong)

The Legal Cheek View

Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) was one of the first international law firms to open an office in Hong Kong and has now been serving clients in the region for more than four decades.

For over half of this time and at present, HFW is situated on 15/F of Tower One of the Lippo Centre, twin office towers in the heart of Admiralty close to the High Court. The towers have a distinct and unique design which at first glance looks rather menacing until you picture them as koala bears hugging or clinging to a tree (see what we mean here). The C-shape glass extrusions have been said, however, to give the towers bad feng shui.

But there seem to be no bad vibes among the 70 or so lawyers at the firm. They’re “down to earth” and often get together at social and sports events which include afternoon tea and weekly football matches. We hear clients get involved in these friendly games too.

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HFW has made a string of partner hires in recent years, bringing its total up to 20 in Hong Kong. In 2019 the corporate finance team was boosted by the arrival of nine lawyers from US law firm Locke Lord.

Every year the firm hires three trainees who are given “high levels of responsibility and client exposure”. They complete their training in the firm’s six core sectors covering aerospace, construction, commodities, energy, insurance and shipping. There are unique challenges and a workload that is “varied”. In the firm’s words: “You might find yourself working on the financing arrangements for a new aeroplane or a wind farm, dealing with a ship arrest, or working on the insurance aspects of a corporate deal.” HFW has retained 100% of its trainee intake for the past three years. Many partners also trained at the firm!

During the training contract rookies are given the opportunity to rotate to one of HFW’s overseas offices. And given the cross-border nature of shipping disputes, they will often liaise with overseas clients and lawyers (HFW has 20 offices in 17 countries). Find out what trainees get up to on secondment on the firm’s Instagram account, @life_at_hfw. It’s run by six of the firm’s global trainees and you can direct message them any questions!

The firm has made changes to be more eco-friendly and promotes recycling and the use of responsibly sourced paper. The rooms, which are named after cities, also have motion sensitive lighting.

In addition to 15/F, HFW has 8/F. It’s not adjacent which is a little inconvenient, but an office move may be on the cards soon. There’s a newly-renovated pantry on 8/F. It’s also where the shipping, business support and IT support teams reside. Conveniently located on the first floor is a 7-Eleven, Pret a Manger and Pacific Coffee for lawyers to grab snacks and get their coffee fix. If they fancy something a little more upmarket there’s a steakhouse and Chinese restaurant on the ground floor.

HFW runs a winter and three summer vacation schemes each year. It takes between four to six interns on each scheme, which run for two weeks at a time. The firm aims to place interns in their practice area of choice.


First year trainee salary Undisclosed
Second year trainee salary Undisclosed
Newly qualified salary Undisclosed
PCLL grant Undisclosed

General Info

Training contracts 3
Latest trainee retention rate Undisclosed
Offices 20
Countries 17
Minimum language requirement Mandarin desirable, but not essential
Minimum degree requirement N/A