Jason is a front-end construction lawyer at Pinsent Masons in Sydney where he works closely with contractors and principals to de-risk and deliver successful projects. Outside of his day job Jason creates a wealth of content to help both junior and aspiring lawyers tackle the job and overcome the struggles that are commonly faced. Jason also runs free monthly webinars where he gives practical advice to current and aspiring lawyers!
In this episode, Jason discusses the following:
- What is construction law and what does a construction lawyer do?
- How secondments added value to his legal career and how they’re different from typical practice
- How the current training process for junior lawyers is flawed and why
- Why Jason creates how-to guides for junior lawyers to help aide their training
- Why you should become an ‘authority’ in your team
- The importance of being a ‘nice’ lawyer
Here are 3 reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
- Learn about what is construction law and what does a construction lawyer do?
- How secondments added value to Jason’s legal career.
- Why Jason creates how-to guides for junior lawyers.
- Pinsent Masons, Sydney
- HWL Ebsworth Lawyers
- Jason’s resources – Practising Law
- Gain exclusive benefits and bonus content by signing up on Legally Speaking Podcast’s Patreon page!
- Jason grew up in rural China.
- Families had their own plot of land in China.
- Jason’s family migrated to Australia.
- From their hard work, Jason was able to become the 1st lawyer in his family.
- Jason tried to get as much work experience as possible.
- Jason has worked in community legal centres, in-house, suburban law firms, big law firm and tried a few side hustles, trying to sell travel products.
- For the past 6-7 years, Jason has been a construction lawyer.
Pursuing a career in construction law:
- Jason fell into construction law.
- He works with very practical people.
- His job is to help construction companies deliver quality products, on time, within budget and without taking unreasonable risks.
- The unique part of being a construction lawyer, says Jason, is the time element – spending years designing, building, maintaining and operating something.
- Throughout the year, there is the responsibility of anticipating anything that could happen.
- This can include safety, quality, insolvency, as well as contamination.
What a typical day looks like for a construction lawyer:
- There is lots of reading involved – contract with 100s of 1000s of pages.
- Jason has to distil the information, into simple and easy to understand language, for clients.
- The clients want to understand the key risks.
- Another part of being a construction lawyer is helping clients win work.
- This involves working directly with the procurement team, with the commercial teams.
- This includes reasonable pricing, negotiation points, high quality companies – assist construction companies win work, without taking on too much risk.
Jason starting his legal career as a paralegal and what experiences he gained:
- Jason started his legal career at HWL Ebsworth Lawyers, as a paralegal.
- Jason worked there for a number of years, because he got a lot of opportunities.
- At the time, it was about understanding the clients, whilst working through entire construction projects over a number of years.
- Jason enjoyed learning in depth about the different client, and having a deeper understanding.
Jason as Legal Counsel:
- Jason found it interesting because it gave him a good opportunity to understand the business side of what he was working on.
- He was acting on recommendation he provided, rather than just providing them.
- Jason needed to ensure he was getting paid, so he could pay other people.
- There was an internal process of getting approval.
- As part of his role, Jason had to make sure his director knew what was going on.
- Jason got to interact with the project team and understand what their issues were.
The current training process:
- Jason explains law school does not prepare students for the tasks in a modern legal workplace.
- Law school does not teach you how to take instructions or enter time.
- Learning is through the experience of figuring things out.
- There is an external pressure to be perfect, produce perfect work.
- Jason says the reality is you are going to be making mistakes as you do the job.
- The learning process is getting experience to make mistakes, and not repeat them in the future.
- It is uncomfortable working in a law firm – the insecurity, lack of confidence, the imposter syndrome. This is because, if you are following a learning process, you are always going to worry about being good enough.
- Senior lawyers are not always relatable to graduate whose making mistakes – senior lawyers have established network, years of experience and practice.
- Finding a mentor is great.
- Attention to detail is essential.
- Fill any free time you have during the day, to develop legal knowledge.
Jason’s platform – his resources and webinars:
- Jason learnt from middle level lawyers – who were a few years above him.
- They taught Jason the ropes of mistakes.
- Jason creates resources, resonating with other junior lawyers – because he has made those mistakes.
