Mother in law
Victoria Lloyd, a partner at Ropes & Gray, says that having children should not bar women from pursuing successful legal careers
It is 10am on a cold, dull morning in Central, but Victoria Lloyd, partner and corporate lawyer at law firm Ropes & Gray, is full of cheer. She has already completed an action-packed morning routine of exercise and quality time with her two young sons before arriving at the office.
“I get up at 5.30am and go for a boot camp for 45 minutes, which brings me up to 7am,” she says. “By the time I get home, my sons will be up and I can do their homework with them and we can have breakfast together. Then I work.” It’s a schedule that would leave many exhausted, but judging by Lloyd’s relaxed, friendly and almost laid-back manner, it is just the start she needs to set her up for another challenging day.
Lloyd’s practice area covers corporate finance, listings on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and capital funding, plus Hong Kong-related mergers and acquisitions. She has led and managed many high-profile listings, including those of NT Pharma, China Liansu Group, Sound Global China Lilang, 361 Degrees International, Uni-President China Holdings, Vinda International and Sinopec.
The eldest of four daughters of an English father and a Hong Kong Chinese mother, Lloyd attended Maryknoll Convent School in Kowloon Tong. She graduated from the College of Law in London in 1994, and from the University of Hong Kong in 1996, qualifying as a Hong Kong solicitor.
She and her sisters grew up in a bilingual environment, with their mother speaking to them in Cantonese and their father in English. With considerable foresight about the future importance of Putonghua, their mother insisted the girls study it after school. Lloyd is consequently trilingual.
She says her language abilities have been a valuable asset, especially with the surge in the number of Chinese clients seeking legal advice in Hong Kong since the handover. “When I speak to mainland clients, I’ll be using Putonghua 99 per cent of the time,” she says. “A large proportion of my local clients are investment banks, and with them I speak Cantonese. Day-to-day work is mostly in Cantonese. I would say that if I didn’t speak Cantonese and Putonghua, I would not be able to do what I do today. It’s extremely critical.”
Lloyd spends a lot of time studying new developments in the US, particularly deal structures, as many clients are closely linked to the US market and ask her how new laws and regulations there could have an impact on them. “For instance, if I’m doing a public offering and I’m selling shares to one US citizen, then I have to abide by all these rules,” Lloyd says.
Law was not her first career choice though – she wanted to study communications, but her parents disagreed. “I went to my mother and said, ‘that’s what I want to do.’ She immediately called my father, and they said, ‘no, you have to do law.’”
Lloyd says she was pretty unhappy about their insistence, until she spoke to an aunt whose husband was a lawyer. “She called me and said, ‘actually law is very flexible. You could do law and become a reporter. Why don’t you give it a try? You might like it.’ I really trusted this aunt … and it turned out I really liked it.” She particularly enjoys the intellectual challenge of understanding and then meeting clients’ needs, and the opportunities to meet people from different walks of life.
Inter-racial marriages were uncommon in her parents’ day, and Lloyd was one of few Eurasians in Hong Kong during her schooldays. She and her sisters felt different to their Chinese classmates, but her dual cultural heritage is now another career asset. It has helped her adapt to the transitions between studying in Hong Kong and Britain, and working with British law firms and her current US employer. It also helps her interact easily with clients and colleagues from various cultures.
Lloyd is hoping that her sons, aged two and three, will be similarly multilingual. She speaks to them in English at home and they attend a local kindergarten, studying Cantonese, English and Putonghua.
She balances work and family life by using a carefully thought-out approach that she follows strictly. “When my two children [now aged two and three] arrived, I started doing research among partners in the firm who had successful careers and successful families, and I realised that it takes a lot of dedication and discipline,” she explains.
“When I’m with my children, it’s 100 per cent them. I try not to look at the Blackberry unless there is something really urgent. When I’m at work, it’s about work. The 100 per cent attention I give to my work is both very important to doing my job well and getting off on time, so that I get to spend quality time with my sons after work.”
In a firm where 41 per cent of associates are women and the partners are almost all male, Lloyd believes mentoring by female partners is particularly valuable to young women. “It’s important for younger people to have models to follow – it shows them it can be done and makes it easier for them,” she says. “We want [female lawyers at the firm] to be close, we want them to be willing to share, and we want them to know the female partners better. These are really talented young women. We don’t want to lose them, for instance after they get married and have kids. They can stay with law – it doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. That’s what we want to offer them.”
MAKING A GOOD CASE
Lloyd gives some advice for young female lawyers.
Follow your heart “Choose a practice area you enjoy, because you’ll be spending a lot of time doing it.”
Suit your surroundings “Choose a law firm that has a culture that fits you. [Ropes & Gray] was my first choice because I’d worked with their partners and they’re very easy-going. You want to work with people that you like.”
Work wisely “Once you’ve made your choice, be dedicated and focused in doing the tasks in front of you.”
Put the team first “Don’t let your ego get in your way. At the end of the day, it’s about being part of a team and getting things done. It’s a service we’re providing.”