What does corporate legal work entail? For lawyers like Cheryl, it’s about the challenge and satisfaction that comes from helping clients close complex deals. In our interview with Cheryl, she debunks some of the common misconceptions that others have about her work.
Cheryl Yang is an Associate Director of AEI Legal LLC. Her work involves a focus on cross-border and domestic mergers and acquisitions (M&A), equity capital markets, joint ventures and investments, and securities regulations. She also regularly advises many SGX-listed issuers on corporate governance and regulatory compliance issues, and acted as company secretary of various SGX-listed issuers.
AEI Legal is a corporate law firm specialising in investments, M&As, joint ventures and initial public offerings (IPOs). This year, AEI Legal is also a finalist in the Rising Law Firm and Transactional Boutique Law Firm of the Year categories of the Southeast Asia Law Awards.
What made you choose to be a lawyer and what drives you today?
I wanted a course which would challenge me to think critically. In my opinion, law is one of the best courses for this– the law governs relationships between people, entities, and governments. In the four years in law school, you are presented with literally thousands of problems and are required to learn how these problems were solved.
I chose corporate law to specialise in, and I enjoy what I do. There is something to be learnt with each transaction, and I find fulfilment in helping clients, in assisting them to reach their milestones and being their go-to for help.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Time. There are only so many hours in a day. In order to give a 1-second “yes” or “no” answer, we often spend hours beforehand – understanding the clients’ industry, business and strategic objectives, defining the issues, and figuring out how to solve them, based on the documents they’ve already signed and similar cases that have gone before the courts. To juggle work and other commitments is incredibly difficult. I’m really grateful to have great mentors and a strong support system both at work and at home that have enabled me to do what I do on a daily basis.
What are some of the common misconceptions about being a lawyer?
For corporate law, clients often think it’s a “cut-and-paste” solution to achieving their objectives. It is not. There are many ways to structure a transaction, and even more ways to draft and customise clauses. What is not there can trip you up as much as what is, and that is why a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and Googled up templates can potentially cost big-time in the long run.
What legal issue or area do you think will become more significant in the future?
Privacy. With each day we conduct more and more of our lives online and via systems we don’t fully understand. Singapore is proactively taking steps to protect personal data, which is definitely important.
For instance, the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) recently released a consultation paper to obtain public feedback regarding, inter alia, data portability and data innovation, demonstrating the inherent tension between individuals and businesses. “Data portability” proposes to give individuals greater control by letting them move their data across service providers, while “data innovation” proposes to facilitate business by letting organisations use personal data appropriate for business purposes without the individuals’ consent.
If you were to compare the legal landscape in the past versus the present, what do you think has changed the most? What are your thoughts on legal technology and how it will change the way the law is served?
As with other industries, technology solutions will be used for routine tasks, and that should free up humans to focus on higher-order work – creatively thinking of solutions, and building relationships with clients. An algorithm can’t understand the complex nuances and competing dynamics that are present within almost every negotiation – yet.
What other skills do you think young lawyers need to stay relevant in the future?
For an aspiring corporate lawyer, be commercially savvy and financially literate. Clients are increasingly looking for value in advice and are perfectly capable of reading the same materials available out there as you are.
3 fun facts about you?
I love travelling, reading, and I strongly believe in giving back to the community. Thankfully I have sometimes been able to combine all three of them. For example, I’ve had the privilege of working with my church’s outreach program in Singburi, one of Thailand’s lesser known central provinces – the locals there don’t have much but are always warm and generous. I’ve also helped out at legal clinics with Careworks Legal Aid Services which provides pro bono legal advice to the special needs community.
This quote from one of my favourite authors really resonates with me – “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something”.
Any word of advice for younger lawyers?
Look for mentors who can and are willing to guide you, then commit yourself to learning as much as you can and taking on new challenges. You will have to put in a lot of time and effort and at the beginning the days can be intense and the learning curve extremely steep. But don’t give up!
Most importantly, be kind to everyone that you meet.
Thank you Cheryl, for sharing these photos of her outreach programme with her church!
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.