With effect from 28 February 2022, British-born wealth management and family office lawyer Samantha Bradley joins Hong Kong-based full-service law firm Ravenscroft & Schmierer as part of its ongoing Asian and global expansion.
Nazahat Riaz, of Ravenscroft & Schmierer marketing department, sat together with Samantha for a short interview.
Nazahat: “You are a highly accomplished solicitor, qualified in England and Wales as well as in Hong Kong, with more than 25 years of experience working for international law firms and family offices. What motivates you, Samantha?”
Samantha: “After 17 years I had grown deeply fond of my clients and team. It was their support over many years, for which I will always be grateful, that gave me the determination and privilege to choose the values to which I wish to dedicate the rest of my career. I have always preferred to be challenged professionally and was one of the early advisers on FATCA (The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and CRS (Common Reporting Standard) in Hong Kong. I have also been influenced by experience and by the transformational work of many NGOs I have encountered over the years on climate change, bio-diversity and social justice. These issues are increasingly pressing. To advocate for change, sometimes one has to lead by asserting your values and create the necessary space of mind and time.”
25 Years of Working in International Law Firms and Family Offices
After more than 25 years of working in international law firms and family offices, navigating a wide range of contentious and non-contentious issues, Samantha has an in-depth experience of the wealth management industry with all its benefits and challenges. She has often appeared as a conference speaker and contributed to various government policy initiatives. Having been an executive committee member, and former chair of STEP (The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) in Hong Kong since 2009, Samantha has been active in promoting wealth planning, talent development, and ADR (alternative dispute resolution) in Hong Kong for many years. Later this year she will once again assume the role of Deputy Chair of STEP Hong Kong.
Nazahat: “What drives you to support organisations like STEP outside of work?”
Samantha: “I believe that high professional standards begin with a passion for protecting families, competence and integrity. STEP is committed to those values and to engaging with governments to offer thought leadership. A commitment to these values is not going to make everyone happy all of the time. Our industry currently faces challenges and to inspire public confidence and avoid engagement in non-compliant work, a culture of continuing development, responsibility and risk management is vital. Ultimately, non-compliance damages not only the reputation of the profession but also of the clients we serve and protect.” Nazahat: “How did your journey as a trainee solicitor with Allen & Overy begin?”
Samantha: “I will always be grateful to my interviewers who met a shy student fresh from studying literature, history, religious studies, law and ethics who had worked part-time at a supermarket. I had a track record of working hard and academic achievement, but I was a risk. I knew very little of global politics or economics. But I was grounded in people and social reality. I learned confidence comes not from where you came from, but from belief in who you are and what you can do. The top law firms increasingly offer those with ability and determination the opportunity to try. Law is not about how much money you grew up with, or whether you went to the right school, but it does require hard work, tenacity and a critical mind.”
Nazahat: “What made you decide to move to a single-family office as an independent legal counsel after your first decade of legal experience?”
Samantha: “I left Allen & Overy to support a wealthy international family in establishing a London family office. This coincided with Allen & Overy’s private client practice hiving off into a separate firm. The transition inhouse was challenging at a relatively young age. It seemed like a good idea having two small children and it provided me with valuable insight. I was fortunate to be able to continue to work closely with my very dear mentor, the late William Norris who was an intellectual legend of his era. I missed however the cut and thrust of being surrounded daily by my legal peers thrashing out varied legal problems.” Nazahat: “How did you achieve the promotion from associate in London to become the first Office Managing Director and Head of Wealth Management for Asia in Hong Kong in 2008 at Withers?”
Samantha: “Withers is well deserving of its reputation as a pre-eminent international law firm for private clients. The work I was exposed to was of an exceptional caliber and complexity and I was immersed for a number of years in complex projects of the type I love best. I was, I believe, the youngest Office Managing Director they had appointed. Withers has a track-record for supporting strong women and they gave me a tremendous opportunity for which I was grateful. Any last remnants of the shy rather nerdish creature I was had to progressively be dispensed with at this point. Being a strong character does not always equate with exuberant self-confidence, or the talent for accommodation that often needs to be made to run a team. It is fair to say that, after many years of management, I continue to enjoy the intellectual challenge of legal work and client engagement rather more than office administration.”
Nazahat: “In 2009 you joined Sir Elly Kadoorie & Sons Limited, and shortly after were appointed as Director, Legal and Trust Management. How did you enjoy the responsibility to oversee the work of a large number of internal and external professionals?”
Samantha: “Working in-house and leading a team as the most senior woman in an organisation of powerful and respected businessmen requires a strong sense of self-identity, of the responsibilities of leadership, and of the quality of your advice. It also gives an insight into corporate culture and client decision-making that lawyers only normally glimpse from within law firms.”
"My focus is giving unconflicted legal advice.”
Nazahat: “You now decided to join Ravenscroft & Schmierer, a smaller law firm compared to your previous employers, with a young and progressive team.”
Samantha: “Yes, because I am quite a niche player. Large firms present enhanced risks of corporate conflicts of interest and at times I am asked to give second opinions on what they do, which is easier from a small firm. I have never been shy in disagreeing or raising challenging issues. My focus is giving unconflicted legal advice.”
Nazahat: “What do you like to do in your spare time?”
Samantha: “I like to write articles on legal matters that draw on philosophy and history, often with aesthetic poetry. I hope to shine my passion and grab the attention of my readers.
Nazahat: “What else would you like to share with us?”
Samantha: “I have always tried to combine practice of the law with the wider humanities. I have a strong conviction in the rule of law, but I see the law as a safety-net for society, not as the main event. We could have less regulation and reduce our dependency on lawyers and court process if only people operated with more integrity, compassion and forgiveness. Institutions and businesses can make incredibly arrogant and poor choices and then look for advisers that endorse their conduct.”
“The public ultimately suffers from such behaviour. As a result, regulation is increasing, regulatory disputes are increasingly hard fought, and privacy and autonomy for all will decrease. Government policy and social conditions change around us constantly, but people are hardwired from an early age and cannot change so easily. As a result, lawyers who can guide people through change and trying times with scrupulous fairness and empathy are the lawyers we need to train for the future.”
“I believe in ethical professional conduct and respectful treatment. I believe that the law should be applied with the goal of assisting people to live safe, happy, and fulfilled lives, in harmony with one another and our natural environment. Therefore, I also support the UK’s #LawSocClimateResolution and have pledged to #mediatefirst.”