Leaders List interview: 60 seconds with Alex Chung, Withers
Citywealth speaks to Alex Chung, private client and tax lawyer at Withers, based in Hong Kong.
15 February 2022
Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role.
I am an associate at Slateford, a law firm specialised in reputational harm and privacy intrusion. We work to help clients protect their reputation and freedom to operate, often during times of crisis. We pride ourselves on both being creative in how we solve problems and understanding the underlying issue as opposed to simply papering over the cracks, which is what sets our service apart.
Before becoming a lawyer, I worked as a communications adviser, a role which gave me a more nuanced understanding of how best to use legal tools to solve reputational issues.
Talk us through one of your most recent client cases.
We have been involved in a number of interesting matters recently. Given we deal with reputational issues and the harm caused by privacy intrusion, our work often involves clients who are under investigation. As a lawyer with experience in white-collar crime work, I am particularly interested in the role the media plays in exposing allegations of wrongdoing and how this can lead to action by regulators and law enforcement. We have been advising several clients who are at the forefront of their industries and dealing with the inevitable heightened scrutiny innovators face.
What are the most important skills and personal qualities for an associate in your sector?
I think first and foremost it is vital to have a real interest in the type of issues clients face. It is this motivation and hunger to learn that not only keeps the job interesting, but allows you to develop the technical skills needed to do the job well.
We are often asked to advise at times of real difficulty and stress for a business or individual, so the ability to show empathy and connect with people can make the difference between giving the right or wrong advice. It is something that comes with experience, but keeping an open mind on issues and possible solutions always helps.
Teamwork is key to what we do. The very nature of being an external adviser means you are often asked to work with a variety of different people at short notice. Being able to collaborate with colleagues, clients and other advisers seamlessly is the only way to succeed. It is a quality that we pride ourselves on at Slateford.
What is the biggest challenge you are currently facing in the Reputation Management sector? Any particular trends?
With the backdrop of a global pandemic and considerable geopolitical instability, the world is becoming an ever more hostile place for many. The cost-of-living crisis facing much of society is starkly contrasted with HNWIs who have weathered the storm better. This backdrop has led to a febrile environment for many family businesses that now face ever-increasing scrutiny. It is not only about the underlying issue but how you are seen to be dealing with it that now plays a vital role. Helping clients navigate these turbulent times promises to be an interesting challenge over the coming years.
Are your clients behaving differently in the present era?
I have worked for many different clients over the years and advised on a variety of issues as both a lawyer and communications adviser. I think the greater scrutiny businesses and executives face has led to an increasing demand for sophisticated advice. The impact of reputation is no longer measured solely by the front pages of key newspapers, but instead the role of data aggregation and reporting by institutions like banks, not to mention social media, means it is fundamental to examine reputational problems holistically. This often means our clients ask us to work with a variety of experts, whether it be forensic experts or digital consultancies, when in the past a single adviser might have been the norm.
Best and worst parts of your job.
The sheer variety of situations in which we end up advising clients means there is rarely a dull day. The fact that many of our clients are based in far-flung places is another exciting aspect of the work, but does mean the job can be 24/7.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?
You live and die by your network. Whether it is learning new skills, hearing different perspectives, or knowing who to call for advice, having a strong professional network is key. It turns out building one is also pretty fun too.