Lorraine Tay of Bird & Bird ATMD talks about career in intellectual property law, key principles in client work, and life outside work.
I fell into law by chance. Growing up, I aspired to be a teacher, like my folks, or a vet. However, I quickly realised that I lack the patience to be a good teacher, and had no heart to even dissect a frog, not to speak of a rabbit!
I was then persuaded to try for law, and only because it was known to be difficult to get through the interviews. So, I thought I’d give it a shot and miraculously made it across the line. That started a different life trajectory.
IP was quite a novel subject then, when I was at law school (quite a few decades ago!). It piqued my interest as it was a subject that was relatable and relevant. Because it was constantly evolving, I found that I was continuously learning new things.
I also enjoy the buzz I get out of working with creators, innovators, artists, businesses, etc. It starts from a vision, often to fix a problem or plug a gap in the market, and it’s fascinating to see these ideas develop into a whole new business venture.
There’s also a sense of national pride, especially when we get to journey with homegrown brands as they claim their place on the international stage, alongside internationally acclaimed brands – that’s amazing!
I enjoy knowing that I helped clients map out their medium to long-term plans to protect their intangible assets – that the fruits of their labour are properly protected and ready for exploitation.
It is an educational journey for many of the clients to ensure that they approach IP protection with the right mindset to position their business for growth, navigate their risks and allow them to internationalise freely.
4. What career advice would you give to women interested in joining the IP profession and getting to your position?
Be inquisitive and always consider how you can better protect the client’s intangible yet valuable assets whilst balancing competing interests such as costs, time, and public interest.
I will pick out just two principles.
First, be sincere in all your dealings – whether with clients, stakeholders or even your opponents. I like to also put myself into the client’s shoes and appreciate their challenges, needs, objectives and risk appetite. Only then can I be effective and evolve from being just a legal counsel to a trusted advisor.
Secondly, do your best and plan ahead. It is important to manage expectations and anticipate issues so that the clients can manage their own internal stakeholders appropriately. This will also help clients to manage any internal tensions, whilst weighing up risks against the opportunities at hand.
I have two mottos that keep me going: “don’t sweat the small stuff (DSTSS)” and “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (I love the song too!). As a starting point, I accept that mistakes will and do happen and that’s part of life. And whilst that can be a real bummer, for me, it’s all about perspective.
I continue to count my blessings every day and remind myself to celebrate the little things we take for granted. What matters is how we pick ourselves up. Even if scruffy and bruised, we are blessed with the ability to swallow our pride, get back up, learn and try again.
What keeps me motivated is my beautiful family, my bedrock of inspiration; my awesome team; and, of course, supportive clients who motivate you to be better.
That’s a tough one! I am Singaporean after all and have many favourites. But I especially love any dish with heaps of chilli such as sambal belacan, chilli padi (deceptively innocent but packs a punch), mala chilli, and curries - the spice of life! The hotter, the better!
As for sport, I loved being part of a hockey team in school, as the camaraderie was just amazing (suffering together during training really bonds the team!). Today, with creaking bones and joints, I have pivoted to brisk walking, yoga (to keep “zen” and refocus) and HIIT workouts to get the heart pumping.
Lorraine Anne Tay is a lawyer who advises clients on a range of intellectual property issues. Tay is particularly passionate about developing and protecting brands. She became a partner in Bird & Bird ATMD in 2012. Read more about Tay here.