At Crafty Counsel, we regularly focus on getting to know more about a member of our cherished in-house legal community. This week we feature Hui Min Langridge, Head of Legal, EMEA and APAC at Aptos, which is a retail technology company serving the largest high street retailers globally such as Primark, WH Smith, New Balance, Adidas, Halfords etc.
Hui Min is also a member of High Growth, our group for legal professionals working in venture-backed startups and scale-ups, which meets regularly for virtual and in-person events.
Overview of Hui Min’s current role
Hui Min works with one other lawyer and she says they both “wear many hats”. The bulk of the work the team does is transactional and advisory. However, they are also looking at clarifying the purpose of the legal team, working out what they should focus on, improving legal operational efficiency by “doing more with less” and keeping up with the regulatory landscape across the UK and Europe on data protection.
The team also spends some of their time resolving disputes and helping the company as it ventures into new markets and territories. The legal team assisted the company in setting up offices in India.
It is a “fast-paced and ambitious” company and Hui Min enjoys working in a dynamic environment. She’s also been involved in various M&A activities.
How did it all start? Hui Min shares her career background:
Hui Min fell into technology law “by accident”. Over 20 years ago when she first came to the United Kingdom from Malaysia, it was to study Biotechnology. However, it became evident that Hui Min’s talents lay outside “looking at Petri dishes in fume cupboards” but, as she describes, filial obligations prevailed, and being a “dutiful Asian daughter” meant she persisted with her studies and graduated even though she knew her interests laid elsewhere.
Initially, she wanted to capitalise on her science background and looked into becoming a patent attorney but then decided to train at Eversheds as a solicitor instead. After training at Eversheds, Hui Min moved on to work at Fieldfisher where she was given “a taste for in-house law”. She worked in a variety of interesting fields from media, telco, financial services to energy and disruptive technology companies (big data, machine learning and AI).
What is Hui Min’s unique talent or hobby?
From a young age Hui Min has written songs and still earns royalties from some of her songs published in Japan, published in music books for children. She shares that she has always been very musical:
“I have the annoying ability to be able to listen to tunes once and it will then repeat incessantly in my head afterwards. It is a bit annoying, particularly when you’ve listened to something only once in the gym or a shop.”
Apart from composing songs and earning money as a published musician, Hui Min also loves cooking and lists that as one of her other top talents.
What has she learned from being part of the Crafty Counsel community?
Being part of the Crafty Counsel community has given Hui Min “a real sense of solidarity” especially as she is part of a small in-house legal team. Instead of feeling alone with a particular set of fairly unique challenges, there is a sense that others are going through the same thing and “are in the same boat”.
For her the learning opportunity often lies in listening to how others deal with resourcing and recruitment issues. She also notes that the “intelligence around the legal tech community” and conversations on Guild (the community messaging forum) have been invaluable.
Her experience of the community is that they are responsive and very generous. They are “givers rather than takers”. The high degree of community participation is incredibly helpful.
The big wins or things Hui Min is really proud of
Being nominated for Advocate of the Year at the Women of IT Awards in 2020 for her work of setting up the first women’s network in the UK was a real highlight for Hui Min.
She is also proud of setting up “an entirely new” lunch and learn series at her company to spotlight disruptive technologies.
And as far as proud moments that are not legally related, Hui Min is proud of managing the redecoration of her company’s offices.
Something that needs changing in the legal industry
Contract reviews form the “bread and butter” of what keeps in-house legal teams busy and Hui Min would like to see efficiencies around how that is managed. It is still a highly “manual and bespoke process”, which is time-consuming. Although she has seen some legal tech providers use AI and machine learning to streamline the process, this is “still highly dependent on a huge amount of data they need to input in order to see repetitive data patterns” and for a small in-house legal team it is not always possible to harvest and provide this data.
She thinks much can still be done in this space to alleviate the burden on lawyers and suggests something like an “open source” data-sharing platform for particular segments of in-house legal teams, which is “streamlined according to industry types.” She says this kind of open forum would be incredibly helpful, especially for leaner legal teams.
Challenges Hui Min has faced in her in-house legal career journey
Hui Min shares that the challenges she’s faced are “not necessarily to do with events or difficult people”, but more about her ability to manage her own emotions during challenging periods. The greatest challenges are around experiencing cognitive dissonance during periods of high stress, and coping with people and political undercurrents at work. For Hui Min, it has been essential to create a healthy distance between her own self-worth, identity, and work.
“If you have a healthy mindset about yourself, then a lot of these internal or external conflicts get viewed in a more positive light and it gives you the resilience to face these challenges head-on.”
Showing “grace and patience” to colleagues when they “don’t particularly meet your expectations” is another challenge. The ability to “coach” colleagues is an important skill and she has learned that everyone is on their own journey and that people will not be “the finished product on day one”.
What advice would Hui Min give her younger self?
“As bad as things seem to be, they probably are not as bad as you make them out to be.”
This is what Hui Min would tell her younger self. She would encourage herself “to let go of the fear and to really embrace challenges and your anxieties head on”. She would remind herself that she has the resources within to overcome difficulties.