Five minutes with…Rothna Ngorn, Bun & Associates
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Five minutes with…Rothna Ngorn, Bun & Associates

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Rothna Ngorn explains why IP lawyers increasingly need well-rounded legal knowledge, and reveals her secret for starting an effective working day

Someone asks you at a party what you do for a living. What do you say?

On a light-hearted note, I might jokingly respond that I'm a guardian of my clients’ intellectual property rights.

But in all seriousness, I work at a full-service law firm in Cambodia, advising both local and foreign clients on all aspects of business law. My main area of expertise is helping businesses effectively manage their IP portfolios, with a particular focus on trademarks and patents.

Talk us through a typical working day.

My day starts with sending my kid to school and enjoying funny conversations about his school activities. Around 8:30 am, I arrive at the office and start my day by checking my emails and to-do list. I prefer to reserve the morning for complex tasks requiring high concentration, such as legal drafting or reviews.

Meetings with clients and team members may happen in the morning or afternoon, depending on the schedule. I have an open-door policy and the team can approach me during the day.

And, I have a secret for starting an effective working day – a large cup of iced latte.

I usually finish around 6:30 pm, return home while listening to some news, and have dinner with my family. I end the day by reading a book to my kid. You may not believe it, but I practice my French while reading.

What are you working on at the moment?

Trademark prosecution cases, including preparing appeal letters and opposition actions. I am also involved in enforcement cases.

Training young lawyers is a key function that I prioritise when there are fewer or no urgent assignments. In short, there are hardly any dull moments.

Does one big piece of work usually take priority or are you juggling multiple things?

As a lawyer would respond, it depends!

If an urgent assignment is on hand or if there is a crunch deadline, the specific task takes priority. However, being a mid-to-senior level manager, juggling multiple tasks is a must-have skill.

What is the most exciting aspect of your role and what is the most stressful?

When I joined the firm years ago, IP law enforcement in Cambodia was at an emerging stage. Growing the IP practice at the firm was one of the stressful aspects of my role. However, with our team’s unique expertise, strong commitment, and professionalism, our practice rapidly grew, and we are now one of the top-tier firms for IP in Cambodia.

The struggle does not end there; I want to keep our practice at the top, and this will be my priority.

Now, let's talk about the most exciting part. My motto is “The harder work you do, the luckier you are”. I feel a sense of fulfilment when I can help clients acquire and monitor IP rights in Cambodia and effectively enforce them.

Tell us the key characteristics that make a successful IP lawyer/practitioner.

A successful IP practitioner brings a unique blend of skills to the table. They understand their clients' concerns and can translate those concerns into legal issues and provide practical solutions.

Building a solid relationship with clients is crucial, so an IP practitioner takes the time to honestly know their clients' businesses, identify opportunities and potential risks, and offer tailored advice to safeguard their interests. Staying up-to-date with industry trends is also essential.

It is important to have a good knowledge of other areas of law as well. When drafting a licensing agreement, an IP lawyer has to take into account other aspects such as contract law and the application of local civil laws.

What is the most common misconception about IP?

There is a misconception that sharing copyrighted works, such as video clips, songs, music, research papers, or photos, on social media and online platforms does not require authorisation from the author as long as you give credit by mentioning their name.

Another misconception is that importing and selling brand name products without obtaining authorisation from the trademark owner is permissible as long as tax and customs duties are complied with.

What or who inspires you?

My parents are my greatest inspiration in life and my career. They strongly believe in the power of education and have always made incredible efforts to ensure their children receive a quality education.

It is through their unwavering belief in education and their sacrifices that my siblings and I have been given the precious opportunity to pursue higher education, fulfill our dreams, and live better lives.

I am truly grateful for their sacrifices, as without them, I would not be where I am today. I wouldn't have had the chance to study at a renowned law school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, or receive scholarships to pursue my master's and Ph.D. degrees in France.

If you weren’t in IP, what would you be doing?

I would have pursued a career as a lecturer or academic researcher. During my academic life, I was known for my passion for research and even enjoyed lecturing my friends on various topics.

Any advice you would give your younger self?

Believing in oneself and maximising capabilities is essential for personal and professional growth. It is crucial to have confidence in your abilities and talents, as this self-belief will drive you towards success.

Embracing change is a necessary step in the journey. Rather than being afraid of change, view it as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Dare to challenge yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring new opportunities.

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