- He can break down the steps into a practical step-by-step guide for anyone to follow.
- Jason’s approach is to give a heads-up on the common situations junior lawyers find themselves in and how to deal with them.
- This is to show junior lawyers, they are not alone with dealing with the struggles.
- Feeling insecure or lacking confidence is part of the natural learning process.
What law schools need to be providing:
- Jason believes it is hard for law schools to cover the practical aspects of training.
- It is hard for law schools to anticipate what a lawyer would need to do.
- A more modern approach to training in modern legal teams, whether in a law firm or in-house team, is needed.
- Having seniors acknowledge mistakes are part of the learning process.
- Where there are proper feedback cycles.
- Open forums where people can discuss problems – talking to fellow graduates.
- Creating a more comfortable and effective learning.
The importance of junior lawyers and lawyers becoming an authority in their teams:
- Getting expertise in the work you have been given.
- Learning about the clients you get to work with.
- Position yourself to be the go-to person in your team.
- This can be about particular industry news, client information, an area of law or legal tech.
- Position yourself as an expert in a new space.
- Be proactive in providing value and setting your career.
The tangible value of being the ‘nice lawyer’:
- Everyone should be a nice person.
- Lawyer’s behaviours can be a reflection what is currently happening in the legal profession.
- More lawyers are moving from private practice to in-house.
- Law firms are now desperate to keep talent – offering massive pay rises and bonuses.
Adding value to your career:
- You need to be responsive.
- You need to be reliable.
- Show initiative.
- Show you are the best person ever to work with – respond to emails positively.
- Take proper instructions.
- Show you are willing to get involved – do not just sit back and wait for someone to give you work.
- Show you are interested in learning and get involved in as many things as possible.
- Demonstrate you are willing to work and willing to put in the work – this is setting you up for success from day one.
What Jason gains from giving back to his platform:
- Jason believes a big part of being a successful lawyer is being a good manager.
- Understand what your team is going through.
- Empathising with the situation.
- Keeping in touch with junior lawyers.
- Producing the best work possible.
- Jason hopes junior lawyers enjoy working with him and learning from that experience.
- Adding value – ensuring the practical steps are helpful.
- Jason has enjoyed meeting new people.
- Do not be afraid to take control of your career early.
- Spend time doing the work.
- Try to learn as much as possible.
- Set aside time for yourself to push your career in the direction you want it to go.
- The earlier you can take steps yourself; your reaction will be better.
- It is about mind shift and taking steps early.
5 powerful quotes from this episode:
- “… the learning process and getting that experience is actually to make those mistakes and not repeat them in the future”.
- “I think my superpower was really being the perfect average junior lawyer”.
- “…actually position yourself to be the go-to person for something in your team”.
- “you don’t need to be technically perfect, but you need to be responsive to things, you need to be reliable, you need to show initiative”.
- “demonstrate you are willing to learn and you’re willing to put in the work is really just setting you up for success from day one”.
If you wish to connect with Jason, you may reach out to him on LinkedIn.
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To learning more about the exciting world of law, Robert Hanna and the Legally Speaking Podcast Team.
00:01 Rob Hanna:
Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast. I’m your host Rob Hanna. This week I’m delighted to be joined by Jason Feng. Jason is a front-end construction lawyer at Pinsent masons in Sydney, where he works closely with contractors and principals to de risk and deliver successful projects. Outside of his day job, Jason creates a wealth of content to help both Junior and aspiring lawyers tackle the job and overcome the struggles that they are commonly faced. Jason also runs free monthly webinars where he gives practical advice to current and aspiring lawyers. So a very, very warm welcome, Jason.
00:38 Jason Feng:
Thanks for glad to be here. Absolute pleasure.
00:41 Rob Hanna:
And before we dive into all your amazing achievements and everything you’ve done within the legal industry to date, we do have our customary icebreaker question here on the Legally Speaking Podcast, which is on a scale of one to 1010 being very real, how real would you rate the hit TV series suits in terms of reality?
01:02 Jason Feng:
I got to give that a solid two. Especially, I mean, especially after the pandemic and how we work now. I mean, right now we’ve been doing like multi billion multi billion dollar deals in pajamas. I think any of that pops up on the show. I think my favorite part was, you know, when they have those, like all nighters of Doc review, or whatever they need to do, yeah, and they just time skip it. Yeah, you’re not really time skipping it, you’re kind of just living that whole process.
