We are delighted to invite Beryl Sit, Head of IBD Legal at CLSA to share her tips on how to sustain a successful legal career. After graduating from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Beryl returned to Hong Kong focusing on corporate law at international law firms. Before joining CLSA as Executive Director and Head of IBD Legal, Beryl was a Partner of a leading PRC law firm and has valuable insights to share with us about her career journey, overcoming challenges, and her secret to work-life integration and success.
KF: Katherine Fan (Managing Director, Hughes-Castell)
Beryl: Beryl Sit (Head of IBD Legal, CLSA)
KF: What are your top tips for aspiring female lawyers to succeed in the legal industry?
Beryl: Regardless of the industry, to shine in a job you must be passionate about it. Be curious, listen and learn from your peers and superiors, and have an open mind to best handle or solve issues. The key is to be accountable, approachable and come across as a problem solver.
That said, in my experience, I have realised that the quality that bosses, clients, co-workers and peers appreciate the most is to always have a view on matters. Legal training has taught me to identify and analyse problems swiftly and to develop effective solutions. If we are able to provide an objective solution for every issue (be it a legal technical question, a project management method or managing an angry client) supported by demonstrable facts, your counterpart is likely to turn around, and to respect you for being accountable and professional.
KF: For candidates contemplating the partnership track or a move from private practice to in-house, what attributes should be developed to succeed as a partner, or in a leadership role in-house?
Beryl: Although the nature of working in a private practice and an in-house environment is very different, the one universal mindset to possess in order to do well in both landscapes is to FOCUS ON SERVICE OVER SUCCESS. So, what does “service” mean? There is no doubt that the legal industry is considered a service industry where lawyers provide legal advice to clients. Being a brilliant and diligent lawyer, mastering all the technical points, laws and regulations, does not guarantee a successful path as a partner or in-house counsel. “Service” does not only mean the simple delivery of a task that you have been asked to perform, it means truly understanding the needs of your clients (or internal clients in the in-house scenario), being able to put yourself in their shoes and understand their mindset. This is the key to identifying and resolving the issues they are facing, and to please them.
KF:What were some key challenges as a junior, then mid-level lawyer and now senior lawyer, and how did you overcome those challenges?
Beryl: To be quite frank, as a junior, the key challenge was staying sane and surviving the grueling schedule! Work is all-consuming and you hardly have a moment to think about anything else other than your case at hand. But this period will pass, and when you enter the mid-level of your career, the challenge becomes finding your niche in the industry, and developing mentoring networks to guide you in your career. At senior level, you are accountable for larger projects involving different internal and external parties. Knowing how to manage these relationships, while ensuring the quality of your work, can be challenging at times. Fortunately, more often than not, I have been able to find tremendous partners or colleagues to work with.
KF:When recruiting, what qualities do you look for?
Beryl: I LOVE this question! These are the qualities I look for:
- A positive attitude and eagerness to learn
- The ability to step up and take extra responsibilities
- A get up and go attitude
- Confidence to raise red flags or point out a mistake at the right time
- Someone who values a healthy work/life balance
KF:How do you achieve work-life balance? What do you do in your personal time to de-stress (and how do you find the time, given the demanding schedules of lawyers)?
Beryl: Work is important but so is one’s well-being. The work environment of a law firm or a large corporation can be very stressful due to expectations and deadlines. I tend to go off-line after dinner and at weekends, only responding to urgent work calls or emails. There are a million ways to beat stress and each person needs to find their own. Personally, I love outdoor activities and getting close to nature; I even try to squeeze in a quick run at lunchtime on work days occasionally. This always helps me clear my mind and stay focus.