| Conan Ju | 30 June 2012 | Shanghai, China |
Three weeks ago, I departed from New York to the welcoming arms of my second home in Shanghai, China. My parents had emigrated from Shanghai over twenty years ago with the hopes of continuing their education and raising a family. These days, it seems like the opportunities in China are unlimited. Currently, I am interning at Shanghai Yi Man law firm (上海一曼律师事务所), a partner firm of Quarles & Brady LLP, a large U.S. law firm based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Yi Man law firm employs approximately a dozen attorneys specializing in corporate commercial law, real estate law, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, tax, and numerous other areas of practice.
On the first day of my internship, my supervising attorney Mr. Leng offered the following advice: “Besides learning the law, I suggest that you spend the time observing how a Chinese law firm operates, how attorneys and clients interact, and how the numerous administrative agencies and courts operate. It is also of the utmost importance that you establish connections and learn how to deal with people in a business environment”. Since then, I have followed Mr. Leng’s sound advice. I have had the opportunity to observe client meetings with clients (all corporate) from South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and the United States. I have also had the opportunity to observe a court proceeding. Surprisingly, the court proceeding I observed was not unlike one in the U.S., where the Plaintiff made motions before the court and the Defendant was given an opportunity to object. I have also visited a district tax bureau, a tax service firm, and a maritime law firm. It is not uncommon for client meetings to be conducted in an informal setting, such as a tea house or café, where the attorney and client can comfortably converse while enjoying a light snack and beverage. Of course, the law firm’s offices and conference rooms are also used regularly.
I immediately noticed two key differences between American and Chinese Law within the first week of my internship. First, China is not a common law country. Rather, China’s court system is based on civil law, modeled after the legal systems found in Germany and France. Although somewhat relieved to find that I will not be Shepardizing this summer, I had concerns over the consistent application of laws by courts. Second, there are substantially more administrative agencies in China with considerably more power. Often, state, province, and municipal agencies overlap in jurisdiction and substantive law. As a result, it may be difficult to pinpoint which agency’s laws govern a particular situation. Thankfully, the experienced lawyers here at the firm always seem to know which laws apply and which legal arguments will likely succeed.
Although these first few weeks have been incredibly challenging, they have also been extremely rewarding. All the case files and legal documents are in Chinese. At times, it has been a struggle translating and understanding legal terms and concepts. However, I am determined to make the most of experience in Shanghai and will continue absorbing and learning as much as I can before I begin my 3L year.