Writer: Sarah Eskandarpour
To tell someone to follow their passion is instinctive advice to give. It almost goes without saying. Of course everyone should follow their passion, why wouldn’t someone want to go after what makes them happy? Often, actually doing so is not so easy. Life gets in the way with bills, jobs, responsibilities and everything else that comes with being an adult. But when we heard Krystle Ng-A-Mann was not only the successful blogger, dineandfash, but also a successful corporate lawyer, we knew that she was one of the few who had the balance of passion and responsibilities figured out. We knew we just had to sit down and talk to Krystle about her career, her industry, and how that balance takes shape.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your legal career
I’ve been practicing law for the past 8 years. I was called to the bar in 2008, which is when I finished the licensing process and all of my schooling to become a lawyer. I articled* at a large Bay Street firm, where I was hired back as a corporate tax lawyer. The problem was I didn’t love corporate tax so I moved into general corporate/commercial law after a couple of years. I practiced corporate/commercial for 5 years at a mid-size firm in North York and I recently switched to another downtown firm where I’m continuing my practice.
"I’m a creature of habit, I like getting into work, sitting there and knowing what I have to do."
Explain your industry for people who may not know what it entails to be a corporate lawyer.
First off, it’s not like anything you see in Suits. Also, many people don’t understand that there is a difference between being a solicitor and a barrister. A barrister is a litigator, which is somebody who goes to court. Some people find that to be the more exciting and fun stuff. When you’re a solicitor, you’re basically closing deals and drafting agreements. If someone wants to buy or sell a business I would be acting on behalf of one of the parties involved, or if a company wanted to restructure its affairs, I would act on behalf of the corporation or shareholders to “paper” the transaction. I like being a solicitor because I have more of a routine. I’m a creature of habit, I like getting into work, sitting in my office and knowing what I have to do for the day without having the unpredictability of having to drive to different courts or examinations for discovery.
Did you always know that you wanted to get into law? If no, how did you get into this line of work?
As mentioned, I started in corporate tax, which I quickly realized I hated. I didn’t want to be a corporate tax lawyer, but was kind of pulled in that direction when I was an articling student (I mainly just wanted to get hired back at the firm I was at). I transitioned into corporate/commercial because I knew I liked the transactional aspect of corporate law. I’ve been doing that for the past 5 years and so far so good.
Did you want to be a lawyer growing up?
I always wanted to be a lawyer growing up even though I didn’t even know what it meant. I probably thought it meant prestige and making a lot of money because of the shows I’d watch, but you don’t see all of the hard work that goes into it. You really only find out when you’re practicing. It’s so different than Suits or The Good Wife. It’s a lot of grunt work and striking that work/life balance is a struggle.
What is it like moving through this industry as a woman?
Generally speaking I would say law is still male-dominated but women have made a lot of progress. Technically in law schools, there’s a bigger female population than male which is a wonderful thing. Thankfully I’ve never experienced any sort of sexual harassment or been put down because I’m female so that’s all wonderful, but I know that’s happened to a lot of other females. There are generations and generations of ‘old boys’ mentality. Often, I’m the only woman present in meetings, and the dynamic and how male lawyers and clients relate to each other is different.
"At the end of the day I think it’s important that, as females, we respect each other’s choices and different paths"
Do you face more challenges or disadvantages by virtue of you being female?
There’s still the inherent disadvantage that we face largely because of biology. We’re the ones who get pregnant and take maternity leave, which might set us back as compared to our male counterparts. By law, we’re entitled to a year off post-pregnancy. But, I’ve seen females - associates or partners - return after 4 months or 3 months of mat leave because it’s understood that they need to show that their job is important to them or they’re so committed that it’s hard to be away for that long. Maybe they want to become partner or continue moving ahead without interruption - the reasons always vary - but there’s certainly an unspoken pressure to prove your career comes first in certain firms. I believe every woman reaches a point where she has to ask herself “do I want to be this committed to the firm or do I want to be committed to my family?” It’s unfair, I think, that as a woman you have to make a decision that men never will and this automatically puts us at a disadvantage. However, at the end of the day I think it’s important that, as females, we respect each other’s choices and different paths.
What’s your favorite thing about your career?
I’m happy to be working at a firm where I’m learning and being challenged. Sometimes it’s very tough. I mean, it’s hard to not know something and to feel like you’re not doing the best job because you’re still learning. You obviously want to feel as if you have mastery over something but it’s good to be challenged and I think the fact that I’m learning is amazing. I’m using my brain and gaining new skills on a regular basis. I’m also happy to be pursuing my passions as a blogger, which challenges me in different ways and allows me to fuel my creativity on a regular basis.
Describe your career and your career path in general in one word.
I would have to say “growth”. I’ve always been learning and growing. It’s a lot of development and, whether it has been learning how to be more comfortable with practicing corporate law or moving to a new firm and growing as a lawyer and person, I’m always progressing. This applies equally to blogging, since I’ve grown so much in less than a year of doing it and am learning the ins and outs of the food and fashion blogging industries.
How do you find time to be a successful lawyer as well as a successful blogger and instagrammer? Where does that balance find a home?
I’m still figuring it out! I love what I do but the creative stuff is what I’m more passionate about and that’s why, no matter how hard I have to work in my legal career, I will always try my best to maintain and keep one foot in the creative world. Not only for my own sanity but because I see a future and many different types of opportunities.
Bottom line: when you want something you make time for it. I somehow figure out where I can fit my blogging in whether that means waking up a bit earlier or staying up a little later to get a blog post done or planning out my Instagram posts. The blog itself is like a full-time job but without getting paid for it (yet!).
What's something you wish you knew when you were just starting out that you know now?
Learning to not doubt yourself is key. I think it’s endemic with females. Even after 8 years of practicing law, I still constantly doubt myself. The same applies to my blogging career. There are so many times where I second guess whether I want to post something, write something, or if I should say something about myself or put myself out there. Learning to not give a fuck and how to believe in myself has been very important. You have to remember that you can’t please everybody at the end of the day. Sometimes people have a valid reason for not liking you and sometimes people are just haters. Either way, you can’t let that deter you. You have to keep focused and just do you. Confidence is not automatic for everyone, but it can be learned and found within yourself.
What advice can you give young people who are beginning their journey or thinking about getting into law?
About going into law, it’s a tough process and tough world, but if you really want it, go for it! And in general, don’t doubt yourself - just go for it! Don’t ever lose sight of your passions and find a way to live them out, whether full-time or part-time. In an ideal world we would all do what we’re passionate about. But if that’s not possible right away, make the time to maintain that balance. I think me working my butt off in law, while at the same time, working my butt off in blogging, is a good example of this. Make time to achieve your personal and professional goals!
It’s clear that Krystle is voraciously heeding her own advice. Between running a flourishing food, fashion and lifestyle blog and enjoying a successful career as a corporate lawyer, her life is led by her passion. If there is one thing we can learn from this bride-to-be it’s that you can stand up to the most notoriously busy industry out there and prove that you won’t let your career be incompatible with what fills you with drive and zeal, no matter how distinct the two may seem.
*Articling is part of the licensing process to become a lawyer. It’s 10 months of practical experience before being called to the bar. For many, it’s your first taste of working at a firm. Similar to medical students doing their residency, but not as long..