01:34 Rob Hanna:
So you don’t have those really nice chunky tumblers and whiskey jars and those like slick suits at home and looking out across all these beautiful buildings and so forth.
01:43 Jason Feng:
Yeah, no, not not as much anymore. I think it’s way more comfortable. Now.
01:49 Rob Hanna:
I love how you gave it a solid two. So we’ll, we’ll split that. And we’ll cement that as a solid two. And we’ll move on to you that even right Okay, so let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a bit about your family background and upbringing.
02:02 Jason Feng:
My family backgrounds pretty easy to summarize, I grew up in rural China, and basically had x generations of farmers for however long I can remember. And I’m talking like really rural, like, it was a village and everyone, everyone family had their own plot of land. And there’s a little stream that runs by it, and to, you know, water, the plot, you just throw a big rock in there and flood your little plot of land. So that’s basically, you know, my whole family history up until my parents who, you know, managed to migrate to Australia. And, you know, from their hard work, I was actually able to be the first lawyer in my family. And I guess choosing to be a lawyer, it’s pretty common story, but not one, I’d really recommend to anyone who’s thinking about it, you know, got a pretty good score in high school and didn’t want to waste it. So I chose the cause with the highest cutoff mark, which is kind of weird, because, you know, by having that highest score, you’re actually limiting your options rather than just broadening what you can choose. And I guess in uni, I got okay, but not spectacular marks. So to kind of make up for that I tried to get as much work experience as possible. So, you know, I’ve worked in everything from community legal centers to in house to suburban law firms, big law firms, even tried a few side hustles, you know, trying to sell travel products. And actually, I think renting out graduation gowns at one point. So, you know, it’s a bit of a mix of trying everything I could. And overtime, I kind of fell into construction law. And for the past, you know, six, seven years, I’ve been a construction lawyer. I’m currently a project and construction lawyer at Pinsent masons in Sydney.
03:45 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, and you’re doing a wonderful job. And thanks for giving us that detail overview and bring it up to present day because that kind of segues nicely to my next question is going to be around, you know, did you always want to be the lawyer? And why did you choose to pursue a career in construction law specifically? Yeah, I think,
04:00 Jason Feng:
Again, I kind of fell into construction law. But, you know, it wasn’t really a topic that we were taught in uni. I think in the interview, my answer was literally, look, I’m really interested in becoming a lawyer. I don’t know what construction lawyer, but I’d love to learn it. And yeah, I mean, over the last few years have, thankfully been able to kind of figure it out as I went. And now it’s just really quite enjoyable. You’re really working with very practical people. I think if you’re a law student, or you know, a junior lawyer trying to consider construction law as a career. The best way I’d kind of summarize that is you know, your job is to help construction companies deliver quality products, our projects on time and within budget and without taking unreasonable risks. And that’s kind of like you know, the marketing, tagline spiel, but really, I think the unique part of being a construction lawyer is that time element, because when you have those construction projects, you You’re spending years designing, building, maintaining operating, you know, something. And basically, throughout all those years, you need to anticipate anything that could happen. Whether it’s, you know, safety, quality, insolvency contamination. And then you know, recently without all that Biblical stuff, especially in Australia, we’ve had bushfires, we’ve had floods, we’ve had the pandemic. And then, you know, once you have that, almost crystal ball gazing of what happens over those years, you need to see who’s going to be responsible, if and when those things happen. So it’s kind of challenging, but I find it really rewarding because it really is practical. And I think the best way I saw a few years ago was there was a scene from a movie called margin call, where there’s a guy who’s talking about when he was an engineer, building a bridge, and how the impact of that was it cut travel time, and he saved, you know, people for for about 1500 hours of sorry, 1500 years of having to sit in traffic. So that was kind of how he saw his impact as an engineer. And that’s kind of, you know, me trying to get some value out of this trying to say, look, as a construction lawyer, I also have a piece in that sort of value, pie. I love
06:13 Rob Hanna:
that I also sound like a salesperson, I like selling the solution already to the people. That’s what this is gonna save. So yeah, really, really detailed, comprehensive overview, cuz we get a lot of questions, you know, what does an actual construction lawyer do in practice? So you’ve touched on some good points there, perhaps maybe just talk us through what a typical week may look like for you as well, in reality?
