Lai-King Hum, principal and senior lawyer at the Hum Law Firm, reveals the highlights of her career
Lai-King Hum, principal and senior lawyer at the Hum Law Firm, spoke with Sarah Dobson, managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, to discuss her success as an employment lawyer, highlights of her career such as being a deputy judge, and the importance of giving the right advice to clients
Sarah: Hi there. I'm Sarah Dobson, managing editor of Canadian HR. Reporter And today I'm speaking with Lai-King Hum, principal and founder at Hum Law Firm in Toronto. Lai has been recognized as a 2023 five star employment lawyer, and we're delighted to speak with her today about her accomplishments. So welcome.
Lai: Thank you, Sarah. It's a delight to be here. Perfect.
Sarah: Well, thank you for doing this. And we'll jump right in. Just to the first question, can you tell us a bit about what you know to what you attribute your success as an employment lawyer?
Lai: Well, it's wonderful of you to call me as a successful employment lawyer, But, you know, I tell clients that you can find almost any lawyer who knows the law and be able to tell you what the law is. I think what distinguishes a successful lawyer from is not that they only know the law, but they know how to provide the right advice to the particular client. And, you know, every client is unique and different. So it's being able to provide advice to the particular client within the parameters of the law. So you need to know not only the law, but you need to know the client. So my focus has always been on resolving issues or concerns through seeking the best outcomes for for my clients, whether it's by way of negotiation or in litigation. And this is what I find clients appreciate and what I believe has led to my success as an employment lawyer. So I believe that I've become a trusted advisor to my clients and that to me is my measure of success as an employment lawyer. So clients who are happy with my work and refer others to me have built the base for my firm. But I've also built relationships with other lawyers who become referring lawyers. You know, there's a network of of lawyers who refer their clients to me because they know I'll take care of their clients. So to me, success as an employment lawyer has meant building these relationships, ensuring that my reputation and and credibility is maintained. And really, I think it boils down to just really caring about your clients.
Sarah: So definitely relationships are important. That's a great point. Well, you've certainly been in the business a long time. Can you talk a bit about, you know, some of the highlights of your career and your firm so far?
Lai: Yes. I have been in practice for a long time, and it seems like only yesterday that I started off as a lawyer. But it has been about 20 years now. There have been many highlights over the course of my career. But, you know, really starting my own firm, it's been just 9 years. It's coming up to nine years. So April 1st, April Fool's Day will be nine years that I've opened my own firm and I'm quite proud of that achievement. I have, over the course of those years, built a multi-layered practice. Um, it, you know, it's a successful boutique firm and we have language capabilities in French as well as Cantonese and Mandarin. I am also called to the bar in Quebec so we can handle employment law cases across Canada. And I've got a number of employer clients with offices in Quebec as well as across Canada. In addition, you know, I mentioned that it's a multi-layered practice. Another thing that I consider a highlight of my career is that I've been appointed as a deputy judge sitting in Toronto. Small claims court. Um, I don't preside over obviously cases where I'm involved in as a lawyer. Um, but I find that my work as a deputy judge provides me with an additional perspective on employment law cases in addition to that. So getting back to the multi-layered nature of my practice. I run a successful firm. I work as a part time deputy judge, and I'm also one of the discrimination and harassment counsel in the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel program at the Law Society of Ontario. We handle complaints about harassment or discrimination by lawyers or paralegals against any member of the public. So those are some of the highlights. But I think the most important part is the, you know, starting my own firm and built making it into a successful firm with happy clients.
Sarah: Yeah, for sure. Well, congrats on the the nine year anniversary coming up. And very interesting though, also on the deputy judge you must great to get that different perspective on things. Yeah well and speaking of which, I mean, can you talk a bit about a notable case that your firm has has handled recently?
Lai: You know, Sarah, rather than talking about a particular case, what comes first to mind is work that I have recently done on a high profile but confidential workplace investigation involving senior employees and issues of racial and sexual harassment and discrimination. These are always difficult and it's always important to gain the trust of those participating in the investigation, whether as a complainant or a respondent or as a witness. In addition to the usual cautions about the confidentiality of the process, I tell those involved that I have no agenda, that my role is to investigate, make factual findings and draw conclusions from those findings and where called upon, provide a legal recommendation to the employer about the outcome of the investigation. What this most recent investigation highlighted for me is that gaining the trust of those participating is important, but it also comes to me naturally as I come to investigation work after having been on all other sides of the workplace investigation. I have represented complainants, those making the complaints respondents, those accused of having done something wrong as well as acted for employers involved in the investigations. Having been on the various other sides of investigation. I believe lends weight and credibility to my role as an investigator, and it's important as an investigator to have that trust. I gained the trust of of those participating in the workplace investigation because I have acted in the past for complainants of racial and sexual harassment, but I've also acted for respondents in similar situations. So going back to this recent investigation, in fact, I had one witness who was concerned about a woke agenda. Ask pointedly, Do you have an agenda? And I could honestly say no, that I have seen it all from all different perspectives. And in the end. Allegations of harassment or discrimination must still be substantiated by the facts.
Sarah: Yeah, that's really interesting what, what you've been doing in that in that sphere. Well, I guess finally, can you talk a bit about why you think employment law has become so important to HR professionals?
Lai: I actually don't think that it has become so important. I think it's always been important, but perhaps it's been more it has seemed to become more important over the last three years because of the almost lightning fast changes that have happened in employment law over the last three years during COVID. I've been sending out so many employer alerts or employer updates to my clients because, you know, every month or so well, maybe not every month, but quite fast, there were changes to the law or updated cases where I felt my clients needed to receive an update. So employment, HR professionals, you know, their work may be mainly about maintaining employee relations, but unless the HR person has a really good working knowledge of employment law, things can go awry. You know, one of the things that I do is provide support to HR professionals. They may be the general HR director in within a company. And even for those who have a really good understanding of employment law, they will need from time to time support on particular issues that may arise. So the answer is not that it has become so important, but it's always been important to an HR professional.
Sarah: That's a great point for sure. Well, thank you again for speaking with us. Sounds like you're doing some very rewarding work at a successful firm, which explains your five star recognition as an employment lawyer.
Lai: Thank you, Sarah. It's been a pleasure speaking with you.
Sarah: Likewise. And for more great content. Tune in to hrreporter.com.