Name: Derek Tong

Organisation: Linklaters

Role: Partner

Based: London

Trained at: Linklaters

Year qualified: 2009

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

In September 2008, I joined the Linklaters derivatives and structured products team as a third seat trainee. This was at the exact time that Lehman Brothers went into administration (in relation to which Linklaters acted for the administrator), which was a pivotal moment in the broader global financial crisis (as well as more generally being one of the most high-profile and complex administrations of all time). Even though I only experienced a small glimpse into that case, it was hugely impactful to see the full Linklaters team band together to work their way through a situation that had never been seen before.

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

The key one was probably deciding to qualify back into the corporate/M&A department at Linklaters. I was pretty torn at the time and could easily have ended up doing something completely different, but I am glad I made the decision that I did and now I definitely could not imagine being anything other than an M&A lawyer!

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

The very first question I was asked at my Linklaters vacation scheme interview was “Imagine you are the CEO of a German car manufacturing company and the US dollar has just gone down against the Euro. What does this mean for your business”?

I thought it was pretty tough! I think I talked about how if you kept the prices of your cars the same in the US it would impact profitability, so you would need to think about whether it was a short-term or long-term swing and consider if you could increase pricing to reflect the new exchange rates and whether that would impact sales. That was probably not right at all, but I did manage to stay calm and string some coherent sentences together (which was perhaps the real test) and luckily passed the interview.

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

Nothing earth-shattering but I would emphasise that it really is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve been at Linklaters almost 17 years and there are many people who have been here a lot longer. During that time I met my now husband, got married, had four amazing children and have done a whole bunch of other things along the way. It’s pretty easy to let yourself get consumed in the job and if you don’t stop to take a breath every now and then you’ll realise you’ve missed quite a lot along the way.

I took seven months off as paternity leave in 2017 when my first daughter was born, which was basically unheard of at the time for a man (or in fact any senior associate looking at partnership), although things have obviously changed a lot since then. I’m a huge proponent of all the agile working and DEI initiatives that have helped our firm’s culture evolve and level the playing field on all fronts.

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

That would be Iain Wagstaff, a former corporate partner who tragically passed away in a cycling accident a few years ago. As a junior associate I worked almost exclusively with Iain; he was a true class act and taught me everything I know about being an M&A lawyer. I have tried to model many parts of my practice on his – from his way of approaching legal issues to the way he managed his teams. I regarded him not only as a mentor and colleague, but as a close friend and I would definitely not be a partner at Linklaters today without his support. He also made the Hot 100 list back in 2013, so I’m proud once again to be following in his footsteps!