The Tunbridge Wells-based law firm, CooperBurnett LLP, is delighted to announce that Natalie Lai, who joined its Corporate and Commercial team earlier this year, has successfully passed her SQE examination and is now qualified as a solicitor in England & Wales, in addition to her existing qualification in Hong Kong. 

“My Hong Kong qualification enables me to pursue legal roles in the UK, as the legal systems in both jurisdictions are highly similar,” says Natalie. “However, I am dedicated to staying and working here, so it made sense to become locally qualified.   I’m pleased that all the paperwork has gone through now.”

Adds Victoria Sampson, Partner and Head of the Corporate and Commercial team: “Here at CooperBurnett, we are seeing members of the team qualify by following a few different routes and we are really happy that Natalie has successfully passed her SQE. She has been a really positive addition to our firm and we are celebrating her success with TeamCB.”

Before embarking on her legal career, Natalie trained as a tax assessor and spent over seven years working for the Hong Kong tax authority. She holds non-practising memberships in CPA (HK), ACCA (UK) and ACA (UK). 

“It has always been my dream to become a lawyer,” Natalie explains, adding that her background in accountancy and taxation proves valuable when assisting clients. “I am familiar with examining accounts and can readily identify discrepancies.”

Natalie studied part-time to qualify as a solicitor, while working in Hong Kong, and then spent five years in the legal industry there, focusing on corporate and commercial law. 

She brought with her experience in corporate and commercial law, focusing on private M&A, corporate restructuring, general commercial practice (such as advising on commercial agreements and business transactions), company administration and governance, shareholders’ agreements and T&Cs. 

“In many aspects, the transactions there were quite similar to those I handle now in the UK; both involve a substantial emphasis on property,” says Natalie. 

Upon deciding to move to Leeds in August 2022 to work for a national law firm, Natalie found herself drawn to CooperBurnett. She recounts her initial impressions: “I felt truly inspired when I first spoke to Victoria. Her positive and supportive attitude gave me the confidence to embrace the new challenges at CooperBurnett. The rest of the team has been welcoming and equally supportive. Carla [Loveday], with whom I share the office, is my work buddy and everyone else is exceptionally friendly. I am so glad that I decided to join CooperBurnett, it’s exactly the type of firm that offers me extensive opportunities to engage in a wide range of work, which I aspired to work in.”

In terms of her work, she says: “I find it fascinating to assist businesses with transactions that can have a significant impact on their future. I also enjoy the challenge and excitement of analysing complex legal issues and finding practical solutions for our clients. It’s rewarding to help clients achieve their goals and grow in a competitive market.”

Now that she is qualified, Natalie says she’s planning to pursue additional qualifications to enhance her role. “Lawyers are always learning,” she adds. 

When she’s not at work, Natalie has been exploring the local area. 

“Tunbridge Wells is a charming town, and everyone is so friendly – people will stop and chat, which is lovely,” she says. “I’m planning a trip to discover Canterbury soon and then France is on my wish list for a trip at Christmas. I find it exciting to immerse myself in new environments and experience new things. Travelling broadens our horizons and provides us with new perspectives on life, which can be beneficial both personally and professionally.”