Fireside Chat with May Cheng
July 1, 2022
Ok, I will admit I was a bit star-struck when I had a brief encounter with the following Fireside Chat guest at a workshop in 2019. Because she is… drumroll please… May Cheng! If you are in the IP community, you will understand my excitement about having May here today. May is not only a leading and widely recognized IP lawyer in Canadian and worldwide rankings, she is also well known for her significant contributions in advocating for women and diversity in the legal profession.
I had the pleasure of getting to know May a little more through this initiative and May had been so responsive and personable. It is an absolute honor to have May here to share, inspire, and support our readers. I hope you will enjoy this authentic chat filled with nuggets of wisdom!
Without further ado, let's get started...
P.S. Don't forget to check out May's biography below for some bonus info about her!
Part 1 - Introduction
Hi, my name is... May Cheng.
Year of call to the Bar: 1993.
Type of practice, your role, and where: Private practice, currently a partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in the Intellectual Property Group.
How many children do you have? 2 children, a 19 year old daughter and 15 year old son.
What do you do for self-care or stress relief? Yoga.
Part 2 - The first “Dual 10” Challenge: within the first 10 years post-call
Equilawbrium: Did you have a master plan for your career path? What was the driving force behind your career decisions? What are the important things to consider as you are figuring out your career path?
May: I didn’t have a master plan, I was just motivated to work hard and make a good impression. I followed advice and was receptive to cues about what work I had an aptitude for. I think it’s important to be constantly evaluating whether you are good at your job, whether you enjoy the work, and whether you are getting positive feedback. Sometimes when you’re not following the right path it feels like you’re swimming upstream and it’s exhausting. I think you need to follow your heart a little and also be attuned to listening to your own intuition. I followed key mentors into practice areas because I enjoyed working with them and was learning so much. That paid off.
Equilawbrium: Please list one soft skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
May: Being a good listener. You can hone this skill by asking open questions and being comfortable with not being the center of attention.
Equilawbrium: Please list one hard skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
May: Being a good drafter/writer. You can hone this skill by writing articles and always leaving time to edit and revise. A third and fourth draft can be a lot stronger than the first.
Part 3 - The second “Dual 10” Challenge: have kids in their first 10 formative years
Equilawbrium: How did you juggle work/life responsibilities? Is it possible to have it all?
May: I think “having it all” is subjective and I am often irked that only women tend to get this question of work/life balance while men have the same struggles. It takes a village to raise a child, and you need to surround yourself with a good support network that works for you as a family. That starts with a supportive partner who shares the load.
Equilawbrium: Having walked the walk, what is the one parenting tip or trick that you wish you’d known?
May: I have no regrets of this kind. I would say, feeling guilty about not being there every second is a waste of energy.
Equilawbrium: What did you miss most about your kids at that young age?
May: I think every stage of a child’s life is magical. I don’t feel like I missed out – missing taking your kid to the dentist or missing some of their sports games is not something they will hold against you. We all make sacrifices, and people need a sense of their priorities.
Part 4 - Achieving Equilawbrium: how to survive & rise from the “Dual 10” Challenges
"...it’s important to be constantly evaluating whether you are good at your job, whether you enjoy the work, and whether you are getting positive feedback... you need to follow your heart a little and also be attuned to listening to your own intuition." – May Cheng
Equilawbrium: What was your biggest challenge going through the Dual 10 phase? Any advice for our readers who are living and breathing this phase and trying to survive and excel?
May: The biggest challenge is being organized not to let things slip too much at either end. If you were a perfectionist, you need to slightly lower your standards. You need to prioritize and accept that maybe it’s not a crime to bring store bought cookies or order in, even if you’re a great cook. Hire a housekeeper, dog walker and/or caregiver – you can’t do it all and you need good help. Also, remember to keep time for your self-care.
Equilawbrium: What is your take-home message for our readers who are trying to find their “equilawbrium”?
May: Having a career is a great role model for your kids. I hate that women judge each other for staying home vs working. It’s a personal choice.
Equilawbrium: What is the one-word encouragement/support that you would want us to remember?
<<End of Fireside Chat with May Cheng>>
**A MILLION THANKS TO MAY!!**
My heritage is mixed Chinese and French Canadian. My father is a first generation Hong Kong Chinese, and my mother is from a family that has had many generations in Quebec from the early settlers. I grew up in Ottawa and moved to Toronto for work after my call to the bar. I have spent my whole career in private practice doing intellectual property litigation and providing advice on branding and licensing. I truly enjoy my job and my family. I have a lot of gratitude and appreciation for the life I have carved out for myself and for the good fortune of having a great partner in life, a supportive family and network that have allowed me to achieve my goals. I try not to take things for granted and work hard to keep everyone happy, but that includes looking after myself. Doing volunteer work and supporting many causes has given my life so much more meaning. Remember to give back.
Disclaimer: Any views, information, and personal opinions expressed by the authors or guests are entirely their own and do not reflect or represent those of their employers or clients.