06:34 Jason Feng:
Yeah, in reality, you know, we do a lot of reading, that’s the main thing. So we’d have contracts that are, you know, hundreds of 1000s of pages, unfortunately. But a lot of that is, again, we take that that complex work, I guess, and try to distill it in as simple and easy to understand language as we can for our clients. Because, you know, ultimately, they don’t want to have to read all that. They want to just understand what the key risks are, what we’re actually, you know, needed protecting them against and how we would actually do it. So that’s one big part of it. And then the other part is, I guess, trying to help our clients actually win work. So that’s working directly with the procurement teams with the commercial teams, saying, Look, here are the key risks of the project. Here’s the things that you might want to price here are the negotiation points that we might need to hit, and then ultimately stepping in and trying to find out what would make the most sense for us give a reasonable price at a high quality to actually try to outbid all of these other, you know, construction companies to win the work and not take on too much risk. So I guess that that’s kind of the main task that we do in a nutshell, it’s pretty high level, but you know, without having to have you guys dive into exactly which words mean what things sound, I think that’s the best overview we can do.
08:01 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, no, thank you for that comprehensive overview. And you mentioned the word procurement. I always raised my eyebrows when I see procurement. So before I started my my legal recruitment firm with KC partners, I was in the procurement of supply chain, what advice did a lot of recruitment in that space and used to work with a lot of contract managers and people working on those construction contracts and things like that? So I’ve always been interested, and then working with construction lawyers as well, I find it fascinating. But for you before becoming an associate intimations you worked at various other legal roles. And you touched on this briefly and you initially started your career as a paralegal, I believe at Haitch WL, as lawyers, what was that like? And what experiences did that provide you with?
08:42 Jason Feng:
Yeah, I think being able to actually work there for so number of years, it’s really good because we got a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have, if I just, you know, jump firms and try to progress at different levels. At that time, I think I’ve managed to go on a number of the comments actually really understand the clients really worked through entire construction projects over those number of years as well. So being able to see something from start to finish over six years, really gave me an understanding of everything that I could expect from an entire construction project, rather than just dabbling in different parts of it. So yeah, I actually really enjoyed learning in depth about the different clients we had in the sectors and have a deeper understanding than if I didn’t stay there for that long.
10:54 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, and thank you for sharing that. And I think, again, it just shows how valuable you know, getting any experience or getting paralegal experience or some form of experience can really help bolster your career. It’s the building blocks. So it’s really valuable insight. So really appreciate you, you sharing that, Jason. And you mentioned as well, you you’ve completed a number of comments. And you know, you most recently as a legal counsel to the interior, I believe, you know, tell us more about your work here and what it’s like, and how does that, I guess a comment compared to your usual practice of work?
11:26 Jason Feng:
Yeah, I think that was really interesting. And I really enjoyed the comments, because it really gives you a good opportunity to understand the business side of things that you’re actually working on. So for example, instead of just reading a contract, and then providing recommendations and saying, Hey, this might be good, you’re actually sending it off and talking to the project teams working through all the risks, and then saying, hey, we need to do this. And this is exactly how we might need to do this. So that we get these results, it’s really acting on the recommendations that we provided, rather than just, you know, providing them. And I think there were all these things that I didn’t expect to learn on the comments as well, that were just super practical and weren’t really thought of in law school. So you know, things like, hey, we need to make sure that we’re getting paid and the time that we’re getting paid, so we can pay other people. And hey, there’s an internal process to actually approve things. We can’t just, you know, meet client deadlines, we also have to make sure our director knows exactly what’s going on. Because he takes the risk on things we need to go find him and, you know, brief him and provide the time and he can sign off on the risk. And, you know, just all those different layers of interaction that you never really get in a private law firm as well. Just being able to see those day to day things and actually talk to the project team and understand what their issues are. was just super interesting.
