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NEW IN THE LAW: Yemo Guo, Solicitor, NZX, Wellington

06 October 2016 - By Angharad O'Flynn

"My name is Yemo Guo, I migrated to New Zealand with my family from China when I was a wee boy.  I've lived in Wellington practically my entire life and this is home. I went to Wellington College and completed my Bachelor of Laws at Victoria University of Wellington." 

Yemo was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand in March 2015.

When did you make the decision to study and practise as a lawyer? And was there a particular experience that swayed your decision?

Originally studying toward a Bachelor of Music majoring in Classical Music, Yemo explains "I didn't enjoy the fact that I was turning an enjoyment into work and did not see myself travelling and playing professionally as a musician." 

photo of Yemo Guo 
"I have always had a love for business..." 

On his decision to change to studying law he explains, "One particular moment sticks out in my mind about my decision to go down the path of being a lawyer – community." 

"I recall my fourth year, the comradery that my peers shared in the pressure-filled environment…in particular, I attribute a lot of my enjoyment at Law school to the way that Victoria Law Students' Society really tried to turn a few new pages and better the inclusion of all its students.  This feeling has not faded in my current workplaces, we share our ups and downs."

What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer?

"Engaging with a variety of people… Being a lawyer, you're naturally reactive to the matters that arise but in my role, I have the opportunity to engage earlier and assist with commercial decision making in both regulatory and transactional matters. It's always satisfying to see the results of conversations that I've had with our listed issuers on the market which subsequently helped shaped something in their businesses positively."

What made you lean toward your specialities?

"It's early in my career to say what I do is a 'specialty' but my paper choices at university leaned heavily into business and commerce.

"I have always had a love for business, in particular, entrepreneurship, and the capital markets is an interesting area which draws from so many other parts of the finance industry and business sector." 

You were a publicity officer at Victoria University Law Society during your studies. Did this help your work as a lawyer in anyway?

"I was very lucky and when I came into the role when the VSN bill which was when funding was changing at a legislative level, and clubs were moving away from VUWSA."  (Victoria University of Wellington Students Association)

While working at the Victoria Students' Law Society Yemo played a key role in compiling a handbook for law students at the university: "That was essentially a crash course in everything that happens at [Victoria's] law school in a year."

The guide included everything from what to expect in your second year, social events and all the different groups and recruitment programs compiled into on document; "it taught me that managing relationships and always putting your best foot forward will set you good stead."

Is there anything you wish you learned in law school that wasn't covered?

Yemo explains that Practising Well is something that universities should possibly consider. 

"A good working culture helps develop good mental and physical wellbeing… because at the end of the day when you consider the person as a resource, if a resource stops functioning then, ultimately, at the end of the day everything will stop." 

He considers himself quite lucky as his managers encourage their practitioners to maintain a work/life balance to avoid burnout and stress. 

Can you tell me about anyone who inspires you?

"Probably controversial and will earn me a few leering looks – Kanye West. I can't look at all of his behaviour and stand beside it, but I see his intense work ethic and his ability to believe that he's able to achieve something bigger than himself." 

One of Yemo's hobbies is DJ-ing events when he can. He explains his admiration of Kanye West saying, "His musical prowess is incredible, his understanding and depth of musical knowledge (demonstrated by his sampling and inspirations drawn in his albums) in this day and age is rare."

He light-heartedly admits that he owns a pair of Kanye's coveted Yeezy sneakers, joking "how much they cost me, that will stay an undisclosed amount."

He also admires the tenacity of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. 

"For me, I look at him and he's about people. He always understood you have to engage the person behind the transaction to keep business. It took over 20 years for the company to turn a profit and even though it is a multi-billion-dollar company with global reach, the ability of the company to manage its products and the sales while ensuring customer satisfaction is unheard of anywhere else." 

What are your favourite ways to disengage from the job?

Yemo has played the violin since he was a child. "When I got to the age of 19 or 20 I thought let's see if I can play music in a different way."

"Then there's the sneaker collecting - it's such an interesting hobby of personal expression…" 

An avid hobbyist, in his spare time Yemo also works as a freelance photographer and enjoys working on cars.

Do you have any advice you could give new graduates entering the profession?

While he has a lot of advice for new lawyers entering the profession, Yemo focuses on wellness saying "Look after yourself both physically and mentally, learn to say no." 

"I know it's an instinct when you come out of law school, and you feel under qualified, and that you have to make a good first impression... by just openly engaging the people around you with what you do and don't know, I think will help you go a lot further. Don't pretend that you know something if you don't."

Last updated on the 6th October 2016