For the fifth straight year, the U.S.-headquartered Baker McKenzie took the top spot in the Asian Legal Business Top 50 international law firm rankings, while China’s Yingke Law Firm headed the table for the domestic Asian firms with a whopping 6500+ lawyers. While some established names dropped down the rankings, many others grew after bolstering their partner and associate numbers. And it all underscored the fact that Asia remained a dynamic market, and will be so for years to come. 

 

A sustained period of political, economic and business change across Asia, 2018 was full of surprises; from landmark political events, the Singapore Summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, to notable trade moves, such as the tariffs imposed by the U.S. on China. 

For Asia’s legal market, it was also a year of change. Japan mulled over a decision to potentially allow foreign lawyers to participate in arbitration cases that involve Japanese subsidies of foreign companies. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Hong Kong’s Law Society has proposed new regulations that would make it harder for international firms to employ foreign lawyers. Singapore has also taken a hard look at what can be done to improve its low retention rates in the legal profession, investigating education options and examining new industry practices.

From a personnel perspective, international and domestic firms were on the move this year, expanding, shuffling roles, nabbing new partners and losing others. But it’s no longer just other large firms that rivals are anxious about, with a flurry of independent practices launched this year, flexible working options on the rise and the threat of automation bearing down on the market, for the firms that have successfully navigated this rapidly changing environment and managed to keep their headcount high, it has been no mean feat.

MOVEMENT IN THE RANKS

Baker McKenzie once again took the top spot in the international law firm rankings with an impressive count of 958 lawyers. Given the firm’s track record in previous Asian Legal Business Top 50 rankings, this is no surprise. In both the Japan and China international tables, it was the top firm with 149 and 73 qualified lawyers, respectively.

Following Baker McKenzie on the international table were Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Herbert Smith Freehills, Allen & Overy, Taylor Wessing, DLA Piper, Norton Rose Fulbright, Mayer Brown, Hogan Lovells and Eversheds Sutherland.

Stepping into the 20th position on the international Top 50 table this year was Withers. The firm has been on a hiring spree this year, nabbing partners from firms like Baker McKenzie and Morgan Lewis & Bockius staff, and also beefing up its Tokyo office as it focuses on expanding its Asian offering. 

This year, the top spots in Hong Kong’s international law firm rankings saw something of a reshuffle. In 2018, Mayer Brown stepped into top spot with 188 qualified lawyers, up from second place last year. Moving down to into second place was last year’s third-placed firm, King & Wood Mallesons, while Linklaters was in third place.

Meanwhile, on Hong Kong’s domestic table, Deacons was once again top dog, counting 200 qualified lawyers in its stable. It recently hired Peter Cheng as a partner from Davis Polk & Wardwell. Li & Partners took the second spot, while Woo Kwan Lee & Lo slipped into third place. Oldham Li & Nie remained in tenth spot, with 32 qualified lawyers. Earlier this year, the firm shed six lawyers, who went on to launch an independent Hong Kong called Hugill & Ip.

EXPANSION AND AMBITION

While the Japan domestic rankings generally echoed 2017’s results, they nevertheless still showed signs of movement. Once again in prime position was Nishimura & Asahi, with 517 qualified lawyers. The firm also celebrated the launch of its first office in the Western Hemisphere, selecting New York for its new outpost. Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, which moved to second place this year also expanded with a new office in Ho Chi Minh City. Last year’s second-placed firm, Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, was in third spot with a headcount of 442.

In the Japan international firm rankings, Baker McKenzie was followed by Morrison & Foerster, White & Case, Clifford Chance and Hogan Lovells in the top five.

With 920 qualified lawyers, Kim & Chang overwhelmingly led the South Korea domestic rankings. It was a big year for the firm which joined its Korean competitors in launching a firm in Ho Chi Minh City. As with last year’s rankings, it was once again followed by Lee & Ko and Bae Kim & Lee. 

In the India list, the country’s top four stayed consistent with last year’s ranking. Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas stayed in prime position with 682 qualified lawyers, followed by Khaitan & Co, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas and AZB & Partners. J. Sagar Associates showed gains as it moved into fifth place. The top four also made the Top 50 Asian domestic law firms list, in 21st, 28th, 31st and 42nd place, respectively.

