Dealing with a legal dispute without legal advice can feel like fighting a battle with no weapons or shield. While completing her undergraduate degree, May Cheng worked a summer job for Rent Review Services in Ottawa. When landlords or tenants would ask her for advice, she had to decline because she was not a lawyer. This experience made May want to be able to help people by arming them with the legal advice that they needed to stand up for themselves. As partner and intellectual property lawyer at Dipchand LLP
, May now helps clients feel confident that they can defend their business branding from any potential threats. She may not be arming her clients for battle in the way she expected when she chose law, but her work is exciting in other ways.
Intellectual property law is one of the more niche practice areas. May’s first exposure to IP law happened while she was working at a full-service firm on Bay Street. The practice area stood out amongst the rest for her, and she had an aptitude for it. May continued working at Bay Street firms for 30 years before moving to Dipchand LLP
, a South Asian Female led boutique firm, in 2023. She truly enjoys being at a smaller firm because she feels she has more control over her clientele there. May loves the people she works with and the wonderful and congenial work environment that Dipchand LLP
has created. More than anything, May loves the flexibility the firm gives her to work from her cottage and to organize her practice in a way that works best for her. The autonomy that comes with seniority has also made her practice more joyful.
In her current practice, May gets to help people but not in quite the same way she imagined she might after working in landlord and tenant disputes in undergrad. Her practice varies between giving branding advice to her clients as well as enforcing IP rights, mostly related to trademark and copyright (although she does have the occasional patent and trade secret mandate). Her clients are not always local, and her meetings are not always face to face. May works with clients from all over the world and she gets to work on issues that cross borders, notably in her trademark cases. Also, throughout her career she has been able to attend many international IP conferences. She loves these international aspects of working in intellectual property and the opportunities she gets to see the world and experience her clients’ cities and cultures (and foods!).
Intellectual Property is not often an emotionally taxing practice area. When her workday ends, May can leave her work at the office, which benefits her mental health. Her practice has also allowed her to dedicate time to supporting human rights causes in a volunteer capacity. May was a past President of the Chinese Canadian National Counsel
and the Chair of the Head Tax and Redress Campaign
. She is currently on the Board for the Foundation for the Advancement of Racial Equity (FARE), which aims to fundraise for projects that promote education and initiatives addressing anti-Asian hate and racism.
To May, being a lawyer is all about the clients she works for. She loves her clients, some of whom she has worked with for over 20 years. Oftentimes, she knows more about their companies than some of their own in-house counsel! May finds it extremely rewarding to see the companies she works for grow and to be their trusted advisor. Relationship building is so important in the legal profession, and it’s an aspect May loves.
Most things don’t come easy in the legal profession and the learning curve can be very steep. This can be frustrating to young lawyers but May knows from experience that hard work and time learning your craft will bring good things to you in your career. Once young lawyers get over the initial hump and develop their expertise, greater autonomy is not only possible but likely, and they can more easily take control of their schedules. Finding the practice area that you want to pour your hard work and time into is another hump to overcome. It might happen right out of law school, but it often takes some time. May finds this piece important and urges young lawyers to explore law to find what they really enjoy. When you find the area that is right for you, you will be happier at work and better at your job.
One of the most important and maybe underrated parts of any lawyer’s career is the people that they work with. Once you have found the practice area that brings you joy, don’t discount the difference that a supportive workplace will have on your career satisfaction. People, whether they be clients or coworkers, can help us look forward to going to work each morning or push us to dread each new week. Take time and care to find your people. If the people and practice area you find are anything like May’s, your work may take you around the world.