The Legal Cheek View
International law firm Sidley Austin is known for its focus on finance, super high salaries and strong US heritage. The firm has maintained a presence in Asia Pacific for more than 40 years, serving clients from six offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and, since 1994, Hong Kong, the region’s financial hub.
In Hong Kong, Sidley is particularly strong in capital markets and litigation. Its lawyers (of which there are almost 100, a fifth of whom are partners) also undertake work involving mergers and acquisitions, private equity, restructuring, energy, real estate and life sciences. Trainees can choose to gain experience in three or four of these areas during the two-year training contract.
In whichever seat combo they choose, trainees are said to take on “substantive” work for “high-calibre” clients; they have been known to get involved in high-stakes disputes and cross-border cases. “I have been involved in many eye-opening matters, providing practical value to clients such as large property developers and global pharmaceutical companies,” says a current trainee. There are five trainee spots available each year, which the firm narrows from a pool of about ten to 12 interns on its winter and summer vacation schemes.
A lot of the training is on-the-job, supplemented with formal training and seminars. There’s an orientation programme for new joiners. Trainees are assigned both a partner and associate mentor who provide them with individual feedback. All trainees have received newly qualified (NQ) solicitor positions in the past five years.
The firm offers international secondment opportunities during the training contract. One junior lawyer was seconded from the firm’s London office and found the experience “so positive” they ended up qualifying in the Hong Kong office!
Sidley occupies an entire floor in Two International Financial Centre — the bigger of the two centres housed in Hong Kong’s second tallest skyscraper. You have to take two lifts to ascend to the office on 39/F. It has a very oriental feel to it. There are decorative ornaments on display in the firm’s lobby, which are said to be hundreds of years old with some originating from the ancient Qing dynasty. The oriental design extends to the office doors, floors and tables. There’s a great view of the sea and surrounding city, but no pantry.
The firm requires future joiners to be fluent in both English and Mandarin.