Frank Hutapea: Partner at Hotman Paris & Partners

Frank Hutapea Magani
Magani unites tradition with the new; reimagining the traditional batik shirt for the needs of our contemporary society. We combine Indonesia’s rich cultural heritage with the latest innovation in performance wear material to build the ultimate durable and comfortable shirt for the modern Indonesian man who is constantly on the move.

As we celebrate Indonesia’s heritage, we also celebrate the individuals who are unintimidated by the sweat and hard work required to defy challenges, push boundaries, and move Indonesia forward.

Meet the #MaganiMen who have inspired us that with grit and endurance, there are no limits to what you can achieve. #NOSWEATNOLIMIT

#MaganiMen: Meet Frank Hutapea, Partner at Hotman Paris & Partners. Learn how Frank creates his opportunities and hones his skills and experiences to excel as a lawyer.

What is the biggest challenge you faced in your career thus far? 

People always think that it is easy being the 2nd generation to a family business. In my perspective, this only applies to 2nd generation children who are born in an industry/business-related field. As a 2nd generation in a law/service-oriented environment, my biggest challenge is not only to maintain but also to exceed the quality and standard of service excellence. For example, if you go to your long-time dentist and find out he/she is not available, but their son is, you would think twice about accepting his service. But if you’re in the manufacturing industry, people wouldn't care if you are the 1st or 2nd generation running it as long as the quality of the final product is the same and the business is running smoothly. 

The biggest challenge in my life is to be able to be recognized as “Frank Hutapea” and not be under the shadow and expectations of my last name. I’m held to extremely high standards since people will expect me to be either the same, or even better than my father. Career-wise, I have to catch up to what my father has achieved during his lifetime. I have to work, read, and network twice as hard as people my age. 

What would you do differently if you could start your career all over again? 

It's not that I would do anything differently, actually it’s more of what I would have done more.  If I could turn back time, I would spend more time reading, golfing, and working out. At this point I don’t think I have done enough.

Frank Hutapea Magani

What's your ultimate career goal?

It is to have my own law firm. In the service industry you are not established unless you run your own shop. I have to find something that is uniquely me that portrays a strong brand and value proposition. In Indonesia there are at least 10,000 new lawyers every year, from different backgrounds and different cities. Though competition is good and forces you to specialize, it makes it even harder for you to stand out. 

This is what is often wrongly perceived; some people think standing out is in terms of being socially famous or viral (stuff that is not relevant to the legal field), instead of standing out as being a great closer and other specialized skill sets pertaining to being a great lawyer. 

Ultimately, I already know what I have been specializing in, only need to find a style that suits me in a more profound way. 

Frank Hutapea Magani

How has being a lawyer impacted your life?

My work is in commercial litigation and without realizing it really affects how I think on a daily basis. I start to approach everything from a litigation manner and choose logic/reason over empathy. Sometimes this affects my relationship with people. 

Some people say that “You’re a batak guy who is tough and outspoken -- you’re born to be a lawyer”. That’s not true. I have become tough and outspoken by being a lawyer and my job conditions me to be so. Being a lawyer is all about learning on the job and honing your skills and learning from your experiences.  

Also, I have to practice self-control all the time. It constantly amazes me how much people can lie when debating with you. My time in court really taught me so much self control: maintaining proper etiquette and politeness even though your counterpart is lying through their teeth. 

Having self-control is also put to the test since I’m working in Indonesia, where culturally you must respect your elders. Sometimes you get confronted with elders with lots of law degrees, but in fact they may not have had the on-the-field experience that you do. Laymen may think that older people with many degrees are right in their interpretation of the law, but this may not necessarily be true. 

This is different in Western cultures where equality and meritocracy are valued. A lot of foreign educated lawyers come back to Indonesia and get culture shocked. At the end of the day, as a lawyer you have to be smart and have almost a godly-level of self-control. 

Frank Hutapea Magani

What legacy do you hope to leave in the Indonesian legal field?