The 2018 Top 50 Domestic Law Firms ranking were largely dominated by Chinese law firms and their mind-bogglingly high headcounts that run in the thousands. Yingke Law Firm retained its position in top spot this year, and the same went for the respective places of Dentons Dacheng, Deheng Law Offices and AllBright Law Offices. 

Apart from the four Indian law firms mentioned above, the non-Chinese law firms on the list included six from Korea (Kim & Chang, Lee & Ko, Bae, Kim & Lee, Shin & Kim, Yulchon and Yoon & Yang), five from Japan (the Big Four being joined by TMI Associates) and three from Singapore (Rajah & Tann at 23, Allan & Gledhill and WongPartnership).  

Hylands Law Firm shot up 36 places on the list, from 50 all the way to 14, and now has 902 fee-earners. Beijing TianTai Law Firm also moved up, swapping last year’s place at 24, to 17 in the rankings, while there also significant gains for Sichuan Mingju Law Firm and King & Capital Law Firm. As for next year’s numbers, with further market disruption on the horizon, it’s anyone’s game.

Back to top

Top 50 International Law Firms

2017 Rank

2018 Rank

FIRM

Headquarters

Total Partners

Total Associates

Total Lawyers

1

1

Baker McKenzie

U.S.

304

552

958

3

2

Clifford Chance

UK

80

250

368

2

3

Linklaters

UK

58

243

334

6

4

Herbert Smith Freehills

UK/Australia

69

244

327

9

5

Allen & Overy

UK

63

215

300

21

6

Taylor Wessing

UK

114

163

292

4

7

DLA Piper

UK/U.S.

79

189

246

8

8

Norton Rose Fulbright

UK

60

174

234

7

9

Mayer Brown

U.S.

79

138

232

5

10

Hogan Lovells

UK/U.S.

52

134

230

11

11

Eversheds Sutherland

U.S./UK

49

156

205

19

12

Stephenson Harwood

UK

57

135

192

12

13

Morrison & Foerster

U.S.

59

113

176

13

14

Ashurst

UK

39

133

172

10

15

Jones Day

U.S.

53

62

152

15

16

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

UK

38

87

147

20

17

Latham & Watkins

U.S.

39

105

144

14

18

Morgan Lewis & Bockius

U.S.

44

57

144

16

19

White & Case

U.S.

43

100

143

18

20

Reed Smith

U.S.

45

91

137

NEW

21

Withers

UK

55

67

134

27

22

Kirkland & Ellis

U.S.

43

71

133

24

23

Clyde & Co

UK

35

72

120

17

24

Sidley Austin

U.S.

32

24

117

37

25

Kennedys

UK

36

77

113

45

26

Pinsent Masons

UK

35

67

112

29

27

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

U.S.

18

81

110

25

28

Bird & Bird

UK

30

78

108

22

29

HFW

UK

36

58

107

23

30

K&L Gates

U.S.

54

32

106

31

31

Squire Patton Boggs

U.S.

17

45

101

26

32

Davis Polk & Wardwell

U.S.

13

71

100

30

33

Simmons & Simmons

UK

51

20

98

32

34

Shearman & Sterling

U.S.

23

55

87

35

35

CMS

UK/Germany

21

64

87

34

36

Paul Hastings

U.S.

23

63

86

33

37

Ropes & Gray

U.S.

21

52

85

46

38

Duane Morris & Selvam

U.S.

30

46

78

38

39

Berwin Leighton Paiser

UK

20

30

69

28

40

Watson Farley & Williams

UK

17

39

67

36

41

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

U.S.

13

54

67

39

42

O'Melveny & Myers

U.S.

27

18

65

41

43

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

U.S.

8

44

58

40

44

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe

U.S.

24

26

55

43

45

Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy

U.S.

26

20

51

44

46

Slaughter and May

UK

12

38

50

42

47

Ince & Co

UK

19

20

47

NEW

48

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

U.S.

18

24

46

48

49

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, & Garrison

U.S.

7

33

42

NEW

50

King & Spalding

U.S.

