Legalease Publish 08/09 Edition of Asia Pacific Legal 500

Legalease publishers (London) have published the latest edition of their Asia Pacific Legal 500..

Here are the editor’s comments on the main AP Region legal markets..


To read the full text and research law firms go to


Here are the …..Editor’s selections from the Asia Pacific Legal 500…

China’s growth has been put into sharp focus as the western markets have struggled. As one of the BRIC countries (along with Brazil, Russia and India), it is seen as one of the world’s most important emerging markets. The country’s infrastructure, both physical and legal, continues to develop at a rate unparalleled in the major economies.

China’s Internet consumption hit RMB398.8bn (US$53.89bn) last year, while the country’s tax revenue jumped 31% last year to RMB4.94 trillion (US$676.33bn) as the domestic economic boom raised corporate profits. According to preliminary estimation, in the first half of 2008, the gross domestic product (GDP) of China was RMB13,061.9bn, a year-on-year growth of 10.4% after deducting price factors. All these factors show signs of the continuing economic prosperity and the new avenues for investment that have kept the financial and legal markets active. That China is widely tipped to become the world’s leading energy consumer in the next few years might also be considered another key trend, not just demonstrating its consumption patterns but giving some idea as to the areas of industry that have become dominant.

Deregulation and administrative reform initiated during Japan’s period of economic malaise during the 1990s have opened up the market, heralding a new demand for corporate legal services. Most drastically, following a change in the law in 2005, international firms are now allowed to employ bengoshi. In turn, this has led to much greater integration and merger activity between international and local firms, although many were engaged in close joint venture agreements beforehand.

The chief distinction between international firms now is the global firms with a Tokyo office, for example Herbert Smith, and bengoshi-concentrated firms with a global network, such as Baker & McKenzie GJBJ Tokyo Aoyama Aoki Koma Law Office.

Despite surging inflation and the stock market losses of 2008, India’s upwardly mobile middle class continues to reap the financial gains of a buoyant economy. Consequently, the legal community is enjoying an unprecedented range of work, and in the last year found itself especially busy with telecoms, automotive and energy clients. Incoming funds work also remains lively, especially within the real estate and infrastructure sectors, and private equity continues to dominate the M&A scene.

However, despite persistent lobbying and clear incentives for domestic law firms to grow, The Partnership Act still limits each Indian firm to 20 partners, and local firms are prohibited from constructing websites or otherwise advertising their services. The restrictions limit growth options both domestically and internationally, although many practitioners continue to regard them as promoting stability, continuity and identity within the legal community. A handful of law firms are rumoured to have opened up additional offices under different names to circumvent this legislation but the legal market comprises small and mid-sized firms, often either family-run or in the form of sole proprietorships. Control of even the biggest firms is frequently found in the hands of a select few.

While much of the Australian market has felt the brunt of the sub-prime slowdown, the country’s energy and resources sector continues to run full steam ahead, driven largely by demand from China, India and Japan. In the two-tier economy, resource-rich Perth has become an increasingly important centre. Though most legal work is handled from Sydney and Melbourne, headquarters of many of the energy and resource giants, local players are handling an increasing amount of work.