In-House Lawyer Profiles
Lawyer's Details
Sharyn Ch’ang



Hong Kong

December 2012



Sharyn is a seasoned lawyer with a career spanning private practice, government, and inhouse counsel roles in Asia. Previously based in Australia, Singapore and now in Hong Kong, Sharyn has a global role with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Prior to this, Sharyn was PwC's first regional counsel in Asia. In 2012, the PwC Asia legal team won the Euromoney Asia Women in Business Law Award for the Best Inhouse team (under 50 lawyers), and was a nominee in the same category for the inaugural awards in 2011. The Awards celebrate the achievements of women leading the field in the legal sector across Asia.
With a keen eye on the commercial outcomes, Sharyn advises management on legal, strategic and risk issues, and has served as lead counsel on a wide range of projects including major cross-border M&A and joint ventures, greenfields business and complex IT transactions, policy development, government relations, corporate governance, risk management and compliance, data privacy, IP and brand protection. Her inhouse clients are located across the globe.
Prior to PwC, Sharyn was a partner with Ernst & Young, and a senior legal advisor to Deloitte in Australia. Earlier career highlights include her appointment as the founding National Director of IP for the Australian Ministerial Council on Education, Training and Youth Affairs – a government role which focused on the strategic management and cost of use of IP across a constituency of 9,600 Australian schools; and as senior IP counsel for IBM, where she had responsibility for IBM’s Australasian IP portfolio, and carriage of some landmark matters including a Federal court case which determined the patentability of computer software related inventions in Australia. Sharyn has also worked with Baker & McKenzie, and Gilbert & Tobin where her clients ranged from major Australian financial institutions, government and university R&D agencies, to local businesses and entrepreneurs. 
While Sharyn has broad corporate experience, in recognition of her particular IP expertise, she was appointed a member of the Australian Government’s Advisory Council on Intellectual Property – a body which advises the Australian Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research on IP matters. She also served for several years as Chair of the Licensing Executives Society (NSW), as a non-executive director of an innovative Australian software business, and on the University of Wollongong Faculty of Law Advisory Board.
Before legal practice, Sharyn worked as the National Training Manager for Australia’s first online legal information business – training lawyers to efficiently maximize their online legal research capabilities, and was an Associate to the Honourable Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG, one of Australia’s most eminent judges and jurists.
What is your sector?
We’re in the professional services sector and provide a wide range of assurance, tax and advisory services. 
How many employees are in your organisation?
PwC is a network of firms, each of which is a separate legal entity, with a presence in 158 countries with close to 169,000 people.
What are your organisation’s main location(s) of lawyers?
There are lawyers in many of the countries where we have a presence. In some countries such as the US, UK, China/Hong Kong, Germany and Australia we have quite sizeable inhouse teams. In other countries we have only a few lawyers, or in some, just one. A great thing is we’re quite well connected – there are occasions to meet on a regional or global basis, and as you’d expect, there is lots of email and phone liaison!
What main area(s) of law do you practice?
I have a varied portfolio which makes for an interesting work day, but my matters would be characterized as complex to entrepreneurial in the sense that sometimes we’ve not tackled such projects before. Greenfields business, and social media immediately come to mind. A few years ago, I led the regional implementation across Asia of our new internal data privacy standards, navigating both the developed and emerging data protection regimes across Asia, and I’ve done other compliance and governance related work. For the cross-border or multiple jurisdiction matters I deal with there can be new law or even cultural business issues to learn and understand. I also lead the legal team that manages our brand globally. Since IP was an early speciality of mine, and for any organization, their brand together with their people, is the most valuable asset, this is a really enjoyable part of my role.
What is one of your biggest challenges as inhouse legal counsel?
One of the biggest challenges, but often times the most rewarding part of practice, is to understand the business and commercial drivers of a deal or arrangement so that we can provide the most efficient and commercially sound legal advice. However when you have a busy day to day practice to start with, and clients with a range of needs and external pressures to get things done quickly, finding the time to really get to know the business can be a challenge. One clear benefit once you become a trusted advisor is your clients turn to you more frequently for legal, and sometimes even broader commercial advice, so you can head off or better still, anticipate certain issues. 
What are the biggest regulatory issues you are facing at the moment?
Given the range of professional services that PwC provides, we need to keep abreast of a variety of regulatory matters. One current multi-jurisdictional regulatory theme arising largely out of the impact of the GFC which directly affects our business, are the country and regional debates around even greater regulation of the audit profession. Issues range from audit policy and quality, to inspections, registrations and oversight. Some countries have already implemented new laws or regulations in this regard. However we need to monitor all changes to laws which affect our business and implement relevant business processes to enable compliance. 
How often do you outsource legal work?
The outsourcing of legal work depends on the nature of the matter and availability and experience of an inhouse attorney to handle the work on a timely basis for our internal clients. In my role, where external counsel are needed to be retained, I usually work with the major international law firms.
Aside from fees, what are the main criteria you consider important when deciding whether to hire a law firm for a particular matter?
Other criteria to consider include the firm’s expertise in the area where we need advice, the way a matter will be resourced e.g. the actual lawyers who will handle the matter, their expertise and prior experience with similar transactions, and their availability and turnaround time.