This story was originally published in XXIV magazine 2018

Since retiring from a demanding career in law, Michael Liu, author of In Pursuit of Fine Jades: Ming Court Belt Plaques, has remained active. Apart from collecting and writing about fine and rare jade, he is pursuing his interest in bird and wildlife photography and honing his badminton skills. These activities keep the lawyer-turned-author on track.

“Before retirement, my priority was always work and business,” Liu says as we take in Central’s skyscrapers from On Dining Kitchen & Lounge’s outdoor terrace in On Lan Street. “However, if you have lived the life of a corporate lawyer in a major financial centre for over 30 years, you definitely need outside interests to keep your balance and a sharp focus.

If you have lived the life of a corporate lawyer in a major financial centre for over 30 years, you definitely need outside interests to keep your balance and a sharp focus

“Happily for Hong Kong, everything has a business angle to it, be it golfing, music, sports or the arts. In many ways, the friends and contacts you make outside your direct sphere of work can sometimes be even more valuable in the business context.”

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Liu has been keen on photography from a young age. “When autofocus technology was introduced in the late eighties, I began to focus on wildlife photography, but this came to almost a complete halt when our children arrived, and for a good 15 years or so photography meant only taking photos of them in their activities, often ‘begging’ for their cooperation.”

A safari in Tanzania a few years ago rekindled Liu’s interest and since his retirement he has spent a lot of time learning how to make full use of the advanced features of digital cameras.

“Without retiring, I really do not think I could afford the time to travel to exotic places to pursue wildlife photography, or attempt to master the latest technology in order to take pictures, which would have been incredibly difficult to take not so long ago,” he adds.

Liu misses practising law, if only for the intellectual challenge it provides. Managing expectations from the get-go was part of his strategy.

“When a task might take longer than people expect, or will exceed a deadline, I always try to manage expectations quickly.

“When I was building my career, or a new practice, I did not sleep that much as there was always something to attend to, or some issues which piqued my interest. I guess I was lucky in that I truly did enjoy the intellectual aspects of practising law.”

Michael Liu’s preferred timepieces

“I guess buying my first Patek Philippe was like coming of age in watch collecting.”

“My first important watch was a gold Rolex given to me by my father as my 21st birthday present. It had a gold chain and was very heavy for my taste at the time. I did not appreciate its significance until years later. Now, it is my most precious watch for sentimental reasons. It was my father’s daily watch for a number of years.”

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