Summer Legal Associate in Beijing

Sheppard MullinWith former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Now that the program at Peking University has concluded, I have started working as a Summer Associates at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton’s office in Beijing. Sheppard Mullin is an American law firm with headquarters in California and offices around the globe. The Beijing office does work in a wide variety of practice areas including Corporate, Intellectual Property, Antitrust, and Entertainment.

I feel very lucky to be working alongside a team of very bright Chinese attorneys. Partners James Zimmerman and Scott Palmer are leaders in their fields and Special Counsel Becky Koblitz is an expert in Antitrust law. Needless to say, it has been a great experience, thus far. Mr. Zimmerman is also the current Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce China, which has provided additional opportunities to learn from and network with business executives navigating the complexities of doing business in China.

My second week at the firm featured events with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (pictured above) and a reception for the Shanghai International Film Festival with Robb Klein who heads up the firm’s entertainment practice. Both were insightful discussions touching on legal issues that I care deeply about.

I am also fortunate to work alongside other talented Summer Associates from the United States. I wanted to give you a chance to learn a little about each of us.

Beijing, ChinaCelebrating the 4th of July with AmCham China in Beijing

Betsy Tao
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Rising 3L JD/MBA
Legal Interest Area: Intellectual Property and Technology

Why did you come to China: My law school sponsors a global summer internship program to send IU students into summer positions around the world. I applied to the China placement because I was interested in working for a US-based firm on international intellectual property issues.

What has surprised you most about China: Beijing is a just a very large Chinese city. As one of the largest cities in the world, I expected to find a more global atmosphere, specifically in terms of food, language, and daily interactions. There are Western influences like American fashion brands and modern office buildings, but Beijing remains deeply true to its own culture, history, and traditions, even as it grows as a global center of commerce.

Would you recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student? YES! Any chance you have to live and work outside your home base will broaden your experiences and perspective. China is an interesting legal market, and many firms here work for international and/or global clients. Intellectual property is an especially interesting practice area in China because of the cultural and political differences from the United States on the concept and enforcement of intellectual property. Having the ability to research global issues, communicate with colleagues and clients from other cultures, and navigate a foreign legal market and foreign city are all skills that will make you a better lawyer. And—it’s an adventure!

Advice on working in China: Practice Mandarin! Your office may or may not use English, and you will not be able to speak English in most restaurants, stores, or taxis. Try to learn at least a few basic phrases. