The Bigger Picture: Melissa Ng

Melissa Ng is a Corporate partner in Singapore. Her advice is to take a holistic approach to the job. She also tells us why it’s not just about giving legal advice.

Where you start is not where you finish

To be honest, when I was 18, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I loved reading and writing, and thought law might be a good option as training in analytical thinking as much as anything. Little did I expect it to turn into a career − one that I enjoy every day, not just for my love for words, but for all the other facets of the job that I never expected.

One thing I would say to my younger self is that the job you think you are going into is often not the same job you end up doing. You need to grow and evolve with your career. There are things that you start out being unsure about, but with practice and experience these challenges become fulfilling.

Pushing your boundaries

The only way to really succeed is to push through your comfort zone. If you’re not just a little bit uncomfortable, then you are not learning and achieving. Often, the best way to conquer fear is to face it. In my experience, when new tasks actually become part of your day-to-day job, fear is no longer an issue.

I’m not sure if some areas of discomfort ever go away − a bit like actors with stage fright. If you get too comfortable, you can disengage and miss things. I don’t ever want to be in that position.

Putting people first

When I was approaching partnership, I really had to focus more on the softer skills, such as networking and engagement. Networking can seem like a daunting concept at first – entering a room full of strangers and getting to know them. But that’s a narrow definition of networking. It’s really about understanding that opportunities for business development are all around you, ranging from classmates to former co-workers. A lot of it is about talking to people and making them feel comfortable; not just senior people, but peers as well. Start building your networks early – you never know where people might
end up.

Everyone has a different style of getting to know people. I like talking to clients about their families or holidays, and I remember things about people, such as their children’s names. For me, it’s not about holding court, but about having meaningful one-to-one conversations. People want to do business with those they know, like and trust. Clients are people first, and they are often looking to appoint someone they will enjoy working long hours with.

The business development aspects of a partner role include two key components. First, you must ask the right questions of your clients so you can address their concerns. And second, check your ego at the door. It’s not enough to impress them with your legal acumen; you really need to listen carefully to their issues and concerns. That’s a skill that will take you far.