Since graduating from The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law and returning to her hometown of Singapore, Janine Wan (LLB (Hons) '19) has found her law studies to be instrumental in shaping her career.
ANU Law student ambassador Andre Kwok, currently on exchange at the National University of Singapore, sat down with Janine to reflect on her journey from the halls of ANU to the bustling streets of the Lion City as part of a four-part blog series focusing on law careers in the Asia-Pacific.
By Andre Kwok (student ambassador)
Originally from Singapore, Janine Wan grew up in the United States before moving to Australia to finish high school in Melbourne and eventually coming to Canberra to study law at ANU.
“Funnily enough, I was dead set against studying law at first,” said Janine.
While at high school, people told Janine she should study law because she enjoyed arguing and looking at the world analytically.
However, Janine originally wanted to be a biological anthropologist.
So when it came time for her to select her university preferences, Janine gave herself two weeks to try it out.
“Then it all clicked, and I realised how much I loved studying law,” she said.
Given the flexible nature of the ANU Bachelor of Laws (Hons) program, Janine found she could also explore her interests outside of law by fitting in some anthropology subjects.
“I felt like this breadth isn’t offered at other universities, so when I learnt I could explore other subjects, I was delighted,” she said.
During her time as a student, Janine tried a range of law subjects and volunteered in numerous student and community activities.
She was the Deputy Officer at the ANU Women’s Department and Liaison Officer at the ANU International Students’ Department, where her interests in advocacy, social justice, policy and welfare were cultivated.
Janine said her volunteering experiences in policy and social mobilisation were transferable to her law studies.
“These were some of the most formative experiences of my life and definitely impacted my life,” she said.
After some work experience at the Canberra’s Women’s Legal Centre, Janine decided that while she “loved the learning experience”, she “didn’t find it personally sustainable” to pursue a career in family law.
Noting that the law school and the legal profession is often seen as extremely competitive, Janine encourages students to experiment with a range of subjects and student experiences instead of placing themselves in a pre-determined area.
After her own experience, Janine found that she had a knack for corporate law after taking some subjects related to the area.
Fast forward to today and she is working as an associate at King Wood Mallesons’s (KWM) Singapore office.
From learning about the various holidays celebrated by Singapore’s multicultural population to the technical intricacies of different Asia-Pacific jurisdictions, Janine stresses that working at KWM in one of the most dynamic places in the world has been a learning journey.
“Even as a junior during COVID-19 and up to today, I’m constantly collaborating with an international network of lawyers over tools like Microsoft Teams every day,” Janine said.
“In international firms like KWM, legal graduates and trainees often have opportunities to complete rotations in international teams and some spend several months overseas at other regional offices. It is honestly very exciting.”
Janine said that the team culture significantly varies depending on the office and practice group, but overall, she enjoys her tight-knit team in the Singapore office.
Reflecting on the changing Asia-focused legal employment landscape, Janine said that KWM focuses on ongoing education.
Janine currently attends KWM’s comprehensive Mandarin Chinese language training programs, and in addition to sponsoring her Singaporean certification to practice law, KWM supports her admission to the New South Wales Supreme Court.
When asked about cross-border legal work in the Asia-Pacific, Janine referred to the dynamisms around the strong push in the Australia-Singapore relationship and rapidly expanding markets like Indonesia.
She also highlighted the continued need for cross-cultural and cross-border expertise in addressing legal issues with established countries like China, Japan and Korea.
“To get a sense of the scale of development and interest in the Asia-Pacific, it is forecasted that Indonesia will be in the top five largest economies in the world,” Janine said.
In terms of advice to law students interested in a legal career in our region, joining law firms or organisations with in-house counsel focused on international transactions and growth, like Janine has done, is one way of doing so.
In Janine’s daily work at KWM, she said knowledge of the regulatory regimes of a broad range of international jurisdictions and the ability to navigate the like are amongst the most in-demand commercial legal expertise in the Asia-Pacific.
“When it comes to the growing opportunities in Asia, it is not slowing down,” Janine said.
Curious to learn more? Janine welcomes interested students to reach out and ask any questions over LinkedIn.