1. You’re qualified both as a solicitor of Hong Kong and an attorney of the State of New York and have experience representing clients in a wide range of Hong Kong litigation, international arbitration and contentious regulatory matters. When did you decide to go down the path of litigation and international arbitration? How does qualifying in New York help your career development?
After completing law school in Hong Kong, I was trained at Sidley Austin and I was lucky to have spent part of my training contract with Sidley’s premier dispute resolution team in Hong Kong. I learnt a lot from the partners at the team and I was very interested in the work they do – every litigation and arbitration case is different, and I really enjoyed working within a team to fight for our client’s interest in adversarial proceedings. Being a dispute resolution lawyer requires a holistic set of skills – from fact-finding to having an inquisitive mind when applying legal principles to the facts, and the ability to work under pressure and coming up with solutions when there’s no readily available precedent.
In terms of how my New York bar qualification helps my career development, although I am still first and foremost a Hong Kong solicitor (and the majority of my work are Hong Kong law-related dispute matters), at my current role at Herbert Smith Freehills I had the opportunity to work on some white collar crimes investigation pertaining to Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and sanction-related matters. Having a New York bar qualification definitely allowed me to have a solid grasp of the “structure” of U.S. law and the ability to put the issue in the wider context of the U.S. legal system (e.g. when researching export control rules). Further, it’s common for an international transaction these days to involve laws of multiple jurisdictions (e.g. HKIAC arbitration for New York law-governed commercial agreement) so I would say qualifying in a major jurisdiction such as New York would definitely help your career. On a separate note, I definitely recommend Asia Bar Review’s services – a good bar course can save you a lot of time.
2. What changes are on the horizon when it comes to dispute resolution? What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers trying to develop a career in dispute resolution?
I probably have not acquired enough experience to really answer these questions. One trend I noticed is that dispute resolution lawyers these days are expected to provide “one-stop” legal service to clients’ different business needs, which are becoming more diverse in this ever-changing world. It is good for a disputes lawyer to have experience in different types of work and exposure to different industries. In terms of legal development in Hong Kong, I look forward to the implementation of the new arrangement for enforcement of civil judgments between Mainland China and Hong Kong, as well as seeing more development in cross-border insolvency cooperation between the two jurisdictions.
From my experience, I don’t think you need to worry too much when it comes to developing your career: focus on improving yourself every day and have confidence in yourself (and the choice you made). Listen to well-intentioned advice and have the audacity to choose a path which may appear more daunting. I came to Hong Kong without knowing the distinction between a solicitor and a barrister, but I turned out fine.
I also think it’s important to read widely outside of the legal discipline – you will be surprised that your knowledge outside of the law may come in handy one day.