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EECS Alumni Spotlight: Computer Science MS Grad Xiaoyan Zhang

For its newest San Francisco hire, Reed Smith has reached across the Pacific. The firm announced the addition Monday of Xiaoyan Zhang as counsel in the firm’s Information Technology, Privacy and Data Security practice group.

The hire of Zhang will boost the firm’s level of expertise around tech-related laws in the U.S. and abroad, particularly in China. Zhang has a master’s degree in computer science [from the University of Tennessee] on top of her J.D. and years of experience working as an attorney in the U.S. and in China, most recently at Mayer Brown JSM, that firm’s Asian outpost.

“In addition to her deep experience in Asia and her language and cultural capabilities, which are obviously important, I regard her as a switch-hitter, capable of both traditional IP as well as data law work,” said Mark Melodia, Reed Smith’s IP, Tech & Data co-chair. “That’s exactly how we’ve set up our global team.”

With international legal frameworks changing at a steady clip, firms like Reed Smith are looking to hire counsel like Zhang who understand tech, data and cross-border laws. And Zhang’s experience working on privacy and cybersecurity in Asia looks to be especially crucial following China’s implementation of a tough new cybersecurity law in June.

Many U.S. companies operating in China or looking to expand there have been confused by the law and its implications—it uses language that doesn’t always translate perfectly to English. One of the law’s key international provisions hasn’t even been implemented yet. Starting in December 2018, any important data transferred outside of China will need to go through a security assessment.

Zhang said she feels a duty to help U.S. companies learn to comply with China’s new laws, as someone who’s lived and worked extensively in both China and the U.S. and understands both cultures.

“Coming back to help U.S. clients with what I’ve seen and learned in Asia, it’s quite satisfying,” Zhang said. “I really hope we can clarify some of the confusions and obstacles in trying to understand what’s required.”

During her nearly three years at Mayer Brown JSM in Hong Kong, she advised international clients on IP issues in cross-border M&A transactions, as well as privacy and cybersecurity, according to her LinkedIn profile. Prior to that, she worked as a senior associate for Hogan Lovells in New York. There, she also focused on technology licenses and M&A.

Before working in law, she spent four years in the technology security field, her profile said. After earning her master’s in computer science, she worked as an information security consultant. She spent two years as a senior information security engineer and ethical hacker for HSBC.

Melodia said Reed Smith was “really thrilled” to find an attorney who is “fluent in not just English and Mandarin, but also tech.”

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