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September 22, 2021 Perspective

A Few Lessons, Lots of Gratitude

Kim R. Jessum

©2021. Published in Landslide, Vol. 14, No. 1, September/October 2021, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

I considered many topics for this first column as chair of the ABA-IPL Section. All of us have experienced so much personally and professionally during these many difficult months of COVID that I hesitated to touch on the subject here. But for me, this period has also been a time for learning and life reflection.

As a lawyer who works with and is passionate about the current issues in the intellectual property profession, I am certain that I would not be where I am without the support and guidance from my Section colleagues and friends. I appreciate them even more this year, valuing the virtual times when we have gathered and thankful for those who have shared their wisdom for my practice and counseled me to prepare for my year as Section chair. Anyone who is already involved in our Section knows the kind of colleagues I mean. For those of you who are not yet involved, I personally welcome you to join us in whatever way you would like, attend our meetings, and get to know our community.

I am proud that our Section managed to operate “as usual” by holding our activities virtually: governance, committee, and board meetings, developing and approving well-drafted resolutions, growing our publications, and providing excellent CLE programs—all by working from home. Many of our international members and others who could not previously travel have been able to participate using our virtual platforms.

This year, I find that I appreciate even more the time I spend with my family and friends. With young children (who still want to be with their mother . . . all the time!) I had to be creative. It was not homeschooling but “home playing” as the new order of the day until we were able to establish our bubble of friends and family to help. This way, my officemate husband and I could work uninterrupted, and I had company. Thankfully, my family and I have been healthy, and we could all adjust. Even small things contributed to our well-being. My own run-bike-weights routine was a good substitute for marathon training and turned out better than sitting in traffic or on the train.

Many of us have become accustomed to masks to prevent ourselves from contracting COVID and to help others stay safe. For me, the driver has also been a need to help others, particularly those who could not see their loved ones this year. My Buy Nothing group on Facebook allows people in the neighborhood to list things that are no longer needed or free services that curb waste and promote community. Members are able to give away toys that their children have outgrown and find more age-appropriate ones—so the givers do not have to toss them in the garbage and the takers save money. A perfect opportunity to give back to the community was offering a Thanksgiving meal and then a Christmas dinner. By preparing a bit more food, I was able to provide home-cooked dinners for neighbors who had to spend the holiday without their families. My kids also contributed by making holiday-themed napkin holders, and they had an early lesson on how important it is to help others.

Fostering kittens also turned into a way to give back when I took in two kittens from the shelter who had severe eye infections. One became blind and the other ended up as a pirate cat, but it was amazing to see these kittens recover and adjust with no issues at all. Ultimately, two wonderful women were willing to adopt the kittens despite their handicap, and the kittens turned into thriving cats.

Several months after my husband and I became coworkers at home, he returned to work. I missed him at first but discovered more “me” time activities during the workday, including opportunities to meet by video with coworkers and friends. I continue to be encouraged by the resiliency of children. My hope is that this detour in the growth of my own two kids will have an upside in their learning: to be both flexible and grateful. It is always about work/life balance, and each person must do what is right for her or him. I am lucky to be healthy (knock on wood), have a desk, a comfortable chair, two monitors, a window, and some company (the foster kittens or my resident cats). I am also lucky to close shop at 6:30 p.m. and spend some quality time with my kids.

Now that we are getting back to “normal,” I want to be sure that some lessons learned during COVID will continue while I keep in mind how difficult it has been for all of us in different ways. Even in the best of times, it is not always easy to balance work and home life, but I want to remember what I discovered during some of the worst of times. I will set aside time just for my kids, continue to make positive contributions to my community, stay fit and healthy, and check on friends and family every so often to make sure they are doing well.

I am looking forward to seeing my ABA-IPL Section friends and to meeting more of you, our members. I hope to use a bit of what I discovered over the past year and a half in leading the Section and in continuing our great work.

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Kim R. Jessum is chair of the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law. She is chief IP counsel US, associate general counsel, and secretary at Heraeus Incorporated and VP legal at Heraeus Medical Components.