ACL Law senior associate: 'We don't know what we don’t know'

Maggie Chang always reminds herself to "look for what's missing"

ACL Law senior associate: 'We don't know what we don’t know'
Maggie Chang

For Maggie Chang, law is “fundamentally a client service industry.” The ACL Law senior associate is a firm believer in putting people first – both clients and staff.

She credits the COVID-19 pandemic with helping the legal profession to open up to the idea of flexible work, which she says contributes to addressing the issue of systemic gender bias in the industry. As ACL Law combines with Hamilton Locke to form Hamilton Locke New Zealand, Chang is looking forward to an exciting future.

In this interview, Chang discusses the firm’s initiatives towards personal development, asking the right questions, and her admiration of the wisdom and impact of Maya Angelou and Thich Nhat Hanh.

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What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?

Nuance and detail. Generally, there is no one right answer that is immediately obvious, and a given situation is never black and white. A career in law is intellectually challenging. I love delving into the nooks and crannies of a problem and finding solutions for clients to whatever it is that keeps them up at night.

What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in? 

Many exciting things, given our recent announcement of becoming part of Hamilton Locke’s expansion into New Zealand and the establishment of Hamilton Locke New Zealand. Hamilton Locke New Zealand will be a full service corporate and commercial law firm and joined by the partners and lawyers of the current ACL. The firm will continue to advise on both New Zealand and cross-border transactions with expertise including corporate and commercial, litigation and dispute resolution, commercial property, construction and development, as well as private client services.

Hamilton Locke in Australia and New Zealand will work collaboratively across the region, bringing together experts from local New Zealand and international law firms. Being the fastest growing law firm in Australia (and with plans to grow significantly in New Zealand), Hamilton Locke brings with it programs and initiatives around both professional and personal development which will be implemented in New Zealand. By way of example, one program encourages staff to take up a new hobby each year, with the firm supporting staff in the endeavour both financially and with additional leave. This is exciting as it recognises that high professional performance and personal development go hand-in-hand. As people grow, so does the business.

What tech-related initiatives adopted by the firm, if any, are you most excited about?

There will be some adjustments required to harmonise the tech-related systems between the current ACL and the new Hamilton Locke New Zealand.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?

We don’t know what we don’t know. In my practice in the past, I have tended to work with assumptions – which is of course necessary as we as lawyers tend to be presented with facts that consist of less than the full picture. However, if we don’t ask the right questions, we don’t get the right answers. Nowadays, I always remind myself to look for what’s missing.

What should the profession focus more on?

Putting people first. Law is fundamentally a client service industry, and it is of course vital to ensure we meet the client’s needs, but perhaps the best way we can consistently deliver high quality service is to ensure we have high quality people, people that are able to (and want to) perform at their best as a result of a vibrant culture and supportive work environment.

What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?

In my experience, law wasn’t a profession which was receptive to flexible working (both in terms of working hours and place of work). However, the pandemic did have a silver lining in this respect, and it seems like most firms have retained that flexibility after seeing that firms can still operate remotely. This will only have a positive impact on one of the more obvious challenges in the industry, which is to address any systemic gender bias issues.

What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?

More of the same (good stuff!) from this year. The pandemic was disruptive in many ways, and it meant that this past year was the first time in a while we were able to get into routine and build some momentum. And of course, the beginnings of establishing and growing Hamilton Locke New Zealand.

If you were given an opportunity to spend a day with anyone (living or dead), who would it be and why?

It would be a tough pick between Maya Angelou and Thich Nhat Hanh (for fairly self-explanatory reasons). Their wisdom and impact really percolate in the world.

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