It’s not about legacy, but it’s more of whether I can promote all stakeholders to be aware and willing to change. In the current environment, I do think there is a lack of awareness and willingness to change.  Indonesia’s legal system has its own flaws and requires systematic changes. There are systematic changes that need to be made on regulation, enforcement and so on -- the legal system is a wide spectrum and I am only on the defense side. There needs to be cooperation from all stakeholders in the business and legal industries to affect positive change.  

Recently there have been some positive changes and legal awareness is much higher. In the current media, there is always something being said about the law. More and more people, especially millennials, are driven to read about and understand regulations themselves. Looking back 5 years ago, the majority of people would rather ask other people than bother reading it themselves. However, of course there is a double edged sword to the virality of the media nowadays. I want to remind people to be mindful of what they see in the media and make sure that the information they read is true, valid and credible. 

Many young people are entering the legal industry because they believe they can change the country. It is good that they have strong beliefs and want to inspire awareness for others to do the same, but it’s also important to be realistic and remember that it takes more than just one person to make a change. You must build awareness so that all stakeholders can work together collectively to actually change the country. 

Frank Hutapea Magani

Tell us some fun facts about the legal industry that outsiders wouldn't know.

People know a lot more about the legal industry from TV shows like Suits. People may think that being a lawyer is a glamorous job. In reality, lawyers have to sacrifice time, health, and family time because of the intense work schedule. For instance, you might spend 5 hours just waiting to attend a 15-30 minute hearing. There is also a ton of reading and prep work required. You need to prepare by reading past cases and legal precedents. Being a lawyer is not just about getting a degree, but it is all about what you can pull from your experience.

Also, like in every business, the law of supply and demand applies in the Indonesian legal industry. The supply of lawyers increases every year, but the demand is constant. Primarily, the large businesses are in Jakarta and therefore to be a successful lawyer you have to be in Jakarta. Same goes like in London or New York, where the countries’ businesses are concentrated. With limited demand and the current oversupply of lawyers in the market, you have to work twice as hard to get and retain clients compared to 20 years ago.

Again, you have to sacrifice a lot by being a lawyer and you may not get the return that you expected. A lot of my friends in the same batch have left the law firms. In the previous firm I worked at, there were 20 people in my batch. 18 of them have moved on to banks, in-house corporate counsels, or even changed their profession. More and more people are giving up being a lawyer. There are many difficulties in being a lawyer and just like in any industry, survival of the fittest also applies. 

Frank Hutapea Magani

How do you balance passion and business?

I balance it by trying to do it at the same time: making my passion my business, and my business my passion. As a lawyer, you are required to do more than required. It is more than just a nine-to-five gig. The extra mile needed to excel happens to be things I like and has become my lifestyle. I have to be able to play golf well, to drink, and to socialize at any time of the day. Luckily I enjoy doing those three things, but to be able to do these things also take work. I have to be patient, practice self-control, and be able to mix well with the older generation.

It’s common knowledge that there are only 2 ways to network in this profession: through sports or partying. Of course some may be considered taboo by the older generation but in order to survive in this industry you have to be able to adapt to the modern culture as our country becomes more open and accepting.  

Frank Hutapea Magani

What do you think is your biggest achievement thus far as a lawyer?

Some lawyers like to highlight their career achievements but sometimes the real achievement stands in how they are accepted by the people around them. For myself, I don’t think my achievement is how many legal cases won, but rather my personal achievement being accepted by the circle of successful business people who are way above my age and experience. 

Successful people are surrounded by successful people everyday. They are financially capable of hiring 10-20 good lawyers easily. They won’t be nice to me just because I’m my father’s son. So being socially accepted as their friend and as their equal is a personal achievement. 

As a lawyer you cannot grow just by hanging out with lawyers since they are your competition, you do not want to be friends with your competition. You need to know your customers, and if you do not blend in with your customer you don’t know what they need. It's a service industry, you need to know what your customer wants. You don’t look for opportunities; you create your opportunities.

Frank Hutapea Magani

What about Magani resonated with you?

Even though there are so many people already doing batik, Magani dares to be different with designs, material, concept. Just like in the legal industry, even people who are not lawyers are starting law-related startups and endeavours. I wanted to get acquainted with Magani because Magani isn’t afraid to push for change for the better. 

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