Charles Allen, Evan Chan, Jonathan Hammond, Shaun Wu, Ng Kim Beng

The COVID-19 pandemic may have irreversibly upended workplace dynamics by relegating in-office work to an option for many employees, and law firms are not insulated from the evolving trend. Leaders share with ALB how they respond to this paradigm shift by nurturing an “ownership mentality” among the up-and-coming generation of talent and cultivating workplace allegiance in the post-pandemic era.




As a corporate law firm, we are extremely proud of SparkOurFuture which is RPC’s internal way-of-working manifesto. Where we work and how we work was, of course, turned on its head as a result of the pandemic, but we have all learned that we can work away from the office, successfully. SparkOurFuture helps our people at all levels across the business to embrace opportunities offered by a more varied and flexible way of working, balancing work in the office with work elsewhere.

We made a deliberate choice post-pandemic to not set down strict rules, including the proportion of time our people spend in or out of our office. We felt that to do this, would ignore the individual circumstances of our people, our teams and our clients and would remove the very flexibility and sense of individual empowerment that we know people, including our young generation of talent, cherish. We wanted the core tenets of SparkOurFuture to hinge on trust, nurturing and personal responsibility.

And it is these core tenets which, based on the feedback we have received and the “employee-friendly” accolades we have been awarded, which has demonstrated that the trust, respect and confidence we have in our team members to do the right thing is what our people appreciate the most, and empowers them to take personal responsibility for being and feeling part of a team.

In the long run - as SparkOurFuture beds in and we take steps to regularly review and hone the approach - we believe that by giving people that control and independence, you can better drive their motivation and foster a sense of ownership to their roles (and therefore the business). As a result, you have the ability to create a more inclusive, collaborative workplace.

EVA CHAN, head of Hong Kong office & JONATHAN HAMMOND, Asia regional head, Simmons & Simmons

We believe an “ownership mentality” is a natural byproduct of a work environment that is positive and supportive.

The firm is not new to the dynamics of flexible working – in fact, our senior partner Julian Taylor has worked reduced hours since 2005. What has changed, however, is the extent to which our global workforce had to learn to work remotely and collaborate as one international team during the pandemic. We heavily invested in our IT infrastructure to bring the at-home experience as close as possible to the in-office one, although, of course, it will never be entirely identical.

We respect and support our employees’ need for a flexible workplace and don’t foresee ever going back to working in the office 100 percent of the time, while we feel that the office environment still plays an important role in building the culture of the firm. The firm has implemented a hybrid work policy where employees, depending on their roles, can work from home up to two days a week.

In the Hong Kong office, we ask senior lawyers/partners to share offices with more junior colleagues so that there is more opportunity for knowledge sharing.

On a less serious note, we also have a very active social committee who organises, regular gatherings, such as football games, yoga classes, and even community fundraisers. We also encourage international secondments so that employees feel they are part of the wider network and are not siloed to the region.

We believe all these factors contribute to overall employee engagement and consider this approach to provide the best balance for our colleagues and the firm at this time.

SHAUN WU, partner, Paul Hastings

We work alongside highly motivated self-driven lawyers who constantly seek to collaborate and achieve outcomes for our clients. Our lawyers are eager to connect and contribute ideas freely among our teams.

Technology may increasingly change the ways we work, and we rely on it to further enhance communications. Nonetheless, there is no substitute for discussing “live” as a team.

Within Greater China, I work closely with lawyers across our Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing offices. Almost all our work is cross-border and international in nature. We had to adapt previously to travel restrictions, but now borders have reopened, and travel has resumed.

Whether we meet in person or connect virtually, our teams want to “be present” and make it count. It is the quality of these interactions that matters most, especially for our up-and-coming lawyers learning from our most experienced senior leaders in the field.

As a team, we come prepared to discuss ideas and take away key outcomes. We depend on each other to step up and play an important role in navigating the most important priorities for our clients. It is in this commitment to excellence that our lawyers find a real sense of ownership in all that we do.

After all, our teams are built around our clients’ most strategic needs. At the core, our lawyers are their most trusted advisors and problem solvers.

This is the culture we have and seek to nurture among our lawyers.

NG KIM BENG, deputy managing partner, Rajah & Tann Singapore

We believe that having and providing a strong sense of purpose is all the more essential for cohesion. What anchors our lawyers to the firm are values that resonate with their core beliefs. By articulating our mission, vision, and values clearly, and emphasising how the work of our lawyers contributes to the greater good, a strong sense of purpose is created particularly among our younger generation of lawyers.

We are committed to promoting equality, diversity and also our people’s mental and physical well-being. Our aim is to create a warm, supportive, and friendly environment, where we actively watch out for and uplift one another in the Rajah & Tann family. By recognising that each individual has the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential and where diversity is valued and open communication is encouraged, we aim to foster a positive and inclusive culture that creates a sense of belonging for each and every one of our lawyers and staff.

We strongly believe in investing in the professional development of our personnel. For lawyers, we have developed a centralised holistic learning and development (L&D) framework to help them achieve core milestones at every stage of their career. The framework allows our lawyers to acquire fundamental and essential legal and extra-legal skills, as well as competencies required for a lawyer’s practice through structured programmes targeted at each stage of their careers. Rajah & Tann has also established the Rajah & Tann Asia Academy - a first-of-its-kind initiative for a Southeast Asian legal network.

Even before the pandemic, we have long since adopted flexible work arrangements (FWAs). One change is that, while in the past the FWAs were mostly on account of the family needs of our female lawyers and staff, we now allow more diverse arrangements as the requirements and circumstances of our employees become more varied. We now offer various FWAs including work-from-home, telecommuting and part-time work. Employees who opt for FWAs are supported with the necessary infrastructure and technology to ensure the seamless delivery of services to clients at any time.

Even as we operate in a hybrid work environment, we believe that physical interaction is key to building relationships with colleagues and clients. As part of our social engagement initiatives, the firm has carried out a slew of activities, training, and wellness programmes as opportunities for our lawyers to interact and bond with each other.

By implementing these strategies, we hope to foster an ownership mentality and loyalty among our younger lawyers, even in the face of the challenges posed by a changing workplace environment.


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