[Special Issue] #10QuestionswithMaxwell Interview Series: Katherine Yap, Maxwell Chambers
This interview is released in conjunction with Singapore Convention Week 2021.
Our fourth #10QuestionsWithMaxwell feature for #SCWeek2021 special issue is Maxwell Chambers Chief Executive, Katherine Yap. Katherine joined Maxwell Chambers as the head of communications & customer relations and is part of the pioneering team that established Maxwell Chambers as the world’s first integrated Alternative Dispute Resolution complex in 2009. She also oversaw the expansion of Maxwell Chambers to Maxwell Chambers Suites in 2019, strengthening Singapore’s status as an ADR hub.
Katherine further adds to her comprehensive portfolio in the ADR landscape through her certification as an Associate/ Family Mediator by the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) and an Appointed Mediator for both the Community Mediation Centre (CMC) and the Singapore International Mediation Institution (SIMI).
In this interview, Katherine shared with us how her journey in mediation started, her mediation style, upcoming new developments for Maxwell Chambers and more.
Read her full interview below:
Q: How did your journey in mediation start?
A: It was about 8 years ago. I wanted to explore ways to better relate and understand our clients better in the area of dispute resolution as I was not legally trained. An ex-colleague of mine then suggested that I should try Mediation. I was totally drawn to it because of two reasons – first, the mode of dispute resolution was collaborative rather than adversarial and second, substantive mediation skills were said to holistically change one’s life.
Since then, it has been an exciting journey as I received my certification as an Associate Mediator at the SMC, and am also an Appointed Mediator for CMC and SIMI. Mediation has taught and equipped me with skills to improve as an individual, and I’ve applied them both at work and personal life.
Q: What is your mediation style?
A: I would say my mediation style emphasises transformative mediation, where the focus is to empower the parties to resolve their conflict and encourage them to recognise each other’s needs and interests. Having a sense of empathy plays a vital role as well. In addition, it is also about being facilitative and having the patience to understand both parties’ underlying interests and to push the parties towards a mutually beneficial and amicable outcome.
I encourage parties to freely communicate their innermost thoughts and to unify their interests where possible. Most of the mediations that I’ve come across have many deep-rooted underlying interests. To identify the key problems in the argument and resolve the dispute, it is important to look at both parties on neutral ground and encourage disputants to reach their own voluntary solution by exploring each other’s deeper interests. We should understand that mediation is also an avenue for parties to air their grievances. So as mediators, we should always be patient, empathetic and impartial.
Q: Share some advice to the young individuals who are looking to get into the field of mediation.
A: Always be patient and listen, adopt the skill of active listening; empathise with the parties and understand their issues, what they are looking for in the mediation outcome and communicate by reframing what the parties have said more constructively.
At the same time, be focused and do not lose sight of the final settlement where the interest of the parties has set out to accomplish. It is also important to have the parties be at ease with each other and with the mediators, so as to ultimately get them to a win-win resolution.
Q: What is one type of dispute you would like to have the opportunity to mediate that you haven’t had so far? – Mediator to Mediator (Question from Ban Jiun Ean)
A: If I have the chance, I would like to mediate marital disputes. Children often suffer the most in divorce cases. Hence, I hope to be able to hold a successful mediation where I can help both parties find common ground and possibly even salvage their marriage.
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Q: What is one major development you are anticipating in the new ADR space?
A: The imminent new ADR space development is all about embracing and adapting to the innovative technology arena. We can safely say that the success of virtual and hybrid hearings has permanently changed the way that hearings will proceed.
A technological platform where our clients can connect globally, allowing a seamless and smooth ADR experience. I believe it’s the way of the future as international ADR practitioners are getting comfortable with both virtual and hybrid platforms.
Q: Upcoming developments at Maxwell Chambers to look forward to?
A: There are a couple of exciting developments underway. Our clients can look forward to enhanced and improved ADR hearings rooms with an array of new facilities, services and offerings. We have also added cutting-edge video-conferencing equipment to provide clients with a better audio-visual experience. On top of that, we are currently undergoing a digital transformation journey to provide a seamless full suite experience for the clients. Through the integration of both physical infrastructure and digital equipment and expertise, clients remain able to conduct seamlessly connected hearings without sacrificing efficiency and productivity.
There will also be a new initiative in collaboration with academics and local universities where Maxwell Chambers will bring in local law students for a mentorship program, for the students to acquire more knowledge about how the ADR arena functions.
We look forward to sharing more information in due time.
Q: Who was (or were) your biggest inspiration(s)?
A: Mr Lee Kuan Yew, a true legend of history. His love and contributions for the country, his vision for Singapore’s economic growth and development, his no-nonsense and pragmatic approach who was unapologetic for fighting in what he believed was essential for the country’s security. A wise and visionary leader whose uncompromising stand for efficiency and meritocracy transformed Singapore into one of the most prosperous country in the world.
Q: In reaching the level of success you have, if anything – what have you sacrificed along the way? Would you have done anything differently?
A: Looking back, my greatest sacrifice and regret is having missed the growing process of my two kids. However, God has been very merciful and both of them have grown up great, filial and “clingy”, guess I am a very blessed and lucky mother.
I started my family at a very young age, raising two kids. Being young and ambitious, my focus was building a solid financial foundation for the family and climbing that corporate ladder in the shortest time. I was literally a workaholic, pouring in more than 14-16 hours daily, 7 days a week, and ploughing through the night.
If I could turn back time, I would have preferred to prioritise my time better by having a job that has a better work-family-life balance. If there were work-from-home arrangements back then, it would have been great.
Q: You’ve been a leader for over a decade. Sometimes it might get boring or you might feel burnout. What keeps your fires burning? What keeps you going? What makes you wake up every day and continue doing it? – Mediator to Mediator (Question from Prof Joel Lee)
A: Yes, sometimes I do get burnout from work, especially when COVID-19 first started but surprisingly I usually pick myself up quite instantaneously, leaving very little or no time for me to lament. I wouldn’t say travelling or taking a dip in the swimming pool will help me overcome my burnout. Instead, I like to do very monotonous things like cooking, ironing and doing house chores. Performing repetitive, monotonous tasks somehow ignites the creativity in me and allows me to simultaneously navigate that labyrinth of ideas to formulate a clear plan of what to do next.
If you ask me if I ever get bored with my work, the short answer is never. It’s probably the sense of belonging, responsibility and the need to have the organisation grow to its full potential. It is always heartening to see the growth and development of both the business and staff at different levels. I find fulfilment whenever I see fellow colleagues growing from strength to strength with new/ improved skills. Also, there are always new developments in the ADR space, and Maxwell Chambers, as a key player in the ecosystem, is constantly looking out for innovative, savvy technology and exploring new ideas to improve our facilities and services.
Q: Lastly, share with us 3 fun facts not many know about you.
A: I love dogs. I had a golden retriever who was with me for 12 years before she passed on recently. I would love to have another one but the pain of losing them is just too much for me to bear, so till my heart is ready to accept another one.
Katherine with her beloved dog of 12 years, Nala
Golfing used to be my favourite sport, so now I’m trying to get back to my swings when time permits. In the meantime, I go for leisure walks on weekends.
I’m usually cooking or baking when I’m at home, especially so during this pandemic. These activities help me relieve stress, rethink of strategies and also bond with my children – both of them enjoy cooking and baking as much as I do, so I’m truly blessed.