Fireside Chat with Victoria Loh
September 9, 2022
A little while ago I came across this post on LinkedIn from a lawyer who is offering mentorship and pre-recorded lectures on various areas of law to anyone who is interested. For free. For real. No strings attached... Meet Victoria Loh - the incredible human being behind The Loh Down (the support group Victoria started for lawyers). I was so moved by her altruistic and selfless acts that I had to invite her to our Fireside Chat when I learned that she is also a mom.
<<WARNING: Viewer discretion is advised>>
Victoria's funny, transparent, fulsome, and heartwarming sharing of her journey and personal growth may trigger some good laughs and tears, and may leave you with tremendous strength and inspiration for days to come.
Without further ado, let’s get started…
Part 1 - Introduction
Hi, my name is... Victoria Loh.
Year of call to the Bar: 2004.
Type of practice, your role, and where: I have a general practice in real estate, family and estates and I work with my father at Joachim Loh Professional Corporation, Barristers & Solicitors, in Scarborough.
How many children do you have? I have two sons and a step son. My son, Rhys, is 11 and I share him with my ex-husband. My son, Pierce, is 3 and I have him with my common law spouse, Michael. Michael has a son, Nolan, who is 14.
What do you do for self-care or stress relief? I lift weights for 45 minutes 5 days a week and meditate from Monday to Friday. I also listen to audiobooks on my way to and from work that focus on self-improvement, business productivity and financial literacy.
What would you do if you weren’t in the legal profession? I’d be a motivational speaker or a comedian or a journalist or in public relations/marketing/advertising or in politics.
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?
Victoria: I was a kid that was pressured into becoming a lawyer by my lawyer dad. I didn’t think it was for me until I didn’t do well on my first LSAT and my dad gave up on me. Then suddenly, I needed to be a lawyer to prove something to my dad.
I told myself that I would get the degree first and then I would do something else that interested me. When I got in to law school, I felt a ton of pressure to get a Bay St. job and if that didn’t work out, I thought I could always work with my dad. I got the Bay St. articling job (dream come true!) but then didn’t get hired back (wah!) and then my dad said he didn’t feel like hiring me (what!). Perfect time to give up and do that other thing I said I wanted to do, whatever that was.
But no! I turned my lack of employment into self-employment with two friends from law school, determined to show the world that I was a good lawyer, even though I said in the beginning, I wanted to do something else. Then the two partners became one and then I was a sole practitioner. I did that until my dad called saying he wanted to have me on board as his successor (!) so I closed my doors as a litigator and work as a solicitor with the occasional litigation file, at my dad’s office where we provide service in English, Cantonese and Mandarin.
Equilawbrium: What was the driving force behind your career decisions?
Victoria: I am chasing “success” but that definition keeps changing. At first it was to show other people that I looked important and that I knew things which of course is not true and it was of course at a time when I was NOT important and knew NOTHING.
Then I thought success was winning in court, so I dove right into trial work, obsessed with learning cross-examination, trial procedure. I learned that winning a case is not really in the control of the lawyer (whew!) and that actually the only thing you can do really, is to overprepare then keep loose on the day of, with the goal in mind of solving other people’s problems and if you gave all three of those goals as much gas as you could all at the same time, that’s it. LOL It’s not the result of whether you won or lost – the client did that all by themselves and sometimes no matter how you sell it, a judge has to think about the larger picture, not just the client’s wishes, least of all, how well I performed as the lawyer, when making a decision. I realized thinking that it was my performance that meant the difference between a win or a loss was not true.
Then I thought the definition of success was making money, when I was in a lot of debt left over from my self-employment time. I started learning financial literacy through audiobooks and self-study. I started trying to implement marketing strategies into my practice and remove limiting beliefs on how much I was worth or should charge. I started budgeting and saying the mantra, it's not how much you make, it’s how you spend. LOL That was a phase. A long one. Of course everyone says money is nice but not everything in life, but I had to walk that road to learn my own version of what I wanted to say about money.
Then, on January 14, 2017, my 31 year old brother died. My grief on the passing of my only sibling whom I loved very much, changed my life. What good did money do for me at this time if I was so “successful”? I cried every day for a whole year while I put one foot in front of the other and I received so much kindness from people that I didn’t think cared about me or even knew my name. Hundreds and hundreds of people came out to my brother’s funeral and helped me and my family get through the worst time of our lives. That tremendous feeling of bonding and love changed me. It made me realize I wasn’t giving enough.
Success is now becoming whether or not I have given something today – whether it be a good ear, a solution that fits the problem, a good laugh. I have to give more and I have to say thank you more. Being a lawyer is my tool to do it.
Success is also taking care of myself so that I can continue to give for as long as I can at the highest level that I can give it. I started dieting, exercising and meditating and I’m pursuing fitness and health like it’s things I do as part of my daily life, all in tribute to my late brother. I lost a lot of weight and I’ve turned my health around. He’s not here anymore so I have taken it upon myself to live the life to the fullest for him.
Saying all of this now, I think the driving force behind my career was a sense of competitiveness to prove my worth as a lawyer but it’s changed into what can I do everyday to give to someone and how amazing is it that I can do it as a lawyer, a high level agent of change.
Equilawbrium: What are the important things to consider as you are figuring out your career path?
Victoria: I think what’s important to consider that a job is short term but a career is long term. When things are long term, and you are selling your time, then your reputation is everything. But then what reputation do you want to have? Whatever your personality is has to be in tune with that reputation. For me, my mantra is keep your word, keep honest and try to have some fun by remembering, whomever you’re talking to has their goals to meet too – you get farther if you can find a way to work together (while of course, prioritizing you and what you need LOL).
