This year has presented an anomaly in trends and yet might prove to be a harbinger of things to come. Through an analysis of firm growth, a number of themes have becomeapparent this year. The first and most obvious trend that has emerged is the unbridled growth of Chinese firms. As PRC lawyers gaingreater sophistication and as domestic law firms grow in scale, reach anddepth, the question of Chinese law firms overtaking what is typically seen to be the domain of international law firms here in Asia has become a real and tangible possibility.
Although Asia escaped the 2009 global downturn relatively unscathed, the dip legal retainersfor matters was significant enough to make an impact, so much so that the recovery in the aftermath of the financial crisis has been in stark contrastwith the hiring patterns of firms both international anddomestic. As demonstrated in ALB 50 2012, international firms have hadit tougher than its Asian domestic counterparts, and are unable to expand at the same rate or go out on an acquisition buying spree like somePRC firms.
Theshort-term impact of a large scaleconsolidation of PRC firms remain to be seenalthough in the longer term, these changes might force the hand of international firms to rethink their internal firm structures, cost overheads and its offerings to remain competitive in this region.