15

20

39

Top 50 Domestic Law Firms

2017 Rank
(Domestic)

2018 Rank
(Domestic)

FIRM

Headquarters

Total Partners

Total Associates

Total Lawyers

1

1

Yingke Law Firm

China

2230

4354

6584

2

2

Dentons Dacheng

China

1611

4032

5729

3

3

Deheng Law Offices

China

597

1896

2521

4

4

AllBright Law Offices

China

574

1764

2338

7

5

Grandall Law Firm

China

612

1323

1935

8

6

Zhong Yin Law Firm

China

323

1373

1817

6

7

King & Wood Mallesons

China/Australia

329

1428

1731

9

8

Beijing DHH Law Firm

China

111

1182

1306

10

9

Zhonglun W&D Law Firm

China

576

727

1303

5

10

Zhong Lun Law Firm

China

414

797

1211

11

11

Long An Law Firm

China

161

908

1163

12

12

Kim & Chang

Korea

170

750

920

14

13

Beijing Jincheng Tongda & Neal Law Firm

China

288

593

905

50

14

Hylands Law Firm

China

263

610

902

15

15

Tahota Law Firm

China

260

610

885

16

16

Hiways Law Firm

China

119

560

780

24

17

Beijing TianTai Law Firm

China

245

450

744

20

18

Guangdong Guanghe Law Firm

China

212

505

726

13

19

JunHe

China

197

437

686

22

20

Guantao Law Firm

China

174

505

683

18

21

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas

India

120

556

682

27

22

Sichuan Mingju Law Firm

China

75

507

657

17

23

Rajah & Tann

Singapore

223

433

656

19

24

Lee & Ko

Korea

197

450

647

21

25

Bae Kim & Lee

Korea

217

401

618

30

26

Etr Law Firm

China

143

431

600

23

27

Nishimura & Asahi

Japan

142

389

571

26

28

Fangda Partners

China

108

460

568

26

29

Khaitan & Co

India

123

425

558

NEW

30

Hui Ye Law Firm

China

112

424

536

28

31

Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas

India

109

409

518

34

32

Duan & Duan

China

134

375

513

43

33

King & Capital Law Firm

China

120

384

509

31

34

Mori Hamada & Matsumoto

Japan

135

359

496

32

35

Jointide Law Firm

China

150

331

481

29

36

Allen & Gledhill

Singapore

181

292

475

36

37

Anderson Mori & Tomotsune

Japan

142

271

467

35

38

Shin & Kim

Korea

182

231

444

37

39

Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu

Japan

112

267

438

NEW

40

China Commercial Law Firm

China

138

298

436

33

41

Yulchon

Korea

169

258

427

NEW

42

V&T Law Firm

China

108

304

412

39

43

AZB & Partners

India

94

316

410

38

44

Yoon & Yang

Korea

120

283

403

45

45

Zhongwen Law Firm

China

202

197

401

46

46

East & Concord Partners

China

100

300

400

44

47

JunZeJun Law Offices

China

96

302

399

48

48

TMI Associates

Japan

126

348

391

47

49

Tian Yuan Law Firm

China

98

283

382

41

50

WongPartnership

Singapore

121

256

377

Back to top

Hong Kong International

2018
RANK

FIRM

Partners

Associates

Qualified Lawyers

1

Mayer Brown

61

112

188

2

King & Wood Mallesons

33

146

184

3

Linklaters

32

120

168

4

Baker McKenzie

53

90

166

5

Clifford Chance

36

107

160

6

Reed Smith

30

56

104

7

Allen & Overy

26

56

99

8

Herbert Smith Freehills

18

56

99

9

Kirkland & Ellis

36

54

97

10

Stephenson Harwood

27

65

92

11

Sidley Austin

19

74

91

12

Eversheds Sutherland

22

68

90

13

Latham & Watkins

20

58

78

14

Ashurst

18

51

69

15

Hogan Lovells

14

33

68

16

Norton Rose Fulbright

18

36

68

17

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

20

40

66

18

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

11

47

65

19

Davis Polk & Wardwell

11

20

62

20

DLA Piper

27

13

56

Back to top

Hong Kong Domestic

2018
RANK

FIRM

Partners

Associates

Qualified Lawyers

1

Deacons

51

70

200

2

Li & Partners

10

93

103

3

Woo Kwan Lee & Lo

40

43

83

4

Howse Williams Bowers

25

56

81

5

P.C. Woo & Co.