Equilawbrium: Please list one soft skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
Victoria: I believe that playing board games is a really great way at developing a strategic mind. I loved board games as a kid and I still love them today. My late brother introduced Settlers of Catan to me many years ago and I wish I still played it regularly. When you are playing board games, you are trying to achieve your goal, keeping an eye on your opponent who has their own method and you are negotiating – you get to practice putting yourself in other people’s shoes and figuring out how to win. Poker, monopoly, cribbage – I love all games. Lawyers would do well to play more games and dive into game theory.
Equilawbrium: Please list one hard skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
Victoria: When I was I the middle of a sexual assault trial, my lack of cross-examination techniques became critically clear. I immediately dropped the next 18 hours into reading the Science of Cross-Examination by Pozner and Dodd cover to cover to reconstruct the rest of my trial performance and attended one of their seminars later on. Mind blowing, transformative and even though I came to these lessons as a result of me feeling like I was failing in the middle of a trial, I learned so much from that failure, which for some reason I needed to learn like that – when the house was fire (this need for drama has been corrected).
The hard skills here are both: the science of cross-examination; and, every failure can be repurposed for success in the bigger picture.
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 a family life and a work life simultaneously?
Victoria: When my common law spouse and I got together, we agreed that I would be the bread winner and he would be the stay-at-home parent. I know there are comedy shows about this situation but it truly is a challenge even in today’s modern world. I question what kind of mother I am for the little actual time I spend with my children, one of whom I only see half the time. My spouse questioned the value of his contribution and what it means to be a “man”. It changed our interaction with each other. We have friends and relatives who judge us for the role reversal. All of this is to paint for you the picture that is the foundation of what I’m about to say next: I juggle my family life and my responsibilities because I have help in the form of my spouse. He is a tremendous human being and he has given up so much, trusting me with our family’s financial future and I don’t take that lightly. As a team, we also have help from our families. My mother, aunt and my spouse’s uncle have all helped to give my spouse and I some time alone to reconnect as well as giving other people time to enjoy time with our kids which is good for everyone.
I am also the kind of lawyer that relies on the quality of my relationship with my client and my work ethic to justify my invoice as opposed to time spent, particularly when such time is spent (translation: I try to flat fee as much as possible). I am also employed by a boss who doesn’t comment any more on the part where I don’t show up at 9 a.m. (even though everyone else should).
Equilawbrium: Having walked the walk, what is the one parenting tip or trick that you wish you’d known?
Victoria: I wish I wasn’t so reluctant to take or ask for help in the beginning. I don’t know why I was so hellbent on doing it myself to show my competency or my independence. I was too quick to be embarrassed I didn’t know something and too judgmental of myself for everything.
Parenting tip: ask for help when you start digging in your heels about doing it yourself – we are not alone, in any form! Why do we keep acting like it? There is someone out there who has done it and doesn’t mind helping you… for free as well! Why? Because people are nice if you are nice!
Equilawbrium: What did you miss most about your kids at that young age?
Victoria: I miss everything about my kids at all times. When I’m at work, when I’m looking at old pictures, when I’m even sitting with them watching t.v. thinking about how this moment is passing. I just try to put my phone down to hang out with them and even though I work all the time, they still run to see me when I get home for a hug and kiss.
Part 4 - Achieving Equilawbrium: how to survive & rise from the “Dual 10” Challenges
"These Dual 10 years are the learning years where mistakes don’t have grave consequences because these are not the years where 'you should have known better'. Just enjoy it for all of the stress and bumps because those scars are what you build your foundation on." – Victoria Loh
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?
Victoria: My biggest challenge was breaking my rigid definition of a “successful lawyer”. Back when I started, it was all white male heterosexual lawyers with stay-at-home wives who were at the top of the food chain, with the occasional rising legal star. If you weren’t on Bay Street, where were you? I don’t fit that definition at all, but I am a successful lawyer mom. In fact, it seems to me the whole legal landscape in terms of rising stars have broken the expectations all across the board and I’m loving it. The challenge would have been easier if I realized I just needed to stretch the definition of success, forgive myself regularly for making mistakes, and learn to ask for help.
These Dual 10 years are the learning years where mistakes don’t have grave consequences because these are not the years where “you should have known better”. Just enjoy it for all of the stress and bumps because those scars are what you build your foundation on.
Equilawbrium: What is your take-home message for our readers who are trying to find their “equilawbrium”?
Victoria: There is no perfect balance. Your struggle and mistakes are human and actually, it’s your humanity that makes you a good lawyer. Just relax. You got this. Just keep trying to do something good for yourself and for someone else everyday.
Equilawbrium: What is the one-word encouragement/support that you would want us to remember?
<<End of Fireside Chat with Victoria Loh>>
**A MILLION THANKS TO VICTORIA!!**
Victoria Loh attended St. Joseph’s Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School in North York, graduating in 1997. She then obtained a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Criminology from University of Toronto, St. George Campus in 2000. Victoria attended law school at Queen’s University, graduating in 2003 as the Law Students’ Society president, co-editor in chief of the student newspaper, New Queen’s Counsel and winner of the Gavel Award for her contribution to student affairs at Queen’s Law.
After articling at a prestigious boutique Bay Street firm specializing in bankruptcy and insolvency litigation, she was called to the Bar in 2004.
Since 2004, Victoria has been practising in family law, criminal law and residential real estate law and has appeared in the Ontario Court of Justice, Superior Court of Ontario and the Ontario Court of Appeal.
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.