Lam was born in Hamilton but moved to Wellington at an early age and then across to Canberra where he attended St Edmund's College. He made the Australian Secondary Schools’ side two years running in 2004 and 2005. He is a cousin of former All Black and Samoan international Pat Lam. Lam's first year in the Australian Schools team was at centre, before he was converted into a loose forward the following year and made the team again as a flanker.
After getting seven starts for Tasman in 2008, Lam returned to the Waikato, to be part of the 2009 Chiefs Wider Training Squad. He also went on to make his first appearance for Waikato again starting in the number 7 position against Southland.
Lam ended up being a standout Hurricane in 2011, starting in every match at openside flanker in every match in his rookie year in Super Rugby. He went on and returned for another full season with Waikato in the 2011 ITM Cup.