24

56

80

6

Stevenson, Wong & Co.

12

35

58

7

ONC Lawyers

15

34

50

8

Wilkinson & Grist

25

24

49

9

Robertsons

17

22

42

10

Gallant Ho

13

17

40

Back to top

Japan International

2018
RANK

FIRM

Partners

Associates

Qualified Lawyers

1

Baker McKenzie

47

79

149

2

Morrison & Foerster

36

74

110

3

White & Case

13

30

49

4

Clifford Chance

9

28

45

5

Hogan Lovells

8

29

41

6

Herbert Smith Freehills

7

29

38

7

Jones Day

12

11

35

8

Squire Patton Boggs

6

18

35

9

Linklaters

6

26

34

10

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

4

17

26

11

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe

10

13

26

12

DLA Piper

4

19

23

13

Allen & Overy

4

17

21

14

Ashurst

6

14

20

15

K&L Gates

8

4

16

16

Norton Rose Fulbright

6

10

18

17

Shearman & Sterling

4

8

15

18

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

3

6

12

19

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

3

8

11

20

Sidley Austin

2

7

11

Back to top

Japan Domestic

2018
RANK

FIRM

Partners

Associates

Qualified Lawyers

1

Nishimura & Asahi

127

355

517

2

Mori Hamada & Matsumoto

132

351

480

3

Anderson Mori & Tomotsune

135

265

442

4

Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu

103

259

402

5

TMI Associates

126

348

391

6

City-Yuwa Partners

49

75

144

7

Oh-Ebashi LPC & Partners

49

66

141

8

Atsumi & Sakai

65

51

134

9

Nakamura & Partners

42

39

81

10

Kitahama Partners

34

35

79

Back to top

South Korea

2018
RANK

FIRM

Partners

Associates

Qualified Lawyers

1

Kim & Chang

170

750

920

2

Lee & Ko

195

439

634

3

Bae Kim & Lee

212

391

603

4

Shin & Kim

179

220

430

5

Yulchon

169

258

427

6

Yoon & Yang

120

283

403

7

Barun Law

104

98

202

8

Jipyong

54

68

202

9

DR & AJU

99

77

176

10

Hwang Mok Park

47

73

120

Back to top

India

2018
RANK

FIRM

Partners

Associates

Qualified Lawyers

1

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas

120

556

682

2

Khaitan & Co

123

425

558

3

Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas

109

409

518

4

AZB & Partners

94

316

410

5

J. Sagar Associates

84

305

312

6

L&L Partners

75

218

301

7

Trilegal

44

246

297

8

Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan

94

158

252

9

Kochhar & Co

52

138

190

10

Desai & Diwanji

28

162

190

11

Fox Mandal & Co

36

120

156

12

M.V. Kini & Company

11

139

150

13

Link Legal India Law Services

29

120

149

14

DSK Legal

15

125

140

15

Wadia Ghandy & Co

36

98

134

16

Economic Laws Practice

49

74

123

17

Anand and Anand

28

84

112

18

HSA Advocates

36

76

110

19

Hammurabi & Solomon

15

65

80

20

Phoenix Legal

14

65

80

21

Vaish Associates

12

68

80

22

IndusLaw

24

54

78

23

Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe

11

65

76

24

Dhir & Dhir

10

65

75

25

Nishith Desai Associates

8

64

72

26

Khaitan & Khaitan

13

50

65

27

Bharucha & Partners

11

41

56

28

Majmudar & Partners

7

49

56

29

Krishnamurthy & Co

8

47

55

30

Clasis Law

13

35

48

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Indonesia

2018
RANK

FIRM

Partners

Associates

Qualified Lawyers

1

Assegaf Hamzah & Partners

23

112

136

2

Lubis Ganie Surowidjojo

8

107

115

3

Ali Budiardjo, Nugroho, Reksodiputro

19

87

106

4

Hanafiah Ponggawa & Partners (Dentons HPRP)

13

83

96

5

Hadiputranto, Hadinoto & Partners

20

59

90

6

Soewito Suhardiman Eddymurthy Kardono

9

55

70

7

Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung

11

50

61

8

Mochtar Karuwin Komar

6

51

61

9

Makarim & Taira S.

