Image of Samantha Cornelius

Samantha Jane Cornelius

Counsel, Head of Hong Kong Employment & Incentives, Hong Kong SAR

"I am an employment lawyer advising on complex and sensitive standalone employment and incentives issues, as well as on the employment and incentives-related aspects of major transactions throughout Asia-Pacific. I aim to provide clients with technically sound, commercial and practical advice that fully addresses their business and strategic needs."


Professional experience

Education and qualifications


Samantha is a counsel and the Head of Employment & Incentives - Hong Kong. She has a broad range of commercial legal experience advising clients on employment, incentives, pensions, data privacy and immigration law issues - broadly, any matters impacting on employees.

Samantha regularly advises clients on employment contracts, separation agreements, restrictive covenants, employee entitlements under employment legislation, requirements of anti-discrimination legislation, all aspects of termination of employment, data privacy issues and options and obligations in relation to MPF and ORSO schemes. She also has had considerable involvement in corporate restructurings impacting on employees having worked on a series of high profile M&A matters involving the transfer of employees in a multitude of APAC jurisdictions.

Samantha has developed expertise on employee incentive arrangements and advises start-ups, private companies, multinational corporates and financial institutions on share-based, rights-based and phantom incentive plans - from structuring of the plans and awards to advising on applicable companies’ legislation, securities laws and Hong Kong Listing Rules.

Clients are increasingly looking for more of a global or at least an APAC approach to many employment law matters. Samantha’s length of employment at Linklaters and her experience in both the London and Hong Kong offices of Linklaters has been instrumental in bringing the global employment law network together. This has allowed for important knowledge sharing and collaboration within the firm which ultimately benefits our multi-national client base. Samantha grew up in Hong Kong and therefore has an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the culture in Hong Kong, something that is critical for clients when dealing with employees.

Samantha is recognised by legal directories with clients describing her on Chambers as “absolutely expert and a prudent adviser on strategy” and on Legal 500 as “very knowledgeable and responsive”.

Work highlights

Highlights of Samantha’s extensive experience include advising:

  • various multinational companies on sensitive senior executive terminations
  • an international crypto-currency business on an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment
  • a global investment firm on a protracted employee compensation claim
  • ANZ on the disposal of its retail and wealth management businesses to DBS in 2016 (having advised RBS on the disposal of the same assets to ANZ in 2009)
  • a technology business on the transfer of its complex Occupational Retirement Scheme arrangements as part of an M&A transaction
  • several prominent FinTech clients on data privacy
  • the Out in Hong Kong team on a number of employment and immigration matters in preparation for the Gay Games to be held in Hong Kong in 2022

Professional experience

Together with Emma Pugh, former Co-head of Employment & Incentives - Hong Kong, Samantha was named Best in Labour and Employment at the Euromoney Asia Women in Business Law Awards in 2017. Samantha was also awarded the Gold Award pursuant to the Law Society of Hong Kong Pro Bono and Community Work Recognition Programme in 2018 (having received the Bronze Award in 2016 and 2017).

Education and qualifications

Samantha studied Law and German at the University of Bristol, which included a year studying German law at the University of Goettingen, Germany. After graduation, she completed her Legal Practice Course at the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice and an Intensive Mandarin Course at the Beijing Language and Culture University.

Samantha is an accredited mediator with the Hong Kong Mediation Accreditation Association Limited (HKMAAL).

She speaks native English, fluent German, intermediate Mandarin and basic French.