LAM ZHEN GUANG ON LIFE IN A NEW PRACTICE AREA
The recently Accredited Specialist in D2E Law on making a meaningful switch.
BY ASHUTOSH RAVIKRISHNAN
The recent US congressional hearing with TikTok CEO Mr Shou Zi Chew has gained considerable attention, thanks to soundbites of the exchange that have gone viral. But for data and digital economy (D2E) lawyers, it pays to look a little deeper than the quick takes on social media, says Mr Lam Zhen Guang.
“You get a sense of how different tech issues are perceived across jurisdictions and you may pick up clues about how your clients may fare in the future,” reflects the recently Accredited Specialist in D2E Law.
To some, relating everything back to work might sound like an occupational hazard. But to a D2E lawyer, it’s part and parcel of their chosen practice area. “It’s quite unlike an area like maritime law, where the case law was decided decades, sometimes centuries, ago.”
This dynamism is one of D2E’s strongest draws, explains Zhen Guang. In fact, it inspired him to switch from a tax and private client practice, where he had started nearly a decade ago.
“Being in D2E, there’s a sense of always pushing boundaries. You never really know what legal issues tomorrow’s technology will raise and that’s exciting.”
In his first practice, clients ranged from the ultra-high net worth individuals seeking advice on tax matters to everyday folks who could not afford a lawyer to draw up a will. It seems like a different world from his current role as a Senior Associate at Clyde & Co, where he specialises in TMT, data protection, cybersecurity and the like.
“Actually, there’s a common human thread in the law, regardless of the practice area. A client being investigated by IRAS and one being investigated by PDPC are probably equally nervous. So in both cases, lawyers would go beyond problem solving to also provide reassurance. But of course, they do differ in terms of the substantive legal issues.”
Zhen Guang felt the weight of these differences firsthand when he made the switch to TMT. It wasn’t a decision he came to lightly. “My advice to anyone else thinking of switching: talk to people!” he says, recalling countless conversations with law school buddies, friends in practice and even family. “They can tell you things to look out for.”
Yet no amount of conversations can substitute the hard work you need to put in when you pivot. “I think I did it at the sweet spot of my career. At that time, you’re probably more amenable to changes and you may not have as many responsibilities outside work competing for your time and energy.” But he quickly adds, “My wife did put up with many late nights when I switched.”
Like any lawyer, there are still the occasional late nights. “In any area of law, but especially D2E, you need to have a sense of what’s going on.” Reliable websites are a great source of information, but so are colleagues. At Clyde & Co, he has informal coffees with colleagues in different practice areas and other offices globally, learning about what’s happening in other realms of the law.
Industry events, like those organised by SAL and the Law Society, are also useful. “There may even be closed-door sessions with industry stakeholders, which allows one to understand where regulation matters might go in the future. And preparing for the Accreditation exam was also a useful refresher,” he adds.
Zhen Guang receiving his certification as an Accredited Specialist in Data and Digital Economy Law from Justice Kannan Ramesh
It’s a view echoed by Justice Kannan Ramesh, Chair of the SAL Specialist Accreditation Board, as he congratulated Zhen Guang and other new appointees last month. “For them, it is the start of a new journey,” said Justice Ramesh. “They must sharpen their knowledge and skills and provide the thought leadership that this exciting and exacting area of the law and commerce demands.”
For his part, Zhen Guang aims to do just that. “There’s a commercial benefit to accreditation, because you get a mark of recognition as an expert. But you are also conferred this responsibility to help shape how the law develops in the future. And that’s an exciting space to be in.”
SAL invites applications to be an Accredited Specialist in Maritime and Shipping Law and Data and Digital Economy (D2E) Law. Applications close on 30 April 2023. Details here or contact [email protected] for more information.