Kai-Chen Lamb thinks firms can do more to improve client service, particularly for large commercial firms that do a lot of transactional work.
In fact, the King & Wood Mallesons lawyer, who specialises in taxation and made partner just last year, has three tips for the oft-identified area of focus.
She also explains why firms and lawyers should not be daunted by the leaps in technology, but instead embrace the opportunities they open.
In this interview, Lamb also tackles pressing issues in taxation in the context of funds, property, and infrastructure, as well as why lawyers can do a better job at learning to accept help.
What made you choose a career in law?
A love of a good stoush made me study law. What has kept me there is having an interesting and varied range of intellectual work, and fantastic clients.
What do you love most about your job?
The people. As previously mentioned, fantastic clients who are keen to work together with you to achieve their objectives, as well as the brilliant lawyers at KWM who keep me on my toes.
What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?
There’s always plenty going on at KWM. The website will do a much better job than me in covering all of the fantastic new programs and initiatives. One thing that I have been particularly interested and impressed with is the firm’s increasing and genuine focus on innovation. As I am constantly reminded by the junior lawyers, it is crucial that KWM – like all large law firms – stay ahead of the game on this in order to maintain our market-leading reputation.
What was your proudest accomplishment in 2017?
In a work sense, promotion to partnership from July 2017. The recognition from peers, colleagues, clients and competitors has been incredibly humbling. In a personal sense, seeing my daughter develop her own personality, imagination and opinions – the latter has been admittedly challenging though.
What should the profession and law firms focus more on?
In my view, three things: innovation, diversity and client service. Innovation, I have spoken about. Having diversity in the most senior ranks of an organisation, especially an organisation like a law firm, is in my view crucial to ensure that the decision-making of the organisation is sound and appropriately reflects the diverse views of all partners and lawyers in the firm. Client service is an “oldie but a goodie,” but what I would like to see more of, particularly in large commercial firms that do a lot of transactional work, is an emphasis on listening to our clients and not just dictating to them – investing in the relationship and a recognition that we are servicing not just the organisation, but the people that work there.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give to fellow lawyers about it?
Tricky question! What I will say is that what I have learnt, and the advice that I would give to fellow lawyers, is that while self-reliance is essential, having and accepting the help and support of others is crucial to achieving your objectives. That, and having the resilience and self-belief to persist at things even when initially rejected.
What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?
In my current areas of practice – being tax in the context of funds, property and infrastructure – there are a multitude of current and contemplated legislative reforms that have the potential to be real game-changers, such as the new regime for corporate collective investment vehicles (CCIVs), as well as the proposed changes to the tax treatment of stapled structures. And that is on top of some of the game-changing reforms that have already been passed, such as the various suites of managed investment trust (MIT) reforms. Staying on top of this will be crucial for both practitioners in this area as well as our clients.
At a more macro level, it will be both adapting to and exploiting the opportunities presented by the massive leaps we have seen in AI and IT in the legal industry. While there is a tendency to emphasise the threats posed by this, I don’t think we consider or emphasise enough the opportunities presented by this, including how this technology presents the opportunity to focus on the more interesting areas of legal practice.
What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?
As with all years, seeing where the year takes me! It is never the same year to year, and the only thing that can be relied on is that it won’t be what I expect. Hopefully I will execute on a lot of the work-related resolutions that I set myself in January. Finally, seeing my daughter grow out of her “three-nager” tantrums, though I am told by other parents who have been through it to not hold my breath...
Keep an eye on the people around you
Try the rough water