Being discriminated for their age is nothing new to the partners of a newly established corporate law firm based in Malaysia. Instead, it’s something they use as fuel for their own fire.
For the longest time, many a joke has been made at the expense of lawyers.
Lawyers just happen to fall in the bad space where they can’t quite win, even when they do. Truth of the matter is that nobody hires a lawyer when things are going well for them, so most people are already in a bad place when they meet lawyers, theirs or otherwise.
Even with every trial or case – the winner lauds all of the efforts of their lawyers, no matter won under how devious or slimy a circumstance, and the loser blames the supposed incompetence of their counsel for their loss.
Lawyers just can’t win.
Corporate lawyers Lim Ching Yong and Lee Elaine know this vicious cycle all too well.
Having been in both litigation and corporate practice before setting their own corporate law firm Ching, Elaine & Co, the pair is much more contented focusing on fund raising, business drafting and acquisition side of things today.
“We do everything but our focus is corporate law. About 90% of our clients are listed companies,” tells Ching Yong. “So we are actively involved in mergers and acquisitions of companies, IPO, corporate finance.”
Their youth is perhaps the first thing that will stand out to you upon meeting them. However, with youth comes vigour and ambition. Ching Yong and Elaine are young and they intend on capitalizing on it.
Doing things their way
Being discriminated for their age is nothing new to the partners. Quite the contrary to letting it get to her, it’s something Elaine uses as fuel for her own fire.
“People always think that being young is a disadvantage. People equate years with experience,” Elaine tells. “However, my youth allows me to be more hardworking. I do a lot more to make up for what people thought I lack. I am always working doubly and triply hard.”
Ching Yong concurs, “Being younger allows us to work longer hours. We are probably more motivated to go the extra mile compared to more seasoned lawyers.”
With youth also comes the inextinguishable drive for greatness. “We are much more zealous,” Elaine lets on. “I am very aggressive in deals. I get the most for my clients, while upholding the fairness of the deal.”
The small size of their team also works in their favour. “With larger firms, you may deal with hierarchical issue,” Ching Yong shares. “If you come to a boutique firm, you usually deal with the decision maker of the firm. If you have an issue, the decision maker can give you a prompt analysis on whether something is feasible. You save time and won’t receive a response like let me discuss with my boss.”
Behind the scenes
Returning to lawyer jokes, the partners have heard their fair share of it. Even more than lawyer jokes, they’ve familiar with misconceptions about lawyers being vicious sharks who capitalize on the misery of others.
“Lawyers are not liars. Everyone thinks that, but we are never liars,” Elaine tells. “We interpret the law. We only work within what the law allows us. We solve problems within that.”
“We look for loopholes and we try to fill up the gap – that’s how precedent is created. There are always two sides to a story and as the middle person, it’s all about who has the better convincing solutions and who can interpret the law better, who fills in the gap better. Nothing fancy, nothing glamorous – it is common sense in its entirety.”
Ching Yong sees it as a big exercise in problem-solving. “Law is all about how you use your creativity and logic to solve problems. It’s also about logic – you need to weigh out all the scenarios so that your client’s interest is protected. Being good in mathematics is equally important. It is a fallacy to say – oh, I am not good in maths so perhaps I will do well in law.”
He regards law practice as something that has brought out the best in him. “You need to be an all-rounder to be good at law practice. You need to be rainmaker, be the one problem solver at the same time. It’s 50% technical and 50% business development. It also involves your people skills, your charisma, how fast you think on your feet and your creativity. If you can’t balance that, then you can’t really excel.”
Not once was the monetary gain of the job mentioned between the two as one of their biggest job satisfactions.
Elaine laughs when this was brought up. “Corporate lawyers are known as money-minded people but it’s not all about money, honestly. It comes back to the satisfaction of fixing problems.”
Contrary to popular belief, Ching Yong tells that most lawyers earn a pittance for their starting salary. Only as you develop your knowledge and expertise will people be willing to pay well for what you can offer. One’s drive for monetary gain will most probably kill one’s passion for law in no time if that is one’s sole motivation, so it is important to balance that expectation in the practice of law. Not everything comes handed on a silver platter.
For the longest time, many a joke has been made at the expense of lawyers. And for equally as long have they endured it, all in the nature of their jobs to help those who need their knowledge and expertise to challenge the system.