With an international client base that spans the continents, HFW knows the value of its employees having a breadth of cultural experience. Secondments are available to 10 offices globally and the firm actively encourages its trainees to spend a seat abroad. I was fortunate to be given the nod to spend my third seat in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong office is HFW’s largest and oldest outside of London. Being one of the world’s hub cities, Hong Kong itself has always been a magnet for foreigners (‘gweilos’) to work and play. Having previously completed seats in Commercial and Banking Disputes and Insurance / Reinsurance in London, I joined the Shipping and Transport team in Hong Kong. It was an exciting prospect to join a team that had picked up the Asia Legal Business Hong Kong Shipping Law Firm of the Year Award the weekend before I arrived.
Hong Kong has developed a highly impressive infrastructure and services sector and is uniquely placed, as a common law system on mainland China’s doorstep, to act as a bridging destination between East and West. The city has established itself over time as one of the key destinations for the shipping industry. Shipowners, insurers, charterers, shipbrokers, port authorities etc. are all well represented. This gives lawyers in Hong Kong immediate access to clients from across the shipping spectrum. There are regular events to bring people together to share industry insights and dodgy canapés.
Once the outgoing trainee had brought me up to speed on the files I would be inheriting, it soon became clear that I would be exposed to a whole range of matters, shipping or otherwise. A significant amount of my time has been spent preparing for a hearing on a collision case in the Court of Final Appeal. It has been a tremendous experience to assist in the preparation of a case that will shortly be heard by the four permanent judges of Hong Kong’s highest court, and Lord Clarke, a renowned English Admiralty judge (sitting as the non-permanent judge). London silks and local Senior Counsel have both been instructed by the appellant parties and acting in a matter that involves the interaction between local law and regulations and the international regulations which govern the navigation of vessels has been fascinating. Beyond collisions, I’ve also worked on charterparty disputes, personal injury and medical negligence claims, fraud and insolvency and marine insurance matters.
Hong Kong comes highly recommended for those seeking a stint away from London. The city is vibrant and safe, the food is renowned and whether you are a mall enthusiast, a sports enthusiast or a travel enthusiast, Hong Kong could well be the place for you.