Q&A with Joanne Lam – Matrimonial Lawyer


Joanne is a Solicitor in our Family Law team having joined Tanner De Witt in March 2017 and completed her two year training contract. Before embarking on her legal career, Joanne worked as a journalist in Hong Kong covering global business trends with a particular focus on the luxury retail sector. Her work has appeared in the South China Morning Post and the New York Times amongst other publications. She also holds a Master of Journalism from the University of Hong Kong.

Why did you choose to become a lawyer?

Growing up, I wanted to be an investigative journalist (think: the journalists in the film Spotlight).  Following my parents’ advice, however, I completed my LLB as my first degree and pursued a career in journalism after that.   I went on to join Hong Kong’s largest English language newspaper as a journalist, but not one that investigated crime.  Instead, I mostly wrote about global trends in the luxury lifestyle market which offered me opportunities I never could have dreamed of, including interviewing CEOs of multinational conglomerates about their business strategies, as well as meeting and interviewing fashion designers and A-list celebrities.  After 2.5 years immersed in the world of high fashion and luxury watches and jewellery, it was ultimately a decision to put my law degree to good use and the hope to find something just a bit more intellectually stimulating which led me to seek a training contact and ultimately become a lawyer.

Describe a typical day at work.

Every morning starts with a coffee and looking over the to-do list set out from the previous day.  As a litigation lawyer focusing on matrimonial law, typically my to-do list involves drafting documents (both legal correspondence and Court documents), meetings and calls with clients and on occasion, mediation or Court attendance.  Given the nature of the work, I find that my to-do list is often pushed aside when urgent matters arise.  The day typically flies by with a lot of multitasking and ends with an update to my to-do list.

What part of being a lawyer do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging?

Most of the work I am involved in is almost inherently adversarial and highly emotional – and in some cases, heart-breaking. What I find most rewarding is helping clients through the complexities of the issues which sometimes delve deeper than initially imagined.  One challenge is assisting clients to assess the entirety of the situation and also note that the “best outcome” may not be one where they “win” everything. This rings particularly true in family law where children are involved.

The most rewarding part of my job is helping my clients reach an agreeable and acceptable outcome so that (hopefully) they are able to close an often emotional chapter of their lives. In my line of work, this can sometimes take years to achieve.  Clients come to lawyers to look for practical solutions and being able to help a client find that pragmatic solution is very satisfying.

Being a lawyer can be stressful at times. How do you maintain a good work-life balance?

I start my mornings at the yoga studio or in the gym.  Whether it’s an hour of yoga practice where I am literally trying to find balance on my hands or a weights session, I find the routine to be helpful for both my physical and mental health. My weekends are spent with friends and family, and maybe a glass of wine or two.  I’m also lucky to work with supportive colleagues who can lend an ear or a hand (or two!) when I need it.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received during your legal career?

As a trainee, the best advice I received was: “It’s ok to make mistakes – but own up to it and don’t make it more than once”.  Learning from mistakes, however big or small and being given the opportunity to do so while training, has helped me develop into the lawyer I am today.

If you had not become a lawyer, what other professions would you have considered?

Chances are I would still be a journalist focusing on the world of luxury business or an editor of a wellness magazine – although hopefully, I would have found my way into the world of investigative journalism.  I am also planning to take my 200-hour yoga teacher training course so that’s always a retirement possibility!

Give one piece of advice to young adults who are considering the legal profession.

Explore different opportunities and fields and expose yourself to new experiences – whether professionally or otherwise.  I’m especially grateful for my time as a journalist which allowed me to talk to and learn from people from all walks of life. I have found this to be very helpful in understanding clients’ views.

Give one piece of advice to your younger self.

Sleep more and be kind to yourself.

Find out more about Joanne here.