Linklaters is one of the largest training contract providers in Hong Kong, just like it is in London where it’s headquartered. The Magic Circle firm takes on 16 trainees each year and has an additional training contract stream for its paralegals to train and qualify as solicitors.
The office is based in the business hub of Hong Kong’s Central district. To get to the office, which is located on 11/F of Alexandra House, you have to walk through a maze of designer stores in the fancy shopping mall that occupies the floors beneath it. The office is equally plush, having been renovated less than two years ago. There’s a break-out room with a ping pong table, Nintendo Switch and drop-down TV that slides out from the ceiling so the firm’s lawyers can chill out when there’s a big game on. The office pantry is well-stocked with healthy nuts and snacks and various types of fruit juice as well as an ice-cream cart available from time-to-time in the summer. There’s also space to switch-off in the firm’s very own wellness room or sleeping pods! The firm’s meeting rooms are named after mountains in Asia, such as Kilimanjaro or Everest, and the offices are roomy with standing desks. It’s smaller in size than “the new offices in Quarry Bay” but functional and conveniently located.
Linklaters has over 200 lawyers working across China’s three major business centres: Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. In Hong Kong the firm handles everything from M&A to private equity, capital markets, banking, energy & infrastructure, and dispute resolution. Recent deals include advising the joint sponsors and the underwriters on the listing of Aquila Acquisition Corporation on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange — the first ever SPAC listing in Hong Kong. Linklaters lawyers have also advised on the HK$40.2 billion debt financing of The Center, the world’s most expensive real estate transaction for a single commercial block, as well as Hong Kong Airport Authority on the upgrade of the Hong Kong International Airport and construction of a new third runway.
The training “varies from team to team, but fundamentally the material is excellent as we can draw on the massive database from London”, reports one Linklaters rookie. But the work can be demanding so expect some late nights. “The occasional grind is inevitable, but generally high quality, excellent work.” But there is ample one-to-one support, as trainees are provided with a principal in each seat who is responsible for mentorship and supervision. One thing of note is that whilst Chinese language skills are preferable, Linklaters does not require these in future trainees.
International secondments continued during the coronavirus pandemic when and where safe to do so, and recent stints have included the firm’s offices in Beijing and London. A few trainees have also completed client secondments, spending six months at banking giants BNP Paribas and the Bank of China.
Aside from the perks available in the office, Linklaters trainees tell us the firm offers a generous gym subsidy and a “junk boat”. The firm also offers two weeks’ paid leave and two weeks’ unpaid leave at the end of the training contract, plus trainees get a day off on their birthday. Pay is roughly in line with London. Some trainees can also work flexibly, depending on the team in which they’re in.
Linklaters currently offers a four-week summer vacation scheme targeted at penultimate and final year law undergraduates and graduates. A London-China training contract is also open to Mandarin-speaking undergraduates or postgraduates who wish to qualify in the UK before returning to China. In addition to this, Linklaters also runs a series of outreach programmes, including the Young Talents Programme, which provides career support and guidance to underprivileged secondary school students in Hong Kong. The firm invites the students to take part in work experience days and helps them brush up their interview skills.