BEING A LAW FIRM CONSULTANT: A PATH LESS TRAVELLED?
Andrew Mak of Fortis Law shares his journey.
BY ASHUTOSH RAVIKRISHNAN
A lot has changed in the 26 years that Mr Andrew Mak has been in practice. The hardware of it, for one. “In those days, when I did transactional corporate work like drafting agreements, we relied on fax machines, not the Internet.” Corporate secretarial filings with the Registry of Companies and Businesses (the predecessor to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) also relied heavily on prescribed paper forms and was a tedious task that few enjoyed.
But there are also striking similarities: Mr Mak, a consultant at Fortis Law, remembers questioning his choice of career just two years into practice. “I did contemplate going in-house,” he shares. “Although times have changed, it’s the same trend you see today, where every practitioner wonders if he or she should make the switch to go in-house. Practice is definitely not easy.”
“When I recently read about some younger lawyers wanting to leave, there’s a sense of déjà vu. I think it’s something that every generation grapples with,” he continues. So why didn’t he eventually make the switch? “Initially, it was a very practical reason: there just weren’t that many in-house positions, especially one that I found ideal.” So Mr Mak carried on with practice, finding that that’s where his strengths—and passion—lie. “I asked myself what I’m best at doing and accepted that practice was the best path for me.”
But then he found himself at another crossroads; one that today’s practitioners might also resonate with: the quest for the right firm. “Different firms had—and still have—their pluses and minuses,” he elaborates. “You consider things like culture, the experience you can gain, the variety of clients and practice areas, and the partners you can learn from. Ideally, you want someone who encourages and mentors you.”
After circling through various firms, both big and small, Mr Mak felt that he needed a lifestyle change. It was a decision prompted by another milestone in his life: fatherhood. “When my two kids arrived, I wanted a different pace because of my shifting priorities. I decided then that I did not want to be an execution partner in a law firm,” he reveals. “I wanted more time for myself and my family. So it was a conscious decision to be a consultant and have more control over my time.”
Naturally, he had doubts about his choice and at one point, he even toyed with the idea of a sole proprietorship. Faced with these, he turned to friends in the profession, who were happy to share anecdotes and advice. He’s heartened that this spirit of sharing continues among peers today, as he benefited greatly from it. “I remember that a senior practitioner friend advised me to be a consultant instead, as you get a certain level of support from the firm,” he says. This support comes with control over his clientele list and the type of work that he does. “As a consultant, you have more time and headspace to forge a closer relationship with clients and truly become their trusted advisor.”
The time gained has helped him to pursue a longtime passion: knowledge. “I’ve always enjoyed reading and learning,” he shares. This thirst for knowledge likely explains why Mr Mak is one of the top users of SAL’s LIFTED – LinkedIn Learning. Launched last year, this online resource is currently free for SAL members and allows deep-dives into topics like personal relationships, conflict management and wellbeing. “It’s on your own time and you have the flexibility to take it from your laptop to your phone, which makes it very convenient.”
“I personally find the module on Leadership, Business and Strategy useful. These are the core business leadership skills which lawyers, especially senior lawyers in leadership roles whether in their law firms or on corporate boards or non-profits, need to have—or revisit or re-emphasise from time to time.”
Check out Mr Mak’s recommended LIFTED-LinkedIn Learning course here. Here’s an excerpt: