Vitoria Owyong is a corporate lawyer with a primary focus on merger and acquisitions, she also has experience in the entertainment and media law industry for a number of years. She has many interests ranging from the Formula 1 races to the operas and visiting museums and galleries. These activities greatly remind her of how her interests and work intersect. She shares with us her experience in the legal industry and how she thinks the industry will look in the future.
Why did you choose to study law? What inspired you to study law, and subsequently, practice it?
I was largely influenced by two factors, family and a role model that I looked up to when I was growing up – Justice Ruth Ginsburg.
My family was always very supportive and encouraged me to study law as I was a very curious and argumentative child in my growing years. They felt that I would enjoy the intellectual rigour that the practice of law would provide. They constantly motivated me to read widely and pursue my passion for the law. During my days in school, we also attended career days and we had the opportunity to speak to lawyers who were practising in the industry, at a young age I was able to picture myself practising law as a career – albeit more in a corporate line.
I think it’s very important to have a role model to look up to when you’re growing up. To me, Justice Ruth Ginsburg was an inspiration, she was 1 out of 9 women in a 500 person class in Harvard law back in the 1950s. She was unfazed by adversity and became a trailblazer for human rights and gender inequality – some would even say she helped shape the modern era of women’s rights. I think she inspires everyone to realise that democracy and gender equality can allow everyone to achieve their dreams on equal footing.
What continues to drive you as a lawyer today?
It’s the satisfaction of the completion of every deal and helping my clients to achieve their goals and objectives. For mergers and acquisitions deals, they tend to be challenging in nature and are often time-sensitive. Every deal goes through many different stages – from negotiations to post-completion. This requires a keen eye for detail to every fact. There hasn’t been a deal that I have been involved in that is the same. It brings enjoyment and excitement to me by taking a deal through from the beginning to a successful completion.
What is the most memorable case that you have ever taken?
A recent memorable case would be one involving a young start-up dealing with social media marketing and we assisted with the fundraising process. Working together on a transaction and guiding the client through both the technical and relational aspects of the negotiation process allowed us to build a close rapport with the client. We were alongside the client through each round, eventually, we managed to close the latest round of funding. It was heartening to see the efforts of such a young company pay off.
Working in the entertainment & media law industry, is it the norm to have celebrities or prominent figures act a certain way, to the public and to their lawyers?
I think this is a misconception that most people have about the personalities in the media industry. Many would envision that celebrities and prominent figures tend to have diva-like attitudes but most of them are actually very polite and nice.
I understand that you are also a Formula 1 fan. What about Formula 1 speaks to you?
I am a huge Formula 1 fan, the thrill and adrenaline of the motorsport really excites me, but there’s actually a lot more to Formula 1 races.
Most of the drivers and their team possess the ability to overcome adversity, courage and finesse. Aside from mental strength, the entire team is also required to strategize, plan and execute. Apart from the driver, the team also includes the designer, aerodynamicist and technical directors, every team member is required to make the race a successful one. This is very much like a law firm, where you have the managing director, the secretary, assisting lawyers and you are only as strong as your weakest link.
This is why I relate to Formula 1 because it is very much a reflection of how I view life and practice. There is always a need for speed and skill to go through the many obstacles and sharp turns that both life and practice can throw at you. What makes a good driver and lawyer is that no matter what cards you are dealt with, and which position you start at, you finish the race as a champion, no matter the challenges and conditions involved.
You also mentioned that you were quite the art buff. What do you think about the art scenes in Singapore, considering that we are putting more emphasis on the arts compared to the past?
Our focus as a young nation when we first started out was primarily centred around economic development, and whilst that was very necessary, it definitely slowed down the growth of culture and arts in Singapore. However, the arts scene is definitely gaining traction. If we look at just the music industry, we have Gentle Bones, Nathan Hartono and Sam Willows hitting the Spotify charts which provide global outreach – we are definitely progressing.
With more public and governmental support, we may be able to do better for our local arts scenes.
Do you think there is anything about the law that can help improve the art scene in Singapore?
I think at this stage, public participation in the arts, more funding and support from the government and corporations can be a step towards improving the arts scene. Any changes to the law will remain to be seen.
What do you want to see in the future of law, and lawyers?
The legal industry is at an inflexion point, where disruptive technologies like AI will transform how legal work gets done. It will be crucial to start exploring the synergy between lawyers and AI and find how lawyers can utilise AI and integrate it into the workflow process. This is an inevitable progression that will see AI taking over most routine tasks.
How is your firm preparing to face this new world of law?
We are trying to automate a lot of our systems in the firm, in terms of drafting, billings and accounts. We are working with Tessaract.io in this regard to try to incorporate technology in our day to day operations in the business and try to automate some of the processes.
Whilst it is unlikely that AI will take over lawyers anytime soon, we are aware of the changes and developments that will come in time. Reports have shown that Singapore law firms are still in the early stages of responding to this disruptive force. This can be contrasted with the legal firms in the US, where you have firms utilising AI to predict the outcome of disputes. We understand that AI will be much more capable to perform technical work in the future. However, a lawyer’s input will still be needed to relate the client’s goals to the machine’s tasks, this broadly means that there should be a shift and emphasis on strategic guidance. Lawyers will need to understand the weaknesses and what the client’s intents and goals are and be able to make recommendations against and change to the product that the AI produces. The human touch and recommendations that lawyers will offer to the AI products will be both invaluable and irreplaceable. In this regard, we will very much be adept and prepared when the time comes to face this new world of law.
What are some fun facts about yourself that you want to share with us?
I was a dragon boater back in junior college. But many don’t believe me when I say I am a dragon boater because of my petite frame. Recently, I’ve started to take up golf.
I love travelling and visiting new places, it opens your eyes to different ways of life.
I also enjoy watching and listening to operas, plays and musicals. There are more local productions recently, hopefully much more will come along.