This fall, the firm welcomed D. Pamela Saenz and Peter Qiu as new associates following law school graduation. Unique to this class of attorneys is that they are both bilingual. Peter’s parents were both Chinese born moving to United States in the early 1990s, with Peter being the first generation in his family to be born and raised in the United States. Born in New York City, Peter has lived in New York, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana before settling in Kansas during fourth grade. Peter spent his final years of grade school and middle school and high school in the Hutchinson, Kansas area. Peter then attended Washburn University (BA 2017) and the University of Kansas School of Law (JD 2021). Peter was able to study abroad in Beijing, China following his first year of law school at the University of Kansas School of Law where he studied Chinese corporate law, labor law, constitutional law, and many others.
Peter is fluent in both Mandarin and English, with Mandarin being the primary language spoken in Peter’s home growing up. His Mandarin fluency which makes him invaluable with international clients and cases. But this trait is equally as attractive with local clients and cases, with Peter able to serve central Kansas’s noticeable Chinese population. Through Peter’s life experiences (including working in a family-owned restaurant throughout his life), Peter believes that many Asian business owners that are not native English speaking tend to avoid retaining lawyers when prudent because of the cultural and linguistic differences. Peter hopes his experiences can help better serve these populations.
Pam is a first generation Hispanic-American, with her father immigrating from Mexico and her mother immigrating from Honduras in the 1990s. Her parents, having met in Wichita, have called Wichita home for Pam’s entire life.
Spanish is Pam’s first language since it was the only language her parents could speak at the time of her birth. However, once in school, English overtook her communication both inside and outside her home as she and her family worked to assimilate. As a result, while she always understood Spanish, she was not very comfortable speaking Spanish during a large part of her childhood. Pam began taking formal Spanish classes in high school and majored In Spanish in college. It was through these formal teachings that she learned to read, write, translate, and interpret Spanish, and gained confidence in her Spanish-speaking abilities.
Being the child of immigrants, Pam saw firsthand how difficult it was for her parents, relatives, and family friends to obtain services in Spanish—be it at doctor’s appointments, banks, county offices, or nearly anywhere else. This became a strong motivating factor for her to attend law school – the desire to provide competent representation for Spanish-speaking individuals in the language in which they felt most comfortable. Pam felt the impact of her bilingualism when she worked as an office assistant for an immigration attorney, and in law school when she served as an intern for the Washburn Law Immigration & Family Justice Clinic. These opportunities allowed her to build trust with clients and avoided the complications of coordinating and communicating through an interpreter. Now as a lawyer, there is a significant Hispanic population in Wichita that Pam looks forward to assisting.