Sonia Yung attended law school largely on the advice of her father, a teacher who always wanted to be a lawyer and eventually took early retirement in order to go back to school and earn his law degree.
“His view was that law opened a lot of doors and gave you options,” Sonia said. “So, worst-case scenario, you could always just hang out a shingle and be your own boss.”
Now, she helps clients open a lot of doors and hang out shingles as one of the leading Corporate & Securities lawyers in Canada.
Born in Hong Kong, Sonia grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and studied political science at the University of Manitoba. The degree offered slim-pickings, job-wise, so she considered joining the Canadian Foreign Service and wrote the entry exam with her best friend.
“She got in. I didn’t,” Sonia said. “So I took a year off from school and actually worked as a journalist for The Manitoban, which was a lot of fun and taught me writing skills that I still use to this day.”
Law school was starting to feel right, though, and the University of Ottawa awaited. After articling at a firm in Ottawa, a tough job market led her to Toronto where an opportunity popped up at a local firm within their Corporate & Securities group. She jumped on it and quickly grew to enjoy the practice.
“One of the good things about Corporate & Securities is that you are working towards building something,” Sonia said. “I enjoy the people I work with and the relationships I build with clients, especially helping the smaller ones and growing with them.”
Growing with a client from the very beginning means Sonia has worn many hats, from legal adviser to slightly less technical roles.
“For one of our clients I actually acted as a reference for them for the office furniture company when they first opened shop,” she said, laughing. “I helped set them up. At first there were many meetings, gratis, until they got going but they’re doing great now. So you stick with them and grow with them. And in return, not only have they continued to be a fantastic client, they’ve introduced us to a lot of potential clients and opportunities.”
Sonia joined our Toronto office in 2014 as a partner in our Corporate & Securities Practice Group. She focuses on public and private financings and mergers and acquisitions on behalf of Canadian and international companies and securities dealers.
After years of working on projects in the mining and financial services sectors, much of her attention is now focused on the booming healthcare industry and she speaks highly of the platform the Firm offers her practice with its presence at events such as the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, the largest of its kind in the world.
“Baker McKenzie Global Healthcare had events at the conference that we took part in,” she said. “There were other Toronto lawyers there on their own but we were the only Canadian firm at the conference that actually hosted its own branded events, so being here (at Baker McKenzie) gives my practice even more credibility.”
She says the Firm is also ahead of the game in terms of dedicating resources to focus on industries rather than practice groups, such as having FDA and medical device experts in-house for the healthcare sector.
For students and young associates, Sonia shared the three main lessons she’s built her practice on:
First, “You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it a good one.”
Next, “You’re allowed as many first mistakes as you want but second mistakes are a little less tolerated.”
Finally, Sonia says you don’t necessarily need to be a schmoozer to be successful (she certainly isn’t) but you can’t just sit and wait for the phone to ring either.
“One size doesn’t fit all, so focus on finding your own style and then learn to market yourself within that,” she said. “You need to build those personal relationships because you want to make the leap from being a service provider to being a trusted adviser. It’s not an easy leap to make but it can be done.”