Sheila Wells: Former Solicitor (UK & Hong Kong)
Former Solicitor (UK & Hong Kong)
How did you get started in risk?
Having worked as a solicitor in London, I moved to Hong Kong in 1994. I wanted to change tack in my legal career and so initially I took on a role in knowledge management before edging towards training and development. This included identifying opportunities for the legal training calendar, working with external speakers in areas such as financial management and also setting up my own training calendar predominantly for trainee solicitors. I also looked after graduate recruitment and for a period of time was a member of the Law Society of Hong Kong’s Trainee Solicitor Committee.
In 2004 I applied to become one of the part-time tutors for a new Risk Management Education course being run by the Law Society of Hong Kong. This original course, split into three parts, was aimed at providing compulsory risk management training to all qualified solicitors in Hong Kong. It has since expanded to involve all lawyers in Hong Kong.
I was involved in the course until October 2006 when other increasing work commitments for the law firm that I worked for meant that I was unable to continue but the interest in risk management and its importance of its role in the workplace stayed with me.
What was a typical day like?
There was no typical day. I was one of a number of part-time tutors for the course and, although we each prepared particular lectures (such Conflict of Interests or Communication Skills) we all participated in the facilitation of the break-out groups. As each day brought different people, every group had its own different dynamic.
What did you enjoy most about your job?
It was challenging (particularly as most lawyers don’t give their time readily and especially not for free*) but great fun. The course content was very interesting and covered a wide range of topics.
*I must point out that the running of the Risk Management Education course has now changed as it is run by the Law Society of Hong Kong’s Academy of Law and IS now free of charge for LSHK qualifying members.
What were the challenges?
Each lawyer brought his or her take on the subject matter and this inevitably led to some lively debate and some heated discussions. This was especially so when some people were not willing to see the risks involved in various actions so getting the message across was sometimes difficult.
In what way are your IRM qualifications relevant?
At the time I had only just joined the IRM but I was alerted to some very interesting books on risk management such as Against the Gods – The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L Bernstein. It was only later when I returned to London that I attended a number of IRM courses and was also the secretary of the IRM Legal Risk Special Interest group until last year.
What would you say to others about joining the IRM as a member?
Do it. There are many interesting courses run by the IRM and opportunities to become involved in their various special interest groups.
How has your role developed?
I was able to take some of the knowledge and experience that I built up into my other working environment. At the same time that I was a part-time tutor on the Risk Management course I was also working for a large London law firm. I built up a number of courses for trainee solicitors and solicitors and incorporated many basic principles of risk management into these. I also wrote a chapter for a text book published in Hong Kong on Risk Management.
What advice can you give to others?
Never forget that risk is there but some of it provides for great opportunities. Awareness is the key as well as being prepared to look for underlying causes. And never make assumptions.