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Breaking the Ice: ‘Humbled’ to join judicial selection commission

Todd Nelson//March 2, 2023//

X. Kevin Zhao

X. Kevin Zhao has leveraged his fluency in Mandarin in depositions of Chinese-speaking witnesses in Asia and Europe. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: ‘Humbled’ to join judicial selection commission

Todd Nelson//March 2, 2023//

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Greene Espel attorney X. Kevin Zhao is “humbled and honored” with his recent appointment to the state’s Commission on Judicial Selection.

The commission solicits, considers and recommends candidates to the governor for vacancies in the district courts and the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals.

“I’ll say this for myself, but I think the other members of the commission and the governor believe that the bench should sort of reflect the community in which it sits as an institution,” Zhao said. “Not, of course, any particular judicial candidate but as an institution. That’s part of the legitimacy of that branch of government.”

Zhao, who was 3 when he came to the United States, brings to the commission his experience “as an attorney of color, with immigrant parents and as an immigrant myself.”

A litigator who represents clients in complex multidistrict, antitrust, class-action and business matters, Zhao has leveraged his fluency in Mandarin in depositions of Chinese-speaking witnesses in Asia and Europe.

Zhao is a board member with the Advocates for Human Rights and represents clients in asylum cases.

Name: X. Kevin Zhao

Title: Attorney, Greene Espel

Education: B.A., political science and global studies, University of Minnesota; J.D., Harvard Law School

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: I love cooking, so ask me what I made over the weekend. But honestly, just come up and say hi. The pandemic has made most of us, definitely me included, a little more shy in starting social conversations.

Q: Why law school?

A: I went to law school to study legal history and theory, thinking that I would want to teach. But although I remain fascinated by legal theory and history, it is the problem-solving aspect of legal work that I enjoy the most.

Q: What are you reading?

A: I’m trying to get more into science fiction. Inspired by the Denis Villeneuve movie, I recently read “Dune.” But I don’t think I have the time or energy to read more of the books, so I picked up “Ready Player One,” a considerably lighter read.

Q: Pet peeve?

A: People who change lanes without using turn signals.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: Learning about a new client’s business or even an existing client’s new business, like a business unit that I’ve never worked with before. That constant learning is so rewarding.

Q: Most challenging?

A: I’m very fortunate that by and large, the people that I deal with every day are kind, courteous, professional — I mean, opposing counsel — and certainly clients, courts and court staff. Every now and then, and I’m fortunate that this is quite rare. but occasionally you’ll work with someone on the other side who can make the experience more unpleasant than it should be or needs to be. You are constantly fighting about things that should not be controversial. It makes the experience unpleasant and not the way that I believe law could be or should be practiced.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: I love cooking. I love traveling. I love spending time with my kids. In the summer it’s going on long bike rides, fishing, exploring the wilderness.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: I moved around a lot as a kid. I went to middle school in high school in Manhattan, Kansas. That’s a college town, so I’d probably take them to Kansas State University. Explore the campus and the area around there.

Q: Legal figure you most admire?

A: From legal history, Charles Hamilton Houston.

Q: Misconception that others have about your work?

A: Occasionally I’ll go speak on a panel and college students will say, I want to be a lawyer because I love arguing with people. The misconception is that lawyers do a lot of arguing. Most of what I do is a lot reading, writing and thinking, analyzing problems, doing problem solving.

Q: Favorite book, movie or TV show about lawyers?

A: “My Cousin Vinny.” There’s a lot to really like and love about that movie. You learn a good bit about evidence from that movie.

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