12:50 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, no, it sounds fascinating. And I absolutely love the fact that you’re you’re sharing so much of the value you’ve had and the decisions you’ve made throughout your career and how that’s benefited you up to the present day. And I guess that that nicely leads on to how you’re giving back to the legal community, because alongside your thriving practice, you also create an abundance of resources for both Junior and aspiring lawyers, particularly on LinkedIn. And you’ve previously discussed that your decision to create this platform was parked down to the problems in the current training process. Can you give our listeners a brief overview of the current process? And why necessarily isn’t the best?
13:30 Jason Feng:
Yeah, I think this is something that at least when I talk to my mates in law, they’ve kind of said it was a common thread as well was, you know, we go to law school, and it kind of teaches you how to think like a lawyer, but it doesn’t really prepare you for the actual tasks you need to do in a modern legal workplace. You know, they don’t teach you things like how to take instructions or how to enter time. So that’s not enough document management, even basic things like asking for leave, because, you know, obviously, coming out of law school, this might be your first proper job ever. So you know, all of these processes, you’re not really taught in law school. So a lot of the learning is actually through that experience of trying to figure it out. And you know, you’re working with really smart people, there’s internal and I guess an external pressure to be perfect produce perfect work. Sometimes there’s really urgent deadlines and all of this contributes to you know, your the reality of you’re going to be making mistakes as you do the job. And the learning process and getting that experience is actually to make those mistakes and not repeat them in future. But really, what that means is it’s super, you know, uncomfortable sometimes to actually work in a law firm. It’s really gives off that, you know, insecurity, that lack of confidence. There’s a reason that the phrase imposter syndrome pops up a lot, because if you’re following that sort of learning process, you just always be worried that you know, isn’t me am I the one making this You know, these mistakes, because I’m not good enough. But really that’s the that’s the learning process in a law firm. But I think, again, that sort of learning process isn’t the best for, you know, lawyers mental health for junior lawyers feeling comfortable feeling like they’re learning feeling like they’re actually doing well in their job. And then the other side of things was, you know, the formal law firm training that you’re given by senior lawyers, you’d find that a lot of them are just brilliant, right? They’ve got 10 plus years of experience, the comfortable, they’ve got the practice, they know how to do the job. So they’re the best people to teach you, right. But, again, they might be geniuses, they might have had established networks, they might have just not been as relatable to the graduate who’s making the mistakes all the time. And that way, it’s just not advice that, you know, junior lawyers feel that they can actually action. And I think you might have seen this as well, in your work as a recruiter, like there’s a bunch of advice out there for junior lawyers that aren’t isn’t actually that actionable at all. Like, there’s they sound really good. But it’s things like, you know, finding a mentor is great, or attention to detail is essential. But what am I meant to do with that, right. And I remember, you know, early on in my career, when I felt like I was struggling, I actually Googled these sorts of things like these lawyer tips, and there was an actual article that you know, their top tips was, impress your colleagues, learn to manage time and expectations. You know, Phil, any free time you have during the day to develop your legal knowledge base, and like, Well, okay, but what, what does that mean, right, like how to actually do these things. So that’s kind of my experience with the current law firm training in at least the environments that I’ve worked in, which is fine. And it works, obviously, for a lot of lawyers. But it’s just not a comfortable process to go through.
16:58 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, no. And again, thank you for being so open about that. Because the more education the more we can give real life tangibles to the aspiring and current practicing legal community, the better. So really appreciate that. But as I say, you’ve not sat on your hands with this, and you are being very proactive. So how did the resources on your platforms, the webinars, etc, help address some of the issues that you’ve mentioned?
