Erika Wan, Special Counsel in Finance & Projects Practice Group, Baker McKenzie, shares with WiFA her experience with mentorship, how she keeps her competitive edge, her passions, and much more.

Tell us a little bit about yourself 

I was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Canada at the age of 12 where I had the privilege of enjoying a joyous high school life in Vancouver and attended McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. Then I moved back to Hong Kong with my family and completed by LLB and PCLL at the University of Hong Kong.  

I started my career as a lawyer at a US law firm in 2002 and joined Baker McKenzie in 2015. At Baker McKenzie, I focus on various types of financing work, including general corporate loans, cross-border real estate financings and acquisition financings. I also have the opportunity to represent different banks and financial institutions as lenders and various corporations and listed companies as borrowers.   

How do you stay on top of your professional game? Any tips on how you keep your competitive edge? 

Hard work, hard work, and hard work – there is nothing more important than the willingness to go the extra mile to ensure that the work product not only meets, but exceeds, the standard and expectations of clients. There is no shortcut to success; and the more time you are willing to spend on your work, the better work quality you will be able to deliver.

Develop different skill sets – The market is changing rapidly, and it is not sufficient to develop a single skill set and expect that this is all you require to excel in your profession. Develop a learning mindset and be curious in your daily encounters. Stay abreast of the latest market trends and always consider how your skill sets can apply to the latest market developments. Be prepared to develop new skill sets, if necessary, to keep up with the ever-changing market.  

Focus on developing soft skills – Clients expect their lawyers to excel in their legal work, which is a prerequisite in winning the work mandate. What differentiates one lawyer from another is those “soft skills” — resilience, communication, emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, etc. We do not work in a vacuum and these soft skills will enable us to become a better person to work with and work for.

Think back to when you were starting out your career. What advice would you give your younger self? 

Be bold, be proactive and be outspoken – Don’t be afraid to voice out your ideas, speak up and defend your rights and ask for help when needed. There is nothing to lose by doing all of these. 

Grasp every single opportunity as if it is the last one – opportunities come and go quickly, so grasp them before they disappear. Most of the time, these opportunities will kick you out of your comfort zone and lead to new adventures in your life. You will be surprised by the reward! 

Find a good mentor – having a mentor can give you valuable insight and tips to success. Mentors will share their success stories which you can follow and, most importantly, share their failures which you can learn from. They will guide you through your career path and help you to reach your career goal.

Have empathy – it helps you to build healthy relationships with people (including clients) and become a better person as a whole.  

Aside from work, what are your other passions? 

Given the travel ban due to the pandemic, I have hiking as my new hobby and passion. It brings peace to my mind and also improves my health and fitness level.