Member Profile – Makalika Naholowaa

Makalika Destarte Naholowaa (Kanaka Maoli/Native Hawaiian) is a Trademark Attorney for Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Washington. Her work includes strategic trademark counseling, rights procurement, portfolio management, and management of enforcement matters in the U.S. and internationally. Before joining Microsoft, Makalika was an Associate in the Trademark and Copyright Group of Perkins Coie LLP, sitting in the firm’s Seattle office.
She serves on the Boards for the National Native American Bar Association and Washington Lawyers for the Arts, and on the U.S. Subcommittee of the International Trademark Association’s Amicus Committee. For part of the year, Makalika also teaches intellectual property to Masters students as an adjunct professor at Seattle University.

Makalika is admitted to practice law in the State of Washington. She holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School. At Columbia she was a Stone Scholar and an editor for the Science and Technology Law Review. Makalika also holds a B.S. in Mathematics with a Concentration in Computer Science from Arizona State University.

Makalika has a five-year old daughter, a three-year old Maine Coon, and a one-year old brindle American Pit Bull Terrier. They destroy her house; when she’s not working, she is sweeping up their messes. Nevertheless, she likes spending time with them and her husband Alex. Her extended family is vast, noisy, and lives mostly in Hawaii. She likes to spend time with them too.

Q& A With Makalika:

1. Where are you from?

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and spent some time there and in New Mexico as a tot, but my family settled in Arizona by the time I was three. I was raised there, in a rural town west of Phoenix. After high school, I moved to “the city,” i.e., into Phoenix, to study at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, and lived there until graduation. So I’m from Arizona.

2. How did you decide to become a lawyer? Did you always want to practice Indian law and/or work for a tribe? Why or why not?

When I left home for university, I wanted a STEM career. I thought I would enjoy being a math professor someday. But I was 16 and didn’t know much about the professional world nor what I wanted career-wise. By the time I graduated from college, I knew theoretical research wasn’t how I wanted to fill my days. Nevertheless, I loved technology, and the intersection of technology and social policy, and considered going to law school then to develop that interest. But, this all occurred to me relatively late in my undergraduate time, and at graduation I wasn’t ready to go to graduate school. Instead, I took a job working for IBM as a tech specialist for the company’s sales arm. It wasn’t until three years later, after working a bit, that I made the decision to go to law school.

Going into grad school, I was receptive to learning about all different types of law practices; I didn’t expect to necessarily work for a tribe or center my practice on Indian law. I did hope to carve a path that allowed me to help Native American communities and stay engaged in the information technology world that I “came from.” It wasn’t obvious how that would work out when I started school, and it’s still not obvious. But my personal experience has been that it’s possible. And I’m hopeful that I’ll continue to do both, at higher levels of impact over time.

3. To date, what do you think is your most notable accomplishment – either legal or personal?

Short answer: I can’t think of an extraordinary, headline news event to call out. But I’m grateful for many perhaps-not-extraordinary successes and captured opportunities that I don’t take for granted. I do work that I love, with real impact on the world at Microsoft, and before that similarly got to do great work for my clients in private practice. For a few months a year, I teach eager students about intellectual property, a topic I’m passionate about. I serve on two non-profit boards that respectively do great work in the intellectual property space and for native people, again areas I’m passionate about. I do these things and also engage in my family—as a mom, daughter, sister, niece, etc.—in a way that honors those relationships and makes me feel happy and fulfilled. I’m proud of these things, and hope for many more years of practice and headline worthy milestones in the future.

4. Is there anything in your career that you have not yet accomplished that you have set as a goal for yourself? If so, what is that? If not, do you plan to retire at some point or try another career?

So many things!! I was honored to study under Professor Eben Moglen in law school. He encourages his students to recognize the value of a license to practice law for the ability and privilege it provides to work for good in the world. I never plan to retire. I can’t give my license to anyone else, its non-transferrable. It would be a waste for me to put it down until I’m no longer able to use it. Of course, that doesn’t mean my practice won’t evolve over time. It should! For example, I would welcome the opportunity to one day do pro bono work for Native Hawaiian families and organizations on Hawaiian land rights issues.

5. Why did you join NNABA? What would you like to see the organization do or accomplish in the near and/or distant future?

NNABA is in the process of completing a first-of-its-kind study of the Native American bar in the U.S. One of the things I am most excited about doing along with the rest of the NABA board is analyzing the study results and developing a strategic plan for servicing the Native American legal community based on that data. The data will tell us many things, like our size, geographic spread, and the breadth of our practices. This will greatly inform who we are, what would be helpful to us, and help drive decisions regarding NABA work. It’s exciting, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

6. Do you have any advice for new lawyers? If so, what is it?

I’ll happily share advice from another that I’ve taken to heart. An executive at my company recently inspired me by saying that one of her personal goals is to always be authentic. What a wonderful thing to accomplish. But, hard to do, especially when you sit in meetings at work or school and don’t look like anyone else in the room nor anyone else up your organization’s food chain. In that case, how can authentic you lead to successful you? I know I’ve struggled with that. But, it can. You can be professional and true to self. You can be genuinely you and find likeness with others, even if the likeness is not obvious. So I encourage you to be authentic, and to seek help from mentors when you feel like a situation challenges your ability to do so.

And enable the delayed send function on your e-mail outbox!! For some reason, it is only after clicking “Send” that you realize you’ve accidentally left opposing counsel on a privileged email thread going to your client, or forgotten an attachment, or made a horrible typo. The delayed send feature will let you grab it out of your outbox before disaster occurs. Cheers.