As well as highlighting the importance of teamwork within an in-house team and between the legal team and others within the business, Michele Kythe Lim, Group Head, Legal & Secretarial/Company Secretary at IHH Healthcare discusses what she feels is essential to in-house success, as well as revealing how she motivates and inspires her team and herself. She also points out how now, legal departments need “to work hand-in-hand with the client”.
ASIAN-MENA COUNSEL: Can you tell us what led to your current role? Briefly as well, can you describe your career trajectory?
Michele Kythe Lim:
I graduated with an LLB (Hons) degree from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and was called to the degree of the Utter Bar with the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, United Kingdom in 1992. I was admitted to the High Court of Malaya as an Advocate and Solicitor in 1993 and subsequently became a member of the Malaysian Alliance of Corporate Directors in 2012.

My career started at Messrs, Shook Lin & Bok, one of the largest law firms in Malaysia. This was followed by a seven year stint culminating in my position as Assistant General Manager for the Legal Affairs and Risk Division of Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Berhad, the national asset management corporation of Malaysia, which was formed to deal with distressed assets following the 1997 Asian financial crisis. I was then headhunted to join Proton Holdings Berhad, the national car company of Malaysia as General Manager and later Chief Legal Counsel, Group Legal, Secretarial and Compliance where I was a member of the senior management team and Group Management Committees overseeing legal advisory/risk, corporate secretarial and compliance issues for the group. I then completed the Senior Management Development Programme of the Harvard Business School in 2009. Afterwards I joined IHH Healthcare Berhad in 2013 as Group Head, Legal & Secretarial/Company Secretary and remain there to this day. IHH is the second largest healthcare group globally by market capitalisation.

AMC: How do you add value to your company?
My day-to-day work involves reporting to the Managing Director and CEO of IHH and I have a team of eight who report directly to me with functional reporting from the group subsidiaries. The value I add on a daily basis is to ensure that the legal and corporate compliance risks of the group are adequately identified and mitigated against, whilst finding solutions to the business. I firmly believe also in creating an inclusive environment and a motivated team as this will bear fruit in terms of increased productivity.

AMC: What is the best advice you have been given?
I will re-phrase this question to say “how do you work best?”, and the answer to that is not to have expectations and to take a step back and analyse any situation before giving feedback. Also, I rely on my instincts.

AMC: What challenges have you perceived in your current role?
I believe the challenge most in-house counsel face is to balance business needs against risk mitigation and to be solutions oriented. I constantly strive to achieve that in the work place. For a growing business that I am in, this also involves understanding the dynamics of the business across different geographies and managing that integration.

AMC: Can you describe how legal practice has changed as the market has developed and clients have become more sophisticated?
Legal practice has evolved to become as dynamic as the businesses it advises. Having been a practising lawyer myself and now a client, I can easily say that clients nowadays are more exacting. Legal practice is now required to be more holistic and proactive. It needs to work hand-in-hand with the client. No more can the firm simply say “here is our advice and this is our bill”. Lawyers should equip themselves with other skills aside from the law and not forget to market themselves, as at the end of the day, they are selling a service.

AMC: Can you describe a typical work day?
I start with an hour of brisk walking at 5:30am and am in the office before 9am. Work covers dealing with internal and external stakeholders at any point in time and managing the ongoing projects and daily legal, secretarial and corporate compliance matters. I believe in empowering my team, so teamwork is essential, especially considering the various countries we are present in.

AMC: Please share with us how you approach external counsel.
I believe it is the individual lawyer that counts and not the firm. I also believe that external counsel (however senior you are) need to be approachable and responsive at all times. A business-minded approach to legal issues is also a value add that I look for in external counsel.

Related Articles by Firm
Oil price volatility - global employment issues
Amidst the oil & gas layoffs, the industry has to ensure that it has the manpower skills in place to respond to demand when oil prices recover.
The Singapore approach to scrutiny of arbitral awards
International arbitration must, out of necessity, rely on the courts to uphold and enforce arbitral awards and to support the arbitral process...
The new CIETAC Arbitration Rules 2015
The New Rules adopt both best practices and the latest developments in international commercial arbitration and accommodate the increasing needs of the parties arbitrating at CIETAC.
Related Articles
Hema Latha Sinnakaundan, Sun Life Malaysia
Asian-mena Counsel speaks to the general counsel, chief compliance officer and company secretary of Sun Life Malaysia about her role and the changing nature of the in-house legal function ...
Raymond Goh
With experience at top-tier law firms and a global investment bank, Raymond Goh has a rounded legal background that has helped him to guide Anbang Insurance Group on its strategic and principal investments around ...
Heba Ali
Described by one of her peers as being “everything you would need in a lawyer”, Heba Ali was hired by Lenovo in 2014 to establish the organisation’s legal department for the Middle East and Africa region. A reflection ...
Related Articles by Jurisdiction
Latest Articles
Be VAT ready - Tax Procedures Law is already here
Under the VAT regime, businesses will be collecting taxes on behalf of the government and will file tax returns accordingly ...
New Provisions to support the use of Renewable Energy for Electricity Generation
Despite the primary role that coal and gas continue to play in meeting Indonesia’s electricity needs, the Government of Indonesia (“GoI”) seems to be demonstrating a commitment to promote renewable energies ...
Procedure for Patent Registration in Cambodia
The law on the Patents, Utility Model Certificates and Industrial Designs (Patent Law) of Cambodia was enacted in January 2003. More than a decade later, the patent granting system in Cambodia still faces both technical and human resource challenges...