FLAS recipient Ida Knox graduated in 2020 with a JD and LLM from the UW School of Law, focusing on sustainable international development. Ida currently works as an Associate Attorney at Perkins Coie LLP in Seattle. She recently joined the EAC for a virtual interview.
Thank you for the opportunity to chat. How are you holding up?
It’s been a tough year for everyone, right? I’m privileged in that I can work from home and have a partner who can also work from home, so we’ve been staying in and hanging out with the dog after work and trying to treasure the small joys in life. I bought a lot of new sweaters and tried to embrace creature comforts a little more. That being said, I definitely miss my family and friends and am worried about the state of things along with everyone else in the world.
Can you expand on your experience learning Chinese as an East Asia Center FLAS fellow? When were you a fellow? What year(s) of Chinese did you study?
I was a Chinese language fellow during the 2019-2020 academic year, which coincided with my last year of law school. I studied fourth year Chinese with Bi Laoshi and then Lü Laoshi, who are both excellent professors. At that level you don’t work from textbooks, you learn from real life materials. Studying Chinese is a challenging and worthwhile endeavor, plus it was a lot of fun.
Please tell us a little more about your current position at Perkins Coie LLP.
I’m an attorney working in the Business Group with a focus on Technology Transactions and Privacy. The tech industry is constantly evolving, and I work with everything from licensing agreements to privacy and data security. The pandemic has raised more tech questions than ever before, so there’s plenty to do.
Can you elaborate on what sort of business you conduct that’s related to your area of study?
Perkins Coie serves leading global technology firms, emerging companies, and startups and has a strong Asia practice with offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Taipei, so we have current and potential clients from East Asia. Opportunities to use my Mandarin skills sometimes arise when I am working with those regions. The work my team does supports businesses all over the world, including East Asia, in dealing with new technologies, evolving privacy laws and regulations, and navigating cryptocurrencies. As with so many fields, the world of technology and privacy law has become inherently international, and Chinese language skills have always been useful to me in unexpected scenarios.
Did FLAS provide experiences during your time as a student that you would otherwise not have had?
Absolutely. As a law student, you’re often pigeon-holed into only taking classes at the law school. It can feel like you’re living in a very specific academic bubble where everyone knows what a tort is. Being a FLAS fellow gave me the opportunity to meet other UW students not only in my Chinese classes but also when taking classes for my area studies requirements. It was a nice break to delve into studying economics and technology and to meet students from different backgrounds, both undergraduate and at graduate. Without FLAS I probably never would have left Gates Hall.
Have those experiences translated to your professional career? How so?
One of the most important skills that people don’t necessarily think about when they think “lawyer” is being able to see the world from outside your own perspective and communicate to that perspective. It’s subtle, but it factors into everything. Client work, international and domestic legal analysis, business development, all of these require cultural awareness and clear communication.
Luckily, studying under FLAS teaches you all of that—repeatedly. Being a FLAS fellow puts you in situations where you’re required to be humble, work hard, and continually readjust your perspective. Seriously, language learning is tough! I’ve been studying Chinese for a total of ten years now and lived in China for three of those, but still Bi and Lü Laoshi didn’t hesitate to tell me when tones could use some work.
Like so many people who are drawn to law school, I like to be right and be good at things! But effective communication in any language isn’t something that you can single-handedly dictate. It requires all parties involved to agree that it’s working. Chinese classes constantly reminded me of that truth.
What’s next for you, and do you see your language study providing continued benefit in the future?
Personally and professionally, I’ve never regretted the time and effort I’ve put into learning Chinese. On a professional level, once COVID-19 is safely behind us, I hope to be able to travel to Perkins Coie’s offices in East Asia and use my language skills more directly. We live in an increasingly interconnected world, and the legal questions that we face in the sphere of technology are ones that both sides of the globe will continue to parse together.
On a personal level, I hope to stop embarrassing myself by continually forgetting words during my language exchange sessions. I am mostly kidding! What I really hope is that I have more opportunities to remain a life-long student of both Chinese and cultural awareness and travel to East Asia as frequently as I can.