What happens when a nine-year-old attends a legal conference
This post was written by Thomas Kim, chief compliance officer, Thomson Reuters
I was delighted when the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers asked me to serve on a panel of general counsels at their joint conference in Toronto with the U.S.-based National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. However, I wondered whether I should accept the invitation as the event would be on a Saturday, and I reserve weekends as time to spend with my wife Erica and our nine-year-old daughter Noe.
I was torn. I think it is important for professionals from traditionally under-represented groups who have achieved some level of leadership to share our insights with younger members of our profession. In this regard, as the chief compliance officer for Thomson Reuters and the general counsel of its emerging markets business (Global Growth and Operations), I wanted to do my part to support worthy organizations such as FACL and NAPABA.
That being said, I try very hard to make sure that I protect the precious time I spend with my family, especially as I frequently travel internationally and can be away for a week-at-a-time.
Then it dawned on me. Instead of choosing between my profession and my family, I could combine the two and have my family accompany me from our home in New York to Toronto.
My family thought this was a great idea. In fact, Noe asked if she could come watch me. My wife (who is also a lawyer) and I warned her that listening to lawyers talk could be boring, but the more we tried to dissuade her, the more determined she became to attend. So, Erica and I agreed to let her.
My daughter picked out a special outfit for the conference, which she called her “Professional Noe” look and became more and more excited as the day of the event approached. The morning of the conference, Erica, Noe and I all went to the registration desk together. As we walked past groups of lawyers chatting before the conference started, some people stared at us and wondered why there was a young girl attending a legal conference.
Thomson Reuters was kind enough to not only support my attending the conference, but also signed on as a Platinum Sponsor and set up a booth at the conference itself. I introduced Noe to my colleague Ian Braid, national sales manager, Strategic Legal Markets, who was manning the Thomson Reuters booth, and Noe took her turn manning the booth and had her first exposure to pre-sales activity!
When it was time for my panel, my family sat near the front of the ballroom, where I could easily see them. Noe gave me a discreet, reassuring smile and then the panel began. At some point, I noticed that Noe had her head bent over a piece of paper and was writing intently. I assumed that she must have indeed gotten bored of hearing lawyers speak and was busy entertaining herself by drawing or writing fiction. But then, I noticed that she would lift her head from time-to-time and make eye contact with me, and clapped enthusiastically when the panel ended.
Noe then ran over to me, calling out “Daddy” loudly before giving me a great, big hug. She then showed me what she had been writing. She had taken four pages of detailed notes that included summaries of what the panelists said as well as her own insightful commentary, including pointed remarks such as “He did not answer the question,” and “I am confused about what she wants.”
Erica, Noe and I then left the conference, holding each other’s hands and sharing our thoughts on the panel and realized we had a consensus view on a number of the items. I would never have thought that a nine-year-old would be that interested in hearing lawyers speak or be capable of making such pointed observations about the session. So what began as an apparent choice between my obligations as a lawyer and my intense desire to protect my personal time with my family became an incredible opportunity to share with my daughter a part of my professional life and to bring us all closer together as a family. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a weekend than that.