11

41

52

10

Soemadipradja & Taher

8

38

50

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Malaysia

2018
RANK

FIRM

Partners

Associates

Qualified Lawyers

1

ZICO Law

57

102

163

2

Skrine

47

67

118

3

Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill

36

80

118

4

Shearn Delamore

49

58

107

5

Adnan Sundra & Low

26

68

97

6

Zul Rafique & Partners

33

59

95

7

Azmi & Associates

17

50

84

8

Wong & Partners

13

60

79

9

Rahmat Lim & Partners

25

49

74

10

Raja, Darryl & Loh

22

42

64

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Philippines

2018
RANK

FIRM

Partners

Associates

Qualified Lawyers

1

ACCRALAW

44

107

164

2

SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan

41

86

134

3

Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura

45

63

111

4

Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia

20

48

68

5

Picazo Buyco Tan Fider & Santos

31

28

60

6

Quisumbing Torres

19

37

56

7

Puno & Puno Law Offices

13

41

54

8

Villaraza & Angangco

13

38

51

9

Siguion Reyna Montecillo & Ongsiako

26

24

50

10

Castillo Laman Tan Pantaleon & San Jose

22

26

50

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Singapore*

2018
RANK

FIRM

Partners

Associates

Qualified Lawyers

1

Allen & Gledhill

154

232

388

2

Rajah & Tann

136

182

318

3

Drew & Napier

69

104

250

4

Dentons (Singapore)

86

98

204

5

Baker Mckenzie Wong & Leow

29

77

124

6

Clifford Chance

23

72

108

7

Shook Lin & Bok

35

66

101

8

Eversheds Harry Elias

22

75

97

9

Withers KhattarWong

34

47

91

10

Norton Rose Fulbright

19

48

67

11

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing

24

28

66

12

Linklaters

10

47

65

13

Allen & Overy

15

46

64

14

Bird & Bird ATMD

14

39

53

*Note: WongPartnership did not submit its breakdown for Singapore. Our best estimate is that the firm would be in the top four, but we are unable to place it in this list as we don’t have the exact numbers.

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Thailand

2018
RANK

FIRM

Partners

Associates

Qualified Lawyers

1

Weerawong C&P

15

95

110

2

Tilleke & Gibbins

19

86

105

3

Baker Mckenzie

58

31

91

4

Chandler MHM

13

53

66

5

SCL Law Group (Siam City)

9

50

59

6

Rajah & Tann Thailand

13

39

52

7

DLA Piper

5

29

34

8

Allen & Overy

2

30

32

9

Watson Farley & Williams

6

22

28

10

Linklaters

4

18

24

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Vietnam

2018
RANK

FIRM

Partners

Associates

Qualified Lawyers

1

Vision & Associates

13

63

76

2

LNT & Partners

9

45

73

3

VILAF

10

60

70

4

YKVN

11

56

67

5

LuatViet Advocates & Solicitors

5

44

49

6

Baker McKenzie (Vietnam)

10

23

43

7

Tilleke & Gibbins

4

35

39

8

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Vietnam

6

17

26

9

Phuoc & Partners

10

13

23

10

Rajah & Tann Vietnam

7

12

19


 OUR RESEARCH

  • Firms were contacted in September 2018 and were asked to provide partner and lawyer numbers across their Asian offices as of Sept. 1, 2018.
  • ‘Total No. of Lawyers’ refers to the total number of partners, associates, counsel, consultants and foreign counsel.
  • In the instance where a firm did not make a submission, figures were obtained through our own research. ALB takes no responsibility for the accuracy of these figures.
  • In the instance where two firms had the same number of total lawyers, the firm with the greater number of partners was ranked higher.

 

To contact the editorial team, please email ALBEditor@thomsonreuters.com.

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