I’m really proud to be selected as one of Prestige Malaysia‘s “40 under 40” for 2015. The 2015 edition features a very distinguished and accomplished list of individuals.
What a great way to end an exciting year, and what has been a busy but fun ride since taking the leap to start a small law firm in 2013. I hope all of you who’ve been a part of this journey can look back and celebrate with me.
Of course, 2016 will be even more amazing —you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
Here’s the magazine feature reproduced in full:
PRESTIGE 40 UNDER 40
Not just a number
Last year, Prestige celebrated its tenth year of its 40 under 40 special. Having reached a milestone, we begin afresh presenting a range of individuals determined to make their mark in the world. In today’s fast-paced digital world, it has been very much the case that fortune favours the young. Perhaps it is because those untainted by the ways of the world have the gumption to pursue that which they love. It is this spirit that we celebrate in Prestige’s 40 under 40. This year, technopreneurs appear to take centrestage, in line with global trends. As we enter our 11th year, we also revisit a few individuals who made the list previously but who have since gone on to create bigger and better things.
MARCUS VAN GEYZEL, 34
Corporate lawyer and Co-founder of Peter Ling & van Geyzel
The accidental lawyer has defied the traditional structure of law firms by striking out on his own and opted to establish his own boutique corporate law firm in 2013 in a bid to gain freedom and flexibility. With over ten years of experience in corporate and commercial matters, Marcus van Geyzel also runs LoyarBurok, a leading socio-political blawg in Malaysia. Writing remains a passion for him as he has written for various online and print media, and is also a recommended speaker and trainer.
What inspired you to venture out and start up your own law firm?
I had worked 10 years in a couple of big law firms, and was already a partner, so I knew what the culture and typical career progression was like. There wasn’t enough flexibility for individuals to be themselves, and being in that culture usually means committing yourself to routinely spending long hours in the office, with not enough time to spend with family, friends, and other things that matter. The legal workplace culture can be very traditional and rigid.
I also wanted to pursue my other passions, such as reading and writing, and my human rights work running LoyarBurok.com. Being my own boss gives me control over how I want to spend my life.
What is your vision for the firm’s future?
I hope to build a firm which not only provides top-class legal advice, but also is a place for employees to grow and thrive professionally and personally. We encourage our lawyers to be active in human rights work and other activities which contribute to society in some way — either through LoyarBurok or the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights, both of which I am very active in, or in whatever avenue they prefer.
What philosophy do you embody in your work?
I’ve found what clients value most in a lawyer is someone who provides practical advice. It’s not just good enough to know the law; a good lawyer must also know how to apply the law to the client’s business and transactions, and to help clients achieve their goals.
It’s also very important to me that work isn’t all-consuming. We should fight back against the toxic culture which suggests that working long-hours is an accepted norm. There’s nothing wrong with working hard, but we must find time to do things which matter and which have a deeper meaning. To me, someone who’s constantly stressed and busy isn’t diligent — he just has poor time management skills. Lawyers have the skills and opportunity to give back to society, and I think it’s a shame when a lawyer isn’t interested in human rights work or social activism.
What do you want to achieve before you turn 40?
I don’t see 40 as a significant milestone. I’d like to think that I’m learning and growing all the time. I hope that every day is a testimony of me not only moving closer to my short, medium, and long-term goals, but also a culmination of my existing goals evolving, and new goals popping up.
What advice will you offer to lawyers who want to start up their own firm?
Be prepared to hustle, to really work hard and smart. Running your own business means you no longer have the luxury of a fixed monthly salary, and you also have to pay the rent and your employees’ salaries. Also remain humble, and ask for help if you need it. I’ve been very fortunate to have had assistance from my partners, fellow lawyers, and clients. Take risks, learn from your mistakes, and enjoy the ride.