Fireside Chat with Selena Kim
February 3, 2022
"Taking Up Space" - such a catchy and empowering phrase to inspire women to speak up more and take up space. But there is more... Taking Up Space is also a must-read newsletter on LinkedIn created by Selena Kim, Natalie Rizkalla-Kamel, and Shahrzad Esmaili - a powerhouse representing diverse women in IP law who are also working parents sharing tips and stories based on what they’ve learned from their time in legal practice as working parents.
The theme of Taking Up Space (diverse women, working parents, IP) is very near and dear to my heart, so much so that when I saw the post I immediately reached out to Selena and invited her to participate as a Fireside Chat guest!
Selena was so responsive and supportive about the Equilawbrium initiative. It was an absolute pleasure to get to know her! I am so thrilled and honored to have Selena here to be our Fireside Chat guest! I hope you will enjoy Selena's authentic and candid sharing and a chat filled with so many great practical tips!
Without further ado, let's get started...
Part 1 - Introduction
Hi my name is... Selena Kim.
Year of call to the Bar: 2002
Type of practice, your role, and where:
Private law firm, Partner
How many children do you have?
1 girl 9 years old; 1 boy 7 years old.
What is one thing that you do for self-care or stress relief?
Exercise and Netflix.
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?
Selena: Originally when I entered IP law, I wanted to do pharma patent prosecution as that is what I thought my background best suited me for. This quickly changed as I entered practice. I found myself more suited to IP litigation, as I found the environment and work more inspiring and exciting.
Almost all lawyers I know are working in a different area of the law than they had initially planned while in law school. I recommend trying lots of things in the first 3 years of practice so that you can figure out what you like and are good at. For me, joining a large full-service firm was perfect as I got exposure to most areas of law and all areas of IP law, which helped me to choose what I enjoyed.
You may also change areas of law multiple times over your career. Today, I do a lot of IP strategy work, IP enforcement, and strategic patent prosecution, specializing in chemical formulations. This is quite different from my first 10 years of practice when I did exclusively IP litigation.
Equilawbrium: Please list one soft skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
Selena: I enjoy people in general, and getting to know people and networking has been important to enjoying my career and also to developing business.
Equilawbrium: Please list one hard skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
Selena: Being able to write and present clearly and persuasively is very important for every type of lawyer. If you need help with your skills I would recommend taking writing and public speaking courses.
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?
Selena: My husband decided to stay at home full-time when we had our kids. Our two children are both special needs (autism) so it was not practical for both of us to be employed. I didn’t want to get a nanny so this solution worked well for our family.
Working in a law firm requires long hours during the week. We came up with a plan that worked for us. During Monday-Friday, I typically would not see much of the kids, but on weekends I spent most of my time with them.
This has changed during the pandemic. Now I see my kids at lunch every day and give them baths at night. However, my husband is still responsible for taking them to school and therapy during the day. This allows me to work effectively from home.
Equilawbrium: Having walked the walk, what is the one parenting tip or trick that you wish you’d known?
Selena: Toilet training can take a long time, but your child will decide when they are ready. Don’t try too hard to train them earlier. If they’re not ready it won’t work and you will waste lots of time and get frustrated.
Equilawbrium: What did you miss most about your kids at that young age?
Selena: I liked the time when the kids were under 6 months old. So cute and quiet!
Part 4 - Achieving Equilawbrium: how to survive & rise from the “Dual 10” Challenges
"Don’t worry about your kids not benefiting from you being home all the time. They will be fine. You need to find the balance that makes you happy." – Selena Kim
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?
Selena: Business development is very time-consuming and requires a lot of time and travel. However, in order to survive at a big law firm, it is necessary to do this in addition to your regular work, starting around years 8-10 post-call. I recommend to associates to get whatever training and resources you can to get yourself in the right mindset and to gain the skills needed to succeed.
Equilawbrium: What is your take-home message for our readers who are trying to find their “equilawbrium”?
Selena: Don’t worry about your kids not benefiting from you being home all the time. They will be fine. You need to find the balance that makes you happy.
I would not have been happy with working all the time and never seeing them, but I was satisfied as long as I always had most weekends off to spend with them.
Equilawbrium: What is the one-word encouragement/support that you would want us to remember?
Selena: Grow. Always keep changing and growing as you go through life.
<<End of Fireside Chat with Selena Kim>>
**A MILLION THANKS TO SELENA!!**
Selena practices intellectual property law in the Toronto, Canada office of Gowling WLG, and has been practicing for almost 20 years. She is frequently recommended for IP litigation and patents, and is the first woman to have achieved the Certified Specialist designation for patent law, granted by the Law Society of Ontario.
Selena has industry expertise in the life sciences, holding an M.Sc. in Molecular Biology. She was also voted one of the Canadian Lawyer 25 most influential lawyers in Canada in 2020.
Selena is active in several professional organizations, including the American Bar Association and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. She is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences. She also serves as the chair of Autism In Mind, a charitable organization focused on assisting families to access services for autistic children.
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.