Name: Mei Lian

Organisation: Paul Hastings

Role: Partner, co-chair of London office

Based: London

Trained at: Linklaters

Year qualified: 2000

What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?

Being called “the most stupid trainee from the London office”. It really taught me a lot about resilience, and also, looking back, I learnt that it’s never really about you.

Tell us about a sliding doors moment when your career could have gone in an entirely different direction?

When I was a 1-year PQE at Linklaters, and I was thinking about leaving, I interviewed at two investment banks. I had gotten pretty far down the track when the recruiter asked me if I had heard of a firm called Shearman & Sterling, and if I was interested in interviewing there. At that time, US firms were not as dominant in the UK market as they are today, so I had never heard of it. Still I said yes, why not, and ended up at Shearman for nearly 20 years.

What’s the hardest question you’ve ever been asked at interview, and how did you answer?  

As a 1-year PQE in 2001, at my Shearman interview, the partner asked me “What do you know about high yield bonds?”. I had a brief moment of indecision, wondering if I should try and blag it. In the end I came clean and simply said, “Nothing, but I’d be happy to learn”. We had a 20 minute chat where he explained what high yield bonds were. I got the job, and the rest was history.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?

Really think about why you want it. In order to really do well at this job – or any job – you really need to care about what you do, so you need something that really motivates you to go the extra mile.

Tell us about ONE former colleague who you miss, and why? (It doesn’t have to be a lawyer).

I have been asked this question many times, and the answer will always be Clifford Atkins. Clifford was my mentor at Shearman for 19 years, he interviewed me, gave me the job even though I had no idea what a high yield bond was, and taught me more than I can thank him for. He will always be the best lawyer I have ever known, and it is still my aspiration to be half the lawyer he is.