“We call this the practice of law for a reason, you need to practice to get it right, and that means stumbling from time to time”
Daniel Lo is a Private Equity Lawyer based in Singapore, with a large following on LinkedIn due to his candid, inspiring and open posts. I am delighted to pick his brain on comparison culture, mentoring, mistakes and Legaltech.
With many aspiring solicitors currently receiving rejections for training contracts etc., and being, as you have called it, a “late bloomer” in your career, what are your experiences of or views on comparison culture?
Although it is natural to compare, inherently I think it creates a toxic and unnecessarily competitive environment. I always bring it back to the basic understanding between finite versus infinite games.
Finite games exist when there are at least two players, the players are known, the rules are fixed and there is an agreed-upon objective that signals the end of the game when achieved. For these games there is always a beginning, a middle and an end.
An infinite game is played by known and unknown players and there are no exact or agreed-upon rules. Infinite games have infinite time horizons, with no end to the game, as the primary objective for players is to continue playing and perpetuate the game. To this end, there is no “winning” an infinite game. The practice of law is an infinite game, people will enter and leave at any time. So what if your career is delayed by a few years? In the greater scheme of things if you are lucky you will work in this field until you are 65. You think by then you will worry about not starting your career earlier? You will likely think about whether you lived happily and have made a positive impact on others. Try not to think about how others will view you, they aren’t living your life, you are.
Mentoring is something that you are passionate about. As a mentor myself, I love how the mentor/mentee relationship is a two way learning process. What have you learnt from mentoring and more specifically, what have your mentees taught you?
As someone that feels strongly about giving back, I learned that mentoring is one of the most effective ways you can help someone seeking help. Time is the most valuable thing you can give because it is finite and there are many other things you could be doing with it. When you are committing time to a complete stranger, you are telling that person that they are important and are worth the time.
I have been fortunate to have connected with many law students and lawyers in the past few months, they are as much mentees as mentors to me. My mentees have reminded me that developing a career is a process, the starting point has to stem from finding your “why”, or your purpose, otherwise it is hard to plan into the future. Hearing everyone’s journey and motivations constantly forces me to evaluate what my purpose is and where I’m headed.
You recently gave a talk on how to develop a problem-solving mindset as a young lawyer and the importance of taking ownership of mistakes made in a given task. While you can resolve mistakes by giving and acting on solutions, how do you suggest young lawyers deal with the mental aspect of moving on from, sometimes big, mistakes?
We call this the practice of law for a reason, you need to practice to get it right, and that means stumbling from time to time. I don’t trust lawyers that never admit to making mistakes, because they will likely not be as empathetic or humble as those that have fallen and rebounded. Empathy and humility is the difference between a good lawyer to a great lawyer. Understand that mistakes will be made, but have a process of noting and making the necessary changes so that the mistake won’t happen again.
Following your interest in Fintech and Legaltech, at what stage do you think the legal industry is in terms of technical maturity compared to other industries? What would you recommend to lawyers in terms of improving their technical skill set for the future?
Tech disruption in the legal industry has been going on for the past few years already, with many law firms finally taking note of the potential of legaltech. However, I don’t think there is going to be any mass adoption or push towards optimizing processes unless pressure comes from clients to cut costs. The legal industry is more reactive than proactive in that sense. The growth of fintech was spurred on because of the client frustrations around slow moving financial institutions and inefficient processes, the same needs to happen in law.
I think having general technological acumen and being aware and open to tech solutions is a great first step for lawyers. No one says you need to learn how to code to be a lawyer (although who knows in the future?), but at least be receptive to new technologies that could make your life easier and help your clients save money.
Finally, thinking back to you at the beginning of your legal career – what’s one piece of advice you would tell younger you in hindsight?
Buy Amazon and Google shares.
Career wise, I would tell young Daniel to enjoy the moment. One day you’re starting your first day as a trainee knowing nothing, blink of an eye and you are deep into your practice trying to hone your speciality and skills. Start every day with a positive attitude, strive to do your best work constantly and party hard with your friends, you won’t regret it.
You can find Daniel on Linkedin