Graduating from TRU Law in 2019, Kimberly Gee articled and was called to the BC Bar in 2020. As a new call, Kimberly made the move to run her own practice in Lillooet, BC. The work was rewarding. When the right opportunity came up, Gee quickly pivoted. She now finds herself in a role that combines her pre-law school experience with her interests, values and strengths. She talks to us about her journey to finding that fit.
What is it about the law that inspires you to be a part of the profession?
Solving problems, exploring the different sides of an issue and negotiating outcomes are what drew me to the legal profession. Prior to law school, I worked for a First Nations government reporting to in-house legal counsel and I was inspired by the lawyers’ work and their approaches to organizational challenges and opportunities. I began my career in the field of records and information management. Later, I learned about data sovereignty and the connection between self-determination and records and information. I enjoy helping First Nations organizations build capacity that will create efficiencies and advance title and rights issues. Basically, I saw becoming a lawyer as a way to advance an already rewarding career and grow as a person who enjoys lifelong learning.
As a relatively new call, what have you found challenging about the practice of law so far and what has helped you in overcoming those challenges?
I have heard it stated many times, and I believe it to be true: ‘the first five years of practicing law are very challenging.” You are acutely aware of the knowledge and experience you still need to gain to build your sense of confidence. A few things that have helped me are being mentored by various lawyers with different backgrounds and approaches and extending my mentorship to others new in the legal field or to the organization I work for. When the stress or pressure of a situation threatens to pull me out of balance, I focus on the people whose interests I am serving and what I have to offer.
You opened your own practice shortly after being called to the bar. What motivated you to run a practice?
A big part of my motivation to be a sole practitioner stemmed from an interest in practicing law the way I wanted to, and in a manner that aligned with my values. In a rural community, people are incredibly grateful to have a lawyer practicing in their area. I felt very welcomed.
Can you offer any words of advice for fellow alumni who may be considering opening their own shops?
Seek out mentors and embrace opportunities to learn from them. Many entrepreneur lawyers remember all too well the challenges associated with hanging their own shingle and welcome a chance to help you along your path in a good way. If you have the capacity, I strongly recommend hiring an external firm that has both a bookkeeper and an accountant in their office. Build a team or engage with professionals that can do the activities they excel at, and it will free you up to do the legal work you want to focus on doing.
You’ve recently left private practice to work for the BC First Nations Justice Council, initially as a staff lawyer for the Virtual Indigenous Justice Centre and now as information management counsel. How did you decide to leave private practice and what drew you to the work of the council?
My career trajectory took a sharp turn because I had set up a notification alert for the council’s online job postings. I knew of the organization’s core mandate to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice and child welfare systems, and I had read their inspiring and ambitious guiding document, the Justice Strategy. I felt a strong alignment with how the organization is delivering legal services and supporting transformative change in the justice system.
My initial role as a staff lawyer at the council was acting in the Virtual Indigenous Justice Centre as parents’ legal counsel and as criminal defense counsel. A few months into the role, I was thrilled to find that the organization welcomed an opportunity to leverage my past experience and my ongoing passion for legal technology, information management, privacy and data sovereignty.
It is interesting to reflect back on my law school application. I wanted to be a lawyer with a focus on information management and privacy and I ended up in that very role, albeit in a roundabout way. I am grateful to work for an agile organization that hires for heart and passion as well as skills and experience. I work with many intelligent, thoughtful and caring people — it truly is a special place to work indeed.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career to date? What do you think is your next challenge?
Fortunately, senior counsel has shown me how to bring a strength-based approach to my practice. When I see clients lean into their resilience and pursue a healing path after coming into contact with the justice system, I find it rewarding to be a part of their unique journey. When meeting with clients, I always make a point of asking about their hopes and dreams. I like seeing their face light up when they share what is going well for them and what supports they have.
I would like very much for the work I undertake at the council to provide a solid foundation for future generations to build upon. The work the organization is undertaking is groundbreaking and the rest of Canada is watching to see what we can achieve. I feel blessed to be a part of this important work.
What was the biggest takeaway from your education at TRU Law?
I was grateful for the opportunity to get a legal education in the classroom and on the land. I gained a greater appreciation of how I can learn from Indigenous people and the importance of being humble. Although I knew that Indigenous legal orders exist from time out of mind and continue to this day, I learned so much more about the connections legal systems have to land and language. I came to understand the law in new ways — our laws are the systems we use to govern our relationships and we can embrace and make space for diverse legal orders within our country in addition to the common and civil law systems.
Given my educational experience at TRU Law, it is inspiring to be part of the council and its work now. The organization aims to improve the experience of Indigenous persons in the existing justice system by serving clients in a culturally relevant, trauma-informed manner that acknowledges the holistic needs of a person. The organization is simultaneously supporting Indigenous nations in BC as they advance self-determination and revitalize Indigenous legal orders in their communities. I am proud to play a role in this work.
To learn more about the council: Home – BC First Nations Justice Council (bcfnjc.com)