Pearl Pang is a Senior Counsel Specialist at S&P Gobal, and she handles legal matters across Asia-Pacific region according to the specific products/services and business lines. Prior to joining S&P Global, Pearl Pang was an active litigation lawyer in her private practice for seven (7) years, focusing on general litigation matters, with particular experiences in medico-legal and general insurance liability matters, as well as asset and debt recovery related matters. Pearl Pang finished her law degree at Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom. Thereafter, she pursued the Bar Professional Training Course at Cardiff University, United Kingdom and obtained a very competent result. She was formally called to the Bar of England and Wales, and is a member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn. She was then called to the Malaysian Bar and qualified as an Advocate and Solicitor at the High Court of Malaya. Becoming an in-house legal counsel is an amazing career opportunity for Pearl because it allows Pearl to engage in self-exploration and self-improvements on her thinking, skills and knowledge, with the new challenges and developments in her career. Pearl always believes that as long as one is willing to learn and be humble, one can easily be an added value to any places.
You are Senior Counsel Specialist at S&P Global. Tell us about your responsibilities in this role.
Being one of the Senior Counsel Specialists in the Asia-Pacific region at S&P Global, I am responsible to support day-to-day legal requests for the designated products/services and business lines, ranging from answering to customers’ simple legal-related queries or reviewing the non-disclosure agreements, to preparing commercial transactional contract documents customized to the customers, or reviewing the complex commercial issues including the negotiations of customers issued/amended terms and conditions, and the applicable legislations/policies or country specific requirements affecting commercial transactions
As I am well verse in Chinese language, I also handle matters involving Chinese-English bilingual language which require legal support, in particular in the Greater China region.
As part of my roles, I work closely with the other stakeholders in the company and acting as the essential point of contact for legal advice and to provide the necessary legal guidance and training, in order to identify potential legal issues early and to mitigate any risk accordingly.
What led you to pursue an in-house legal career?
Pursuing my career as an in-house legal counsel at S&P Global was an unexpected opportunity for me. This is because since I graduated from my law degree and obtained the Bar Professional Training Course Certificate from the United Kingdom, until I was qualified as an Advocate and Solicitor in the High Court of Malaya, I genuinely thought that my career was all set to become a lawyer appearing in the Courts of Law. For the past seven (7) years, I was an active Advocate and Solicitor practicing via legal firms, focusing on general civil litigation matters (from year 2015 when I started my pupillage in a legal firm and continued practicing in the same legal firm until December 2021, thereafter I was engaged by another legal firm as their lead Counsel to appear in Courts for hearings in year 2022). In fact, I was really engaged in my legal career as a full-time lawyer, I inclined to contribute most of my time at work and was undoubtedly busy without taking proper time-off from work, and eventually I became exhausted from overwork. I thought that I did not have the passion in law anymore. That was towards the end of the year 2021. So, I decided to quit my previous job (with the support from my family) and gave myself a proper break.
I had almost 8 months’ time-off and I am glad that I managed to explore different things and pursue some of my interests. Despite being still involved in Court litigation works during the break as the “freelance” lead Counsel engaged by another legal firm, I told myself that I needed to step out of my comfort zone. I wanted to explore a different side of me, and I knew that I needed to change when I could, rather than waiting for another few more years!
Being a corporate legal counsel appeared as a career option for me, because as much as I do not want to give up my expertise at law, I wanted to see how my previous years of law experiences are being put in real life business/commercial practices. I then started job hunting and I was fortunate enough that after a few rounds of rejections/ignorance by some companies, I managed to secure an in-house legal position at S&P Global, a huge multi-national corporation around the globe!
What role does technology play in your practice?
With the advancing of the technologies, ranging from Microsoft Office tools to Google or now the Generative Artificial Intelligence (for example the popular ChatGPT), these developments have no doubt improved the speed and quality of my work, as well as driving the convenience for me working at a rapid pace. For example, when it comes to preparing or drafting contractual documents, Microsoft Word is the ultimate option with useful functions or tools like grammar and spelling check or thesaurus, while I can access to Google or Safari for research purposes and quick access to information around the world. Zoom and Microsoft Teams help me to connect with people across the globe without any restriction and at any time zone. I could also easily access my emails from anywhere as long as I have my smartphone with me. It is evident that technologies do indeed give me the ability to perform my daily work relatively more efficiently and productively. Technology is such an integral part of the 21st-century workplace that any business without some level of technical savvy will likely fail, and it does indeed support and optimize success at work in every aspect. However, one should always bear in mind that with the emerge of technologies, we are exposing ourselves to the security and privacy risks, and there is no sure way to guarantee the safety and confidentiality of any personal and propriety information that is being processed by the internet. Hence, one should be trained and be smart while leveraging more technologies in the workplace!
Have you utilized outsourced legal services to augment your in-house capabilities?
No, outsourcing legal services is not regular in my role. We only have a few external counsels mainly based in the Greater China to advise on legal affairs, such as the change of legislations or any China policies.
Do you actively network among other in-house counsel and private practice lawyers? If so, what types of networking do you find most valuable?
I do actively network among other in-house counsel and private practice lawyers. To me, LinkedIn is definitely the most popular and professional social network with many groups acting as valuable resources for in-house counsel. You can find interesting discussions related to specific topics and can keep up with the latest in-house trends and issues around the world. As for the networking with the private practice lawyers, they are mostly my peers, so I do still participate in the social events with them and most of the time, I get to learn about news and updates within the legal society. There is also the Malaysian Bar Practitioners networking group on social media (Facebook), which allows me to stay up with latest developments in different areas of law in Malaysia.
What career advice do you have for aspiring in-house counsel who are currently studying law or in private practice?
For those who are currently still pursuing law degree, my advice is that follow your passion and heart when you can and especially when you are young! Do not get trapped in the mindset that becoming lawyer is the only way out just because you study law. (Fun fact: In my earlier career time, I wanted to take up courses to be trained as a judge. However, as my background coming from the private high school without SPM Bahasa Malaysia result, I had to drop that option.) Remember, the world is your oyster! Becoming an in-house counsel could be one of your options too!
I don’t really have much career advice for my learned friends who are in private practice. But as soon as I became an in-house counsel, I realized that despite being an in-house counsel may have a less hustle life compared to the private practice lawyers (I am talking about litigation lawyers), in-house jobs are not relatively easy! I used to hear from my peers when I was still practicing that being an in-house counsel is not challenging and is “valueless”. Well, the true fact is that practicing lawyers may know very well about the legal systems or court procedures in Malaysia as well as the Malaysian Laws, they may not know in real life what is happening in the industry across the globe or the impact on the businesses by the implementation of certain laws or policies in some countries etc. They may not be able to analyze the contract documents in depth from the commercial business point of views too. (Just giving some examples here, this does not apply to all private practice lawyers!) Nonetheless, if there is any private practice lawyer who would like to try out the in-house jobs, please do not hesitate already! Hesitation will lead you to nowhere!
What are your career goals for the next decade?
As I have recently joined S&P Global as the in-house Counsel, my aim is to be involved in more variety areas of products/services and have deeper diverse knowledge in the developments and challenges in the industry, and partnering up with the other stakeholders to grow and innovate by leveraging the company’s market leading capabilities, and eventually becoming the leader and empower/inspire our people! I would also love to participate in more high-value negotiated deals. Having said that, I do sometimes miss the hustle advocacy life! So, I don’t rule out the fact that I may go back to private practice in the future. We can’t plan everything because life always has got all those twists and turns! We just need to believe in ourselves, be brave and be better, and let’s see what the life has in plan for us!