How an MBA brought Marian Ngo and Emily Archer together at K&L Gates
After studying together and then living in different countries, Marian Ngo and Emily Archer were surprised to see each other on their first day of work at global law firm K&L Gates.
The former Part-time MBA classmates are both senior associates at the firm and cite their experience at Melbourne Business School as key to their winning collaboration with clients.
"Emily and I first got to know each other through the MBA and, years after we all graduated, both started at K&L on the same day, which was an amazing coincidence," Marian says.
"We've had the opportunity to work on commercial projects collaboratively, partly because of how we both spoke the same two languages – business and law."
Emily had just returned to Melbourne from working for a bank in London and was surprised to hear that she was starting her new role with a classmate.
"It was exciting when I found out that we would be working together and starting on the same day, and there has been a great dynamic between us ever since," Emily says.
The dynamic pair use their MBA skillset to bounce ideas off each other for work and for business development.
"Having an MBA allows us to understand and empathise with clients beyond a discrete legal problem, which enables us to offer them commercial and practical guidance," Marian says.
"We've found that it sets us apart in an industry where there's an ever growing recognition and drive to be commercial.
"We can overlay a legal recommendation with additional considerations, such as common market practice, a cost benefit analysis or an assessment of the bargaining strength of the parties involved, which provides a welcome addition to just technical legal advice."
Among the knowledge gained in the MBA, the senior associates believe it's how they've embraced collaboration that has been vital to getting their step up in law.
"In the MBA you're taught that greater value for clients can be created through collaboration with others," Emily says.
"We saw this on the first day into the MBA, there was a huge emphasis on working as a team, supporting one another and developing relationships, which to this day have been invaluable on both a personal and professional level."
This important business lesson was further crystalised through a book that Marian and Emily had to read for a subject on economics.
"We read Co-opetition, which is about how people can create additional value by working together with others who offer a different view or skill set," Emily says.
"Every time I applied those principles, I found myself and the people I was working with were able to offer greater value to clients and, in turn, the business."
Marian and Emily work in different teams, but their friendship and business knowledge have allowed them to collaborate on complex legal challenges together.
I work in the corporate team on mergers and acquisitions and commercial contracting whereas Emily is in the complex commercial litigation team," Marian says.
"We both advise clients on corporate and commercial matters and get to use our MBA skillset – the soft, intercultural or financial skills for instance – every time we deal with clients domestically or internationally, such as in Japan or the US."
Marian also finds that the MBA has helped her to deal with other aspects of a client's business.
"With the work I do, for example assisting clients with start ups, joint ventures, strategic acquisitions and commercial negotiations, I find having a good understanding of economic decision making and accounting is really helpful," Marian says.
"The principles of game theory underpin many common legal concepts, such as the mechanism that a shareholder should use to buy out another, ensuring that the structured process between the parties and market forces results in a fair outcome.
"With mergers and acquisitions, clients really appreciate it when lawyers have solid financial acumen, even though we're not engaged to scrutinise financial statements."
For Emily, she finds that the network that she made through the MBA is a never-ending source of support in her work for K&L Gates.
"At MBS, having the opportunity to meet and work with people from a variety of backgrounds and industries was invaluable and resulted in a strong personal and professional network," Emily says.
"I've been able to utilise that network to collaborate and source expertise both in Australia and internationally many times since finishing my studies.
"In addition to that, like Marian, the finance skills have been invaluable with my work in-house at the bank. The MBA has allowed me to specialise in different areas, which I wouldn't have previously been able to do."
While neither Marian or Emily have plans to leave private practice, they recognise that an MBA can be a great point of differentiation for in-house lawyers as well.
"In-house lawyers work across so many different functions in the business and they know a business inside out," Marian says.
"Completing an MBA allows lawyers to have a foundational understanding of these functions, such as operations or marketing, creating the means to provide legal advice that not only addresses legal risk, but is commercial and practical."