Vincent Ng, General Counsel at Klook
As there is an increasing need for lawyers in the technology space, our consultant Liam Edwards chatted with Vincent Ng, General Counsel at Klook, on what it takes for lawyers looking to making a move into the tech world, and the future need for lawyers in the tech / software industry. Vincent also shared with us his journey of transitioning in-house and why he has loved it since.
Liam Edwards, Consultant at Lewis Sanders
Liam specialises in both private practice and in-house legal recruitment in Asia. In particular, Liam has forged close relationships with a wide range of clients in the technology sector. Over the years, his passion for building long-lasting relationships have enabled him to not only meet, but exceed both client and candidate expectations.
L: Liam V: Vincent
L: When did you make the move in-house and what made you go for it at the time?
V: By 2010, I had already spent quite a few years in private practice and felt I needed a change of scene. An opportunity for secondment came up with an investment bank legal team. I thought, why not give it a go, and I just stayed on as the position turned into a permanent role. Since then I have stayed in-house – I enjoy the sense of engagement with the business. Everyday there’s something new that comes up. In a private practice environment, I feel the work intensity is higher, but the pace of change or level of invigoration is not as high compared to an in-house role.
L: Lawyers moving in-house always feel like they need to make some adjustments initially – what was it like for you?
V: Adjustment would be necessary for sure, and it depends on the industry. Finding the right team is crucial. I was very blessed to have a very nurturing supervisor / mentor, and a supportive team. Having someone experienced to help you navigate through the organisation and guiding you along the way makes a world of difference.
Keep learning is key
L: Candidates are increasingly asking us about opportunities in the tech world. Would you have any advice for those looking to move into such companies?
V: I think there isn’t anything technical about being a general tech lawyer – it is more about having a mindset of being open-minded, being agile, and to keep learning. Being able to keep up to date about what’s happening in the market is crucial. In fact, I had virtually zero tech or privacy experience before joining Klook – my background had always been in capital markets. You just need to find the right team, and keep learning.
L: Can you talk to us about the future need for lawyers in the technology / software industry?
V: Technology, in a broader sense, is an inevitable trend, especially for in-house lawyers. I remember when I was at the investment bank, our General Counsel said every one of us would have to be a regulatory lawyer because of the heavier and more complicated regulations every financial institution would face. I think it is the same for a lot of in-house lawyers now. Even if you do not work in a tech company, you cannot be completely oblivious to laws relating to technology, or how technology is affecting laws, and in that sense, everyone has to be a tech lawyer.
L: Klook seems to be the go-to app for booking travel and leisure experiences in APAC – is that accurate? How does the legal team help the business achieve this day-to-day?
V: Yes – this is what we are and what we continue to get better at. Before COVID, most customers thought of us as a travel app. During COVID, when cross-border travel is limited, we have been building on our domestic offerings, and providing more leisure experiences targeted at local users rather than tourists. We have seen quite a bit of success with that. The legal team has been at the forefront of driving this change with the business, be it how we market our products, or the range of product offerings that we have expanded into. For example, in Hong Kong we have been working on priority bookings for concerts of popular Hong Kong singers, or even bookings for art events. These are all new to us, and they also keep our lawyers very engaged.
L: There are so many new products being released by companies such as Klook or by the tech world in general, each presumably with new issues to be dealt with. How do you keep pace with all the new legal developments?
V: Being able to identify the risky areas, and to keep monitoring them, is critical. This is especially true when we have a Pan-Asian presence, and rules in different countries keep changing. Take privacy as an example – we get regular updates from our legal service providers, and we also keep benchmarking with our peers.
Every action matters
L: When you first moved to Klook, did you think it would grow this quickly?
V: It has been quite a ride, even to this point. When I first joined in early 2018, I had no expectations, no promise for any headcount or anything. I was hoping the team and the company would grow, but certainly was not expecting it would grow to what it is now. From 0 to more than 10 in the legal team, it has been very exciting and a lot to take in for me professionally.
L: What were the major contributing factors as to why you joined Klook?
V: Opportunities to build a legal function do not come often, and joining Klook offered exactly that. What keeps me here, and also what attracted my colleagues, would be the fact that we are a very dynamic and friendly team. The sense of empowerment is also a big factor. In a smaller organisation like Klook, every action of every staff matters. You can see the direct impact you make through the actions you take.