She parlayed her Canadian legal background into a thriving career in Asia, and what Caroline Berube gets through in a day leaves us breathless.
AS TOLD TO Jasmine Miller PHOTOGRAPGHY CJ Sameer WadwhaCaroline Berube, Managing Partner, HJM Asia Co.
We couldn’t miss the growth and power of Eastern markets back at the turn of the century. But Quebec-educated Caroline Berube capitalized on that opportunity with a boutique law firm. She knew international businesses would be looking to set up shop overseas, or expand their presence on Asian shores, and they would need counsel there.With 14 employees and offices in China and Singapore, HJM Asia Law and Co. helps businesses incorporate, draft shareholder agreements, set up wholly owned foreign enterprises and a roster of other services needed to get intercontinental work done.
Singapore is now home to Caroline, her husband, three kids and Godiva (the family’s chocolate Labrador Retriever), but this lawyer criss-crosses the globe for clients in South America, Europe, Australia and points in between. So what’s it like being Caroline? Here’s just a taste…
6AM “I run between six km and eight km every morning, and do 15 minutes of stretching after. If I don’t, I’m grumpy all day. It gives me a chance to organize my thoughts and come up with client solutions. I run alone or with the youngest in the sport stroller – each kid has had their turn since they were three-months-old. I run about four to six half marathons a yearl we raise money to our foundations through our runs, so there will be more in 2015.”
9 AM “We moved from an office tower three years ago to this great stretch of ‘shop houses,’ typical Chinese houses with an interior garden, and our clients love it. It is also easy to park (right by the road), so I don’t waste time with that or waiting for the elevator. Time is of the essence for every lawyer – we don’t want to lose billable hours!
I’m an early bird and always have been. I wake up around 5 am, check email or have conference calls with North American clients, go for a run, handle the kids, get ready for the office/meetings… If I am travelling, I skype the kids, run a bit longer, and work, work, work! My day usually finishes around midnight. After having a business dinner and spending time with the kids, I handle emails and conference calls (that’s when North American and European clients are in). I’m lucky I don’t need a lot of sleep!”
12PM “I feel everywhere in my office – because of the locations of our clients, I have conference calls at any time of day. I could be home in my PJs, at the gym, or with the kids… I could be at the airport, in a hotel room…[or at this coffee shop near her office].
There was no doubt i would be a corporate lawyer, ever. I chose law over business school because I thought it could lead to a diversified career, from being a lawyer in private practice or acting as general counsel, to running a business or being in the corporate world, being a journalist, or going into politics. Being a lawyer would give me options – and I love and need options! I also thought becoming a lawyer would train me to be rigorous, challenge my mind, allow me to meet interesting people and travel.
I knew I would have no life. Being a lawyer is not a 9-to-5 job!”
3PM “My work involves dealing with CEOs, CFOs and COOs in different sectors based all over the world. They grow their business in eastern markets and intend to reduce running costs of their home base. Our clients are mostly overseas, but some have headquarters in Singapore. We meet regularly, and today we’ll discuss their trademarks in India, Cyprus, Singapore and China.”
8PM “I travel about 140 days every year. In one week, I can be in Singapore, Shanghai, Paris and Milan. Though my life doesn’t seem very stable, I create my own stability by staying at the same hotel in the same city, going to the same spots for breakfast and shopping, and running in the same parks. My kids are used to it too: they prefer to see a happy, working, travelling mommy. They know I am passionate about them and my work. We have a very strict schedule, which we all follow, and I prepare one before each trip, even if I’ll only be gone for 24 hours.”
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