Kareena Teh is a litigation partner in LC Lawyers LLP, an independent Hong Kong law firm, and law firm member of the global EY network of professional firms. Kareena Teh is recognised as a Litigation Star and one of Asia-Pacific's Top 100 Women in Litigation.
Notably, in 2013 Kareena became the first (and at that time, the only) female solicitor in Hong Kong to be granted the right to represent clients in civil matters at all levels of Hong Kong’s judicial system. Her professional biography can be viewed here.
In your opinion how does the firm differ from its competitors?
At LC Lawyers LLP, we approach matters from the perspective of our clients’ strategic and commercial objectives. We provide legal advice and guidance to our clients and help them identify and minimise risks and avoid disputes. If disputes arise, we assist them to achieve a resolution, whether through negotiations, mediations and/or other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. In the event of litigation and/or arbitration, we vigorously advocate for their claims and defend their interests and reputation, applying our knowledge of their businesses and industries.
As a law firm member of the global EY network of professional firms, we work collaboratively with other law firm members in over 80 jurisdictions. As part of this multinational network, we offer local expertise and experience as well as a multi-jurisdictional perspective. Our strong international teamwork enables us to manage cross-border issues effectively and seamlessly.
Our lawyers also work alongside professionals in other disciplines, including computer and forensic accounting experts and valuers, to provide a wealth of resources and perspectives in an integrated way. We also leverage our technology-enabled legal managed services to help our clients mitigate legal risks and keep abreast of global legal and regulatory changes as well as undertake high-volume, cross-border document review and analysis in a cost-effective way.
What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging?
Being our clients’ trusted advisor, and using my skills and expertise to best help them when they most need it, guiding them through the myriad of legal and practical issues that come up during disputes and “coming up trumps” is what I find most satisfying.
As for challenges, they are par for the course and what make dispute resolution such an interesting yet rewarding area of practice. Some more common challenges include managing clients’ expectations, timelines, cross border issues and costs. Good communication is the key to many of these challenges and a focused yet dynamic and flexible approach, using a small and dedicated core team is ideal, if not necessary.
What has been your most memorable case to date?
There have been many memorable cases in my career including some that I am unable to mention due to confidentiality reasons. A recent one which was most gratifying was the landmark decision obtained pro bono in the High Court of Hong Kong which has paved the way for claimants, particularly underprivileged ones, to bring and sustain claims in the labour and small claims tribunals, from abroad. Victories are always sweet. But being able to bring about a “change for good”, particularly when it involves significant issues such as “access to justice” is all the sweeter.
What obstacles do you believe women [in this profession] face that could potentially hinder their profitability or growth?
Lack of opportunity and confidence are two obstacles that I encountered early in my career. Back in 1988 when I completed my LLB (Hons.) degree in New Zealand, I initially found it hard to find a job in the city I wanted to remain in as I was a foreign student and did not come from the right “private boys’ schools”. I also did not think I had the necessary confidence or skills to be a litigator. However, after a long search, I was offered a role in litigation. Taking up the opportunity, I found to my pleasant surprise that I took to it like a “duck to water”, loved all aspects of it and never looked back. In 1994, with only five plus years post qualification experience as an employed solicitor, I was again given and took up the opportunity to strike out on my own as a self-employed barrister, becoming one of the youngest specialist advocates in both civil and criminal matters in the city I worked in. I caused a stir in the profession at the time as only senior litigation partners in firms (the majority who were men) dared to venture down that path. By 2002, when I moved to Hong Kong for the next phase of my career, other young lawyers (men and women) had joined me at the bar to make their own fate. In 2013, in Hong Kong, I took the opportunity and applied for “higher rights of audience” and became the first female-solicitor to be granted the right to represent clients in civil matters in all levels of Hong Kong’s judicial system. The lesson for me is that we all need opportunities, but more importantly, we need to have the confidence to take them up.
How important is mentorship in this profession and what advice, if any, would you give women who are just starting their legal careers?
I believe mentorship (formal or informal) is important for the development of one’s career. Learning is essential and doing so from different people broadens our perspectives. I encourage seeking out and adopting mentors, whether men or women, who inspire and enlighten. In the earlier part of my career, I was blessed to have a number of such mentors who positively influenced and shaped my career.
One of the things I did which has held me in good stead throughout my career was focusing on the journey and not just the end goal, obtaining as much experience as I could in the various aspects of legal practice, leaving specialisation for later. As a litigator who ran both civil and criminal cases in my early years, I received a broad grounding in various aspects of contentious legal work and acquired a wide range of skills and expertise. These skills and expertise gave me a lot of options and flexibility in practice and exposed me to a wide range of people from different walks of life. All these experiences have been extremely helpful in the cases that I have run and continue to run.