17:22 Jason Feng:
Yeah, I think, you know, as a matter of my own career, I figured that I really needed to get this sort of stuff, right. I wasn’t feeling that confident, I needed to actually find out a way to learn, that would work for me. And luckily, I you know, I worked with really good partners and senior colleagues. But the most, you know, amazing ones, for my own learning were the middle level lawyers who, you know, a few years above me, they actually taught me the ropes of mistakes that could have been made that sort of thing. Love to say that, that kind of made me the most amazing junior lawyer ever, but I think my superpower was really being the perfect average junior lawyer. And I think that’s been really good. For me creating resources that, I guess resonate with other junior lawyers now, is because I’ve made those mistakes, because, you know, I wasn’t that super genius who got it from day one. And now I’m pretty good at breaking down all those steps and all those mistakes, and all those things into practical step by step guides that anyone can follow, because, you know, I had to follow them. So, you know, now my approach is really to try to give a heads up on all those common situations that junior lawyers find themselves in, and how to deal with them. And as part of that, you know, show other junior lawyers that they’re not alone with dealing these things. They might feel a bit, you know, insecure or have a bit of lack of confidence because of this. But again, it’s part of the natural learning process, and we can all see it. And I think, you know, because I’m only a few years above them, I’m also able to share what I’m learning as I go. So that, you know, it just keeps going, as you know, the years go by. So that’s kind of my approach. And I think it’s kind of working. So yeah, I’m happy to keep it up.
19:12 Rob Hanna:
I’d say it’s definitely working. I think what you’re doing is invaluable. And, you know, you’re making an immense impact as much as you can. But of course, this is a broader I guess, educational topic we need to sort of talk talk about so what do you think should be done more genuinely, to address some of these issues in the sector? I should the law schools be providing more practical training for the workplace to get people ready made.
19:37 Jason Feng:
I think it’s it’s kind of hard for law schools to cover all of the practical, practical aspects, right. Like, even though I worked for a number of years, I couldn’t switch into a practice group and just naturally be able to do the tasks that you know, they’ve spent years trying to do. So it’s hard for the law schools to anticipate all of those things and ask that lawyer would need to do. But I think it’s just, I guess, a more open approach to training in modern legal teams, whether that’s in law firms or in, in house teams as well, just having, you know, more junior people be able to teach what they know, to the newer people, having seniors acknowledged that mistakes are part of the learning process, and actually have a culture where it’s not punished. And there are, you know, proper feedback cycles. And just being able to actually have, you know, open forums where people can discuss the problems, you don’t have to pretend like you’re doing a fantastic job, you can talk to your fellow graduates, because it’s not so competitive, and everyone’s trying to fight for a limited number of seats or, you know, jobs at the end of whatever rotation, I think all of that kind of helps to actually create a more comfortable and probably more effective learning process for all the junior lawyers out there.
21:01 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, now I can, I couldn’t agree more. And that, again, really, really good advice and suggestions. And I know off air, we talked about the importance of junior lawyers becoming an authority in their teams lawyers becoming an authority in their teams.
21:18 Jason Feng:
Yeah, and this is something that I probably wish I had done earlier in my career. Because I think as we’ve kind of worked in the law for a few years, you kind of feel like it’s a bit of a reactive way of developing your career, like you get expertise in the work that you’ve been given you learn the clients that you get to work with, you don’t really get to take a proactive approach to certain things, which, you know, that’s the feeling. But now I’ve realized, you know, you really can do these things, even if you’re just a few months into your team. And I think it’s surprisingly easy now that I reflect on it, to actually position yourself to be the go to person for something in your team, whether it’s, you know, a particular industry news, client information, you know, a particular area of the law, being the legal tech person, all that sort of stuff I think you can do from day one. And I guess, as an example, and what’s really fresh on my mind, because I kind of wrote about this, just very recently, is, you know, as an example, how to become the tech person or the tech expert in your team. And this is kind of based on what I’ve done before is, you know, as a junior lawyer, you’re relatively young. And what that means to the senior people is, hey, this guy’s probably pretty good with computers or something like that. So it’s really open for you to position yourself as an expert in that space. And I think the way that I’ve done it before, and the way I’d recommend other junior lawyers to do it, is you take a look at some sort of program that has been installed and hasn’t really been used that much. So in my case, you know, it could be something like Excel, it could be something like a PDF collation program, and then you just Google the features that it has. And you might find that, hey, it’s got a bunch of cool things that we’ve never used it for. And let me link this to some of the problems that we’ve been having. If you’ve been able to solve some of the work and been able to do it quicker, or do a better product, because of those features, you know, test it out yourself, flag it with some of your colleagues, some of your supervisors that you work with. And if they’re also finding, hey, this does help us do our work better, then you can send out an email to your team and say, Hey, by the way, you know, we’ve tried this, this is what it can produce, this is the time that it can save. And if you have any questions about using this piece of technology, feel free to let me know. Or, you know, otherwise, I’ll try to get you an answer. And you know, we can try to do this thing better. And that way, you know, top of mind, someone has an IT problem with that program, or they’re doing that sort of task, they’ll think of you. And that’s, you know, instantly you’re the go to person for that sort of thing. Might not have all the answers, but at least that’s kind of a proactive way of providing value and actually setting your career and
24:18 Rob Hanna:
yeah, I think that’s fantastic advice. And, you know, I want to stick with the value point because you’ve also previously discussed the immense and I guess tangible value of being the nice lawyer. Tell us a bit more about this.
