Kamika McLean (BA ’02) has studied and worked in the United Kingdom and the Caribbean in various legal capacities. Currently, Kamika sits on the executive team of KSS HoldCo. Inc, a private equity company, as General Counsel. She is also a certified Notary Public & Commissioner.
What are some of your memories of studying at York?
When I started at York it was the first time I’d ever been to Canada, so a lot was “new” to me. I recall large lecture theatres and the feeling of being a little fish in a large pond, as I was also very young at the time. But it was an exciting time. The atmosphere at York was very welcoming and, as new as it all was for me, I remember feeling at home. It had a community feel: very warm and friendly. For an undergrad experience, coming from Jamaica to Canada, I think I made the right decision by going to York.
And the first time I tried Tim Horton’s was at York University!
What drew you to in-house law and what does being “in-house” mean?
I think it found me. When I started practising, I was in general practice and did a bit of everything because I wanted to learn. I really didn’t know what area of law I wanted to specialize in. I did a bit of corporate, wills and estate, lots of real estate, some litigation…and I learned as much as I could. When this position was advertised it asked for someone with a multi-faceted experience in law willing to work across multiple industries. I thought that sounded like me! Once I got in, I knew I’d found my fit.
Being in-house means that I’m able to do a lot of business and operational tasks and that I’m very much involved in the running of the businesses – and not just from a legal standpoint. I really feel like I’ve found where I want to be, and I’ve learned an incredible amount in last two years that I’m so grateful for.
As a mentor in York’s Advancing Black Students Program – why was it important for you to be a part of this program?
Because I’ve benefited from mentorship. I’ve benefitted from very kind people who’ve extended not just their time but even a shoulder sometimes to cry on or an ear to bounce an idea off. I don’t think I’d be where I am now, and be the person I am, without the support of the mentors that I’ve had throughout the years that really pushed me. When I stepped into the role of General Counsel, I started looking around [networking sites] for other Black female General Counsels to serve as mentors. What I found instead was that they were mostly white and mostly male. I searched some more, and I found only a handful of others [like me]. It became clear to me that in our community, our representation and visibility in the space is limited. It became very important for me that young Black women are able to see and know someone doing what I do; for them to know that they can do it too. That this too, is accessible to you.
I’m paired with three women who want to pursue a career in law, and I feel so grateful that they’re my mentees. It’s a privilege to get on a call with them. It’s a very reciprocal relationship. I’m very thankful the Advancing Black Students Program for asking me to be a mentor. I hope to stay in touch with my girls forever.
In addition to your above roles, you also serve as a board and committee member on the Council of the College of Homeopaths of Ontario and are a director-at-large for the Black Female Lawyers Network– how do you find balance and make time for all your various roles?
I think when you get to a certain level professionally, there’s an expectation for you to be accessible all the time – to function 24 hours around the clock. That’s not possible without something giving. I consciously made the decision starting in 2022, that one of the things I was going to work on is balance. Not everything needs to be done immediately. I try much harder now to keep my evenings for myself. To accomplish this, it is important to prioritize and make task lists. Being mindful. It sounds cliché but it really makes a difference – keeping your mind focused, centred, and calm. Your experiences and work output will be so much better because you’re not in that continuous state of hurry.
As a Black, female, corporate attorney, and a mother, how do these parts of who you are contribute to your success?
Wearing all four of those hats have developed a strong sense of empathy within me. I am able to see things from different perspectives and in a unique way that people might have never considered. It allows me to be able to hear other people’s story and give them the relevant level of validation and understanding whereas other people in the room might completely dismiss it.
And I have a certain ability to detect when someone’s trying to pull a fast one on me. I know it immediately and no – it won’t work.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
To me, Black History Month is a time to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of Black people in all aspects of society. It’s a beautiful time for people to come together.