If you want to land legal work in Asia, prepare to be a ‘jack of all trades’
Generalist legal skills are important for lawyers wanting to succeed in the Asia-Pacific market, a group of Perth law students has heard.
Neil Kingsbury, senior legal counsel for INPEX, recently shared his tips on personal branding in the growing Asia-Pacific legal market at an event hosted by the West Australian branch of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA).
Speaking as part of a guest panel of legal practitioners who have worked in the Asia-Pacific region, Mr Kingsbury said that in addition to Asian language skills, being able to demonstrate strong generalist skills is important.
“Working in an international law firm in Asia, you are sometimes expected to be a jack of all trades,” Mr Kingsbury said.
“Also US and UK law firms tend to give their junior lawyers a lot more responsibility than Australian firms – a few years of solid training in Australia will give you more confidence and experience to handle those challenges,” he added.
The Perth-based lawyer said that those firms with headquarters in Hong Kong, China and Japan, considered candidates with language fluency in Mandarin or Japanese as attractive hires.
Mr Kingsbury, who is a Murdoch University graduate, specialises in advising oil and gas developments and the financing of large-scale LNG projects in WA and Indonesia. Prior to his job with INPEX, he has worked for King & Wood Mallesons in WA and Hogan Lovells in Singapore.
“It is easier to get a job with an international firm in Asia if you have experience working in a well-known Australian firm or the Australian office of an international law firm,” Mr Kingsbury added.
Joining Mr Kingsbury on the panel was Herbert Smith Freehills solicitor Claire Russo, who was seconded to work in the firm’s Singapore office as a junior lawyer. Ms Russo said that her experience taught her how to “learn to work on the fly”, and to work with increased autonomy.
She also noted that when working in in Asia cultivating a personal brand was important. Individual relationships tended to be a significant factor, she said, whereas in Australia a combination of firm reputation and individual brand was what mattered.
Fellow panellist and Leo Cussen Career advisor Alex Giannopoulos added: “Western culture often encourages immediate outcomes, but working with Asian lawyers and clients regularly requires patience and time to build trust. The ability to elicit concessions without a party losing face can also be important.”
Last week’s AALA panel event was hosted with the support of the Leo Cussen Centre for Law. It was the first AALA event for students and focused on exposure to the opportunities and benefits of legal work in the Asian legal sector.
The group said that how to break into the Asia-Pacific market as a legal professional was important for those operating from WA.
AALA (WA) president Peter Le highlighted the competitive recruitment market that law graduates currently face, noting that there was a need for students to look beyond the traditional local offerings.
“The key takeaway from the event was that working in Asia is a different experience both legally and culturally, where you will be met with challenges that will take you out your comfort zone, in an accelerated learning curve, that will develop and shape the prospects of success in your career back in Australia,” Mr Le said.