Herbert Smith leavers at all-time high

Herbert Smith’s Hong Kong-based litigation department has suffered a mass exodus of associates, with more than 75 per cent of its junior lawyers leaving in the past year.

At least 17 associates have resigned during the past 12 months – a “higher than normal ” turnover compared with previous years, according to Asian dispute resolution head Mark Johnson. Litigation partner Gavin Lewis is also set to leave the litigation department for a job with UBS Investment Bank.

The news comes after Lawyer 2B’s sister title The Lawyer revealed on 10 October that 30 litigation associates had quit Herbert Smith’s London office in the last year.

Former associates told The Lawyer that litigation staff in both London and Hong Kong have suffered from a lack of morale, poor communication and uncertainty about career progression.

In Hong Kong, Johnson defended the turnover figure, stating that even though the numbers were unusually high, there were several contributing factors to the resignations. He said litigation traditionally suffered during periods of economic expansion.

“If we look at the numbers, there are a range of reasons why these people have left,” he said. “We view some of the moves as quite positive because a few of the associates have gone to investment banks, which will obviously strengthen our relationships with those teams.”

However, Johnson admitted some of the senior associates had left in order to pursue partnership prospects at other firms.

“We like to be straightforward with people and we understand, as do our associates, that not everyone can make partner,”
he said.