24:35 Jason Feng:
Yeah, I think this is one of those things that’s, you know, said a lot, but not really broken down. Like, we kind of know it’s good to be a nice person. Everyone should be nice person. You know, you learn this from kindergarten, you don’t need an article telling you about this, but really, that’s something that the nice people don’t really need to be told is the people who are You know, throwing staplers being passive aggressive, not giving proper feedback talking, you know, smack about everyone that I work with, those are the people who actually kind of need proper reasons to actually be nice. And I think it’s because they just don’t reflect on how, you know how much harder they’re making their careers by not being pleasant to work with. And I think that’s kind of reflective of what’s currently happening in the legal profession, you know, we’re seeing more lawyers moving from private practice to in house, and at increasingly junior levels, right. We all know that in House lawyers have a say, in which law firms are lawyers to actually use on that work. You know, I know there are in house counsel who actually were mistreated as juniors, and they’re really conscious that the people they work with aren’t doing the same sort of thing to their genius. So again, it’s, you know, a limiting the clients that you have, they’re losing the, you know, viewer view, they’re that treating you like, the people that they don’t want to work with. And then the other side of it is, it’s currently harder than ever to actually keep talent, right, we’re hearing all those stories where law firms are desperate to actually keep the people that they do have, they’re offering massive pay raises, and bonuses just to keep the people employed. And if you’re not, if you’re the main person who is driving away genius driving way, other lawyers, just making a generally unpleasant in your team, you’re a call center, you’re making them lose talent, and that talent is really expensive and slow to replace. And if you’ve developed a reputation like that, well, everyone who’s going to look at you is going to think, Hey, you’re probably responsible for a really big portion of costs. And I’m not sure if the value you’re providing and the clients you’re bringing in really justify all these costs that are actually you know, occurring because of how you’re behaving. So I think, you know, in the future, there’s going to be massive karma hits where, you know, there’s going to be partners, or people wanting to be partners who are treated the juniors poorly finding out those juniors are now gone in house to their biggest client, and suddenly, hey, we don’t really want to work with you anymore. So that’s kind of what I mean by you know, those tangible costs. And I think, as that’s being realized a bit more, we’re gonna see, yeah,
27:29 Rob Hanna:
and I think you make some really good points there. And also sort of talk a little bit about the great resignation, which obviously, we’re, we’re reading and seeing and in the thick of as ourself as recruiters at the moment, and you know, keeping hold of talent is, you know, one of the biggest challenges law firms who refuse to embrace and really put their people before profits. So it’s going to be interesting to see how things go. And for any junior lawyers listening, what advice do you have for how they can add value and get their career off from the right right away from the start?
28:01 Jason Feng:
I think it is really nailing those basic things, right. So going in understanding, you don’t need to be technically perfect, but you need to be responsive to things you need to be reliable, you need to show initiative. And what I mean by that is, you know, you some of the main things that you would be doing from day one to show that you’re the best person ever to work with is responding to email saying, Hey, I’ve acknowledged it, I’m willing to do it, here are the timelines that I can do it in. It’s taking proper instructions, so that you’re, you know, giving the right things at the right times to the right people. It’s really just showing that you’re willing to be involved, you’re not just sitting back and waiting for someone to give you work, you’re actually interested in learning and trying to get involved in as many things as possible. So you know, sending out those emails to the people that you’d like to work with, saying, Hey, I’m here, I’m new. But I’d really like to learn a bit more about your practice and get involved in some of the work that you’re doing. All of those things, as long as you’re demonstrating that you are willing to learn and you’re willing to put in the work is really just setting you up for success from day one. So you can dive into the specifics of what type of work people are doing, how to do it better, but really, if you’re approaching it with that sort of attitude, then you’re going to
29:27 Rob Hanna:
be and I love the word attitude because one of my first mentors when I was in the sporting world, you know, when I was growing up and paying competitive sports was you know, a ie attitude is everything you know, if you can actually manage your your attitude to anything in life, then you know, you’re going to go places so completely agree. So I want to kind of ask a couple of final questions. You know, before we we look to wrap up, you know, what gains do you get by giving back by all these platforms and all the work you’re you’re doing
30:02 Jason Feng:
Yeah, I’m getting a lot actually just, I don’t want to be the lawyer who, over time kind of forgets the foundational things, I think a big part of being a successful lawyer is being a good manager, and being able to, you know, understand what your team is going through what your juniors are going through, and actually empathizing with their situation. So forcing myself to go back a few years and saying, Hey, these are the things that I’ve learned, this is how I’d approach it, these other problems that I’ve faced is really, I’m hoping, keeping me in touch with, you know, the juniors I’m working with so that, you know, we can produce the best work possible, and they enjoy actually working with me and learning from that experience. And then I think the other side of things is, you know, this is the way that I know how to add value, right, I may not be the best technical legal person and may not be able to write and summarize all the law out there. But I know these practical steps that are actually helpful. And if I can connect with more junior lawyers who are finding this helpful, then hopefully over time, you know, that expands, you know, our networks together. And, you know, it’s just been a great way to actually meet new people as well, without, you know, cold calling, or trying to shake hands at a networking event, which I was just terrible at. This is kind of Yeah, again, my way of giving back. And,
31:31 Rob Hanna:
yeah, I think that’s really good advice. And it’s applicable to all industries, you know, you’re talking about the value of content creation, naturally, adding value to a community, and removing very historical old school ways of business development, like you say, through old tools, cold calling, or going to networking, events, face to face, and being really kind of insecure, and not sure about going to them. The future is digital, the future is content, the future is create, you know, if you create more curiosity, if you create a community, you can have a lot more people coming to you, rather than the old school, years of basically waiting and chasing and chasing and chasing. And that’s why particular with our agency, we switched up our game. And that’s why we’ve got the league as being podcast, want to bring content, help educate, inspire, and entertain people. And as a result of that, hopefully, we’re top of mind for when we’re when needed. Jason, it’s been awesome having you I just wanted to ask one final question, you know, what’s one piece of advice you would like to leave our listeners with?
32:29 Jason Feng:
I think it’s don’t be afraid to take control of your career early. So yes, spend the time doing the work, react, all the things that you’ve been given, try to learn as much as you can from it. But I think definitely set aside some time for yourself to actually, you know, push your career in the direction you want it to go, whether that’s, you know, hey, I’m interested in legal tech, so I’m going to become that person. Or I’d like to learn this area of law a bit more and develop a practice that way. And, you know, I’m really good with clients. So I’d like to do a bit more business development work. I think all of that is just so important from a young age, and it just compounds over time. So the earlier that you can start taking those steps yourself and not expecting things to be given to you from that law firm and actually having to react to it is just better. It’s that mind shift and taking those steps earlier. And having that habit that I think is just going to be
33:30 Rob Hanna:
Fantastic advice because I always say, you know, if it’s meant to be it’s up to me, you’ve got to take self accountability for anything in your life. And you know, if you can take that accountability, you’re not afraid to take that accountability and actually invest in yourself and start early. You’ll go far, sensational. Jason, if people want to follow or get in touch with you about anything we’ve discussed today. I’m sure they will. What’s the best way for them to do that? Feel free to shout out any website links or relevant social media handles and we’ll also share them with this episode.
34:02 Jason Feng:
Yeah, if you’re looking for how to guides for junior lawyers or you know longer form articles, feel free to check out my website practicing law one word.com.au. Otherwise, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. That’s where I write a few of those shorter form practical tips and actually,
34:19 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, well, I thoroughly enjoyed our chat today. Thank you so so much for for coming on the show. It’s been a real pleasure having you on So from all of us on the Legally Speaking Podcast, wishing you lots of continued success with your legal career and future aspirations but for now, over and out.