Editors’ Note: Read about Zainab Ali, a Los Angeles associate in our Litigation Department, in the latest installment of our ongoing Faces of MoFo series.
I was born in the United States to an Austrian mother and an Iraqi father, but soon went to live in Cairo, Egypt for nearly a decade. I spent my childhood years in the French school in Cairo, learning math, science, and everything else in French, surrounded by Arabic speakers, learning German from my mother, and speaking English when my family was together. With a United Nations diplomat for a father, hosting delegates from around the world for dinners was commonplace. My friends in school came from over a dozen countries. By the time I was ten years old, I spoke fluent English, French, and German, and could read and write Arabic. I had travelled to most of North Africa and the Middle East, whilst spending my summers in Austria, hiking in the Alps with my grandparents. Growing up surrounded by a multitude of cultures and languages shaped who I am today – a citizen of the world.
After my childhood years spent in Egypt, came my life in beautiful Vienna, Austria. Beyond its fame for Mozart and “The Sound of Music,” Austria lies at the intersection of Eastern and Western Europe, and is a melting pot of European, Slavic, and Balkan people. Here, I continued to attend the French school, yet again surrounded by an ethnic and cultural mix of friends and peers. After my school years, I decided to add Spanish to my repertoire of languages and I spent several months in Seville, Spain, surrounded by tapas, flamenco music and orange trees. After leaving Andalusia, I spent my college years in Washington, D.C., where it seemed natural that I would attend Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. Here, I was again able to study alongside students from around the world. At Georgetown’s SFS, the love for culture and languages ran deep. By then, I had realized that my ability to learn languages and absorb cultures was not only something that I was blessed with by virtue of my upbringing, but was also something that came naturally to me and that brought me joy and satisfaction. As one might imagine, I also harbor a deep love for travel, and have used my passion for yoga and scuba diving as reason to visit many stunning and exotic places, learning words in the local language along the way and meeting people from different walks of life.
Finally, my life took me to California for law school and eventually MoFo, where I am convinced I landed because my interviewer liked my multiculturality. As a lawyer, I use my languages and world experiences to connect with people. The ability to make small talk about a country someone has travelled to or exchange some words in someone’s native language, does not just break the ice, it can melt it. I believe I stood out to MoFo because of my unique upbringing, and I hope it will continue to benefit me as a lawyer and allow me to provide the best all-around service to clients. As an international firm in a globalized world, MoFo’s clients are transnational companies made up of diverse people. I believe that we, as the lawyers serving these clients, can better understand their needs and expectations if we, too, approach things from a global and multicultural perspective.