As APAC COO, Jennifer Parks oversees White & Case Asia-Pacific region operations. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, Parks explains what inspired her to focus on managing the operations of a global law firm in Asia, how the firm is adapting to the ever-changing competitive landscape in legal services, and how others might aspire to a career in the senior-most ranks of global law firm management.
As Chief Operating Officer (COO) for White & Case in the Asia-Pacific region, what are your key responsibilities?
I work closely with the Firm’s Executive Committee and the 2 APAC managing partners to execute our strategy for the region as well as oversee the operations of our 9 legal offices from Tokyo down to Melbourne. This includes everything from opening new offices, driving innovation, managing the budgets, setting compensation, leading the business services function for the region, to managing our real estate portfolio. A key focus for me has also been the wellbeing and development of all our people.
You’re also President and Advisor to the White & Case Global Operations Center (Manila) LLP, the firm’s shared service center in Manila. What types of activities are conducted by this center?
We have a world class operations center in Manila that services the entire Firm. Manila is our Global Operations Center which is made up of over 500 team members who provide integral support to our lawyers and legal support teams around the world. They handle a substantial range of services in business development and marketing, compliance and new business, finance, technology, human resources, and office administration. They are also the pioneers and frontlines of operational excellence.
What experience and interests led you to your current role?
I started my career as a consultant in the financial services industry and always had strategy roles in both London and New York. 8 years ago this opportunity opened up in Hong Kong, and I was attracted to it for 2 reasons. First, I had always wanted to live in Asia and second, I thought it was important to gain actual operational, P&L experience. I also have a passion for developing and motivating people and this role is all about the people.
What unique challenges and opportunities do international law firms face in the Asia-Pacific region?
First and foremost, Asia-Pacific is such a diverse region. Our practices in each country in which we operate need to be managed differently and we need to be attune to the cultural and business specifications of that market, our people and our clients. We work closely with our country partners, Office Executive Partners and business services professionals to get this right. The region is a true opportunity for a global law firm like White & Case. Asia-Pacific clients are globally focused and market-leading. There is no doubt that Asian companies will lead the world in the decades to come. We are excited to work with our regional clients to execute on their business strategies, in the region and around the world.
What distinguishes White & Case in the Asia-Pacific region?
We are both global and local – operating as one global partnership (as opposed to Swiss Verein or other legal models) means that our clients enjoy the benefits of an international law firm with cutting edge legal solutions and a partnership that delivers seamless solutions to a client, but at the same time our teams on the ground in-country are locally trained, native to that location and well-connected to the business realities in their market. I think what also distinguishes us in the region is that we are in growth mode, in Asia and globally. Not all international law firms operating in Asia-Pacific could say that. As a result, we are developing stronger practices with the best lawyers in each of our priority markets. And this creates a work culture that is dynamic, entrepreneurial and exciting for the young lawyers that choose to join White & Case.
What advice do you have for those aspiring to a career in international law firm management?
It’s a great time to be in law firm management. For the most part, law firms have recognized the need for professional management, but there is still much to be done to innovate how they do business. There is a lot of opportunity!