Four lessons for a young lawyer from Ivy Wong

Written by Ana de Liz for Crafty Counsel

Ivy Young’s career story, with its twists and turns and being written in this very moment, is one that should not be disregarded by anyone who is just starting out in the legal industry.

After training, qualifying and spending four years in Allen & Overy’s energy and infrastructure department, Wong left private practice without a plan, but quickly connected with professionals outside law firms and started on what is now her path in legal tech. Now at Thomson Reuters in its HighQ division, here are four key lessons that Wong shared which are invaluable for young or prospective lawyers:

1. Know what’s important and what’s not important.

    It’s easy as a junior lawyer to spend time agonising about things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, says Wong. Some examples are winning minor drafting points from the other side, or worrying about what people might think about you or your work product.

    It’s important to have perspective right from the start about your value as a legal practitioner as well as what the truly valuable aspects of legal work are.

    2. There is (legal) life beyond the magic circle.

    There are better places to be than a magic circle law firm. Wong explains that there are lots of roles to be explored in the legal world, even more so now that the industry has begun to incorporate fields such as data science, design, project management to make the law better.

    “Lawyers perform an important function in performing legal advice but that’s just one part of the legal industry. There are many other roles that are just as exciting and interesting,” she says.

    There are better places to be than a magic circle law firm.

    3. Make sure you take time for personal reflection.

    Finding out what parts of the job you like and which parts you dread — finding out what makes you tick — and taking some time, from time to time, for personal reflection is a great way to make informed decisions as to where you’d like your career to go.

    Take it from Wong, who through an understanding of herself found out what made her tick, went from A&O associate to intern at Lexoo and is now a project manager at Thomson Reuters working at HighQ.

    “As long as you can afford it, don’t be afraid to step back in terms of seniority and pay if the move then places you on the right path. I really do think life is too short to hate work,” Wong says.

    4. Communication is an invaluable skill, whatever function or industry you end up working in.

    Distilling information and being clear in your explanations as to why and how you expect things to be done are skills that Wong has learned and transferred from her A&O associate years to her marketing and operations role at Lexoo, to her project management role at Thomson Reuters.

    Perfecting the skill of communication should be one of any career’s biggest goals. Wong will have to forgive us for introducing another speaker here but as James Hume, author and former presidential speechwriter, once said: “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

    What advice would you leave for someone just starting their law career?