At Crafty Counsel, we regularly focus on getting to know more about members of our in-house legal community. This week, we spoke with Patricia Ratnam who’s a member of FTSE & Friends — our Crafty Counsel Community group for in-house legal professionals working in large organisations or government.
Patricia’s career has been nothing short of remarkable. A dual-qualified lawyer starting out in Malaysia and moving to the UK, she jumped from civil litigation to corporate work, data protection to oil and gas, before transitioning to the exciting smart homes industry. Let’s delve into the achievements and challenges of Patricia’s colourful career journey.
Moving from private practice to in-house
Patricia kickstarted her career in Malaysia, her home country, in civil litigation in private practice, before quickly going into corporate work in technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT). She describes this as an exciting time as it was the early days of the data protection act exploding in Southeast Asia.
But like many lawyers, Patricia reached a point where she‘d had enough of private practice and transitioned to an in-house role. She ventured into the oil and gas industry which brought about a new wave of opportunities.
Travelling across Southeast Asia to meet national and private oil companies, the client-facing nature of her role kept her constantly on the go and she loved every minute of it. This transition marked a pivotal moment in her career, opening doors to diverse experiences and success.
Bringing success to shore in Malaysia
In her oil and gas days, Patricia was the lead counsel for decommissioning the first floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) in Malaysia. An FPSO is an offshore ship that collects and treats oil before it’s passed through underground pipes. When it was time for the FPSO to be brought back to shore, Patricia stepped in and led a full round of negotiations with the national oil company for Malaysia, getting approvals for passing international waters and avoiding environmental issues like oil leakages.
“It was an amazing project,” Patricia says. “Especially seeing the FPSO tugged back to port and brought back to the shipyard safely. It was a great team effort to get this off the ground and completed.”
New continent, new possibilities
Patricia’s move from Malaysia to the UK brought about its own set of cultural changes. In particular, the freedom of expression and diversity she encountered left a lasting impression on her.
“I was in awe of how everyone was so open and uninhibited. Everyone has their opinions and they’re not afraid to say it, which is a breath of fresh air. And what amazes me still is how everyone talks about the weather — I’ll never get bored of that,” Patricia says.
“London is such a melting pot of cultures. You see representations of everyone.”
Her move to the UK opened new doors to becoming a dual-qualified lawyer in England and Wales. But despite Patricia’s love for the change of scenery, requalifying was a difficult journey.
Dual-qualification and motherhood challenges
Patricia described the process of requalifying as nerve-wracking — almost like having two jobs at the same time. The exam tested her ability to recall broad legal knowledge in a short time, which she doesn’t feel accurately reflects real-life professional scenarios. As an expert in civil litigation, studying criminal law and three other arms of the legal system wasn’t relevant to Patricia’s day-to-day work and she felt it added unnecessary pressure.
Even through the stress, Patricia successfully achieved dual-qualification, understanding the need for benchmarking a lawyer’s capabilities in a different jurisdiction, but acknowledges the need for a more contemporary and fair process.
Patricia found her biggest challenge to be the transition from focusing solely on her career to balancing work and a little one. “Usually if there’s a deadline, I can work extra hours to meet it,” Patricia explains. “Especially seeing the FPSO tugged back to port and brought back to the shipyard safely. It was a great team effort to get this off the ground and completed.”
Embracing change: the switch to smart homes
With a drive for fresh challenges after moving to the UK, Patricia shifted specialisms within her company, Honeywell, and got stuck into the smart homes industry. “Working in smart homes was really interesting with the rising awareness of climate change,” explains Patricia. “And of course, Europe is a lot more advanced on this than other parts of the world. I like to think, ‘how can we help with our smart home products during these challenging times?’”
Patricia found herself at the forefront of this innovative industry, broadening her knowledge and joining the global conversation on environmental sustainability.
Celebrating her roots with unique hobbies
Patricia surprises us with her talents outside the legal realm. Her mother is from a native indigenous tribe outside of Borneo who make traditional rice wine in the spirit of the community. She says, “I grew up around this and it’s a big part of celebrations like the harvest festival. Now that I live far from home I like to reconnect with my roots, so my husband and I are experimenting with making our own rice wine.”
A creative at heart, Patricia also co-owns a bags and accessories company with her sister. This venture allows her to channel her love for design and reminds her to stay true to herself amidst the overwhelming influence of trends and marketing.
The power of community and shared experiences
Being a part of Crafty Counsel has been transformative for Patricia. Calls and events with fellow legal professionals has shown her that she’s not alone in her challenges. The shared pain points, insights, and ideas from the Community have helped relieve burdens and find fresh perspectives.
“Crafty Counsel is a really amazing community — nothing like I’ve had before,”
Patricia says. “I also like discovering that there are more non-stereotypical legal personalities on the scene today than when I first qualified. As an individual, back then I couldn’t relate because I didn’t fit the mould. The imposter syndrome was bad. So if I could tell my younger self anything, it would be that I am enough. Here I am in London, dual-qualified, living my life, and although I’ll never have the answers to everything, I will keep reminding myself that I’m enough.”