Billy Ko is a Hong Kong-based Partner with Withers, specialised in all aspects of family law including, but not limited to, divorce and separation, nuptial agreements, children custody, and complex financial disputes with substantial assets. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, Billy shares insights gained through his vast experience and how it informs his practice.
What attracted you to a career in being a finance-focused family lawyer and do the same reasons still drive you today?
Since I was young, I have always been very good in mathematics and have always found numbers relatively easy to understand and decipher. As a result, I have won many mathematics awards. At university, my first degree was in Economics and my mathematics skills greatly helped me. While I ultimately pursued a career in family law because it allows me to interact with clients in a personal manner, I therefore became naturally attracted in becoming a finance-focused family lawyer. The fact that there are so many different asset structures which divorcees may hold their assets in intrigues me.
Every day, I am driven by my passion to craft and find a solution to very difficult and complicated problems my clients are faced with. This and my keen interest in asset structures continue to drive me today as asset structures are becoming more complexed and as people’s knowledge and awareness grow.
How does a typical day at work go and what is it about your role that you enjoy the most?
I like coming into the office relatively earlier than others as this enables me to work in a tranquillity which can often times be very difficult during office hours when calls, emails and in-person requests start flooding in. This window of tranquillity allows me to settle in and to plan for the day.
My usual day starts at around 8:45am with me going through my inbox and replying to overnight emails. Lunchtime for me starts at around 12:45pm and I tend to eat at our cafeteria, the W Café. I enjoy eating with my colleagues as it is a relaxing time for us to chat and catch a good laugh on non-related work issues. This is a very good team bonding opportunity. After lunch, I usually take a stroll in Hong Kong Park or along the waterfront. This is important to me as it allows me to have some personal time for myself, recharge and continue working hard after lunch. We have an open office policy so colleagues do come by my office to chat whenever they have any questions. I enjoy interacting with my colleagues, as I tend to regard them as my second family. I also enjoy being able to seek their thoughts and to pick their brains whenever needed.
What part of being a lawyer do you personally find most satisfying, and most challenging?
Handling clients’ demands and managing their expectations is definitely most challenging. This is a part of a lawyer’s soft skills which is often times overlooked. As my team is well known for what we do in family law, some of our clients do have very high expectations of us, which is perfectly understandable. Whilst this can be stressful, it is also most satisfying and rewarding when I am able to fulfil a client’s requests. It is a bonus when a client comes back and says, “Thank you” after the completion of a case.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
It would probably be my own advice to the paying spouse to not go into the nickel and dime when discussing a settlement with your spouse. A timely and amicable resolution goes a long way since this will determine whether the relationship between the parties breaks or holds. This is most important especially when children are involved. There is nothing worse than having the ex-spouses turn against each other, as children will bound to suffer as a result.
Any word of advice for younger lawyers and aspiring lawyers?
One should always be grateful with what they already have. Always be proactive and do not be afraid to ask questions when things are unclear. Do not worry about making mistakes as mistakes are inevitable. When a mistake is made or when the result is not desired, be positive about it and treat it as an opportunity to learn and improve. Always try to think out of the box to help clients achieve their goals.
What are your personal interests and passions outside lawyering?
I keep koi fish at home, and I currently have about 15 of them in a miniature pond outside on the balcony of my apartment. Koi fish originate from Japan and they are famous for their different patterns and vibrant colour. The Japanese call them the “Living Jewels”. Most of my fish came from a koi farm in Hong Kong, and some are from Tokyo, Japan.
I often spend 10 minutes or so meditating on my balcony before I start my day. Meditating gives me a sense of relieve and reminds me to be grateful. Listening to the flow of water and having the fish swim next to me gives me the tranquillity that I look for.
Billy Ko’s full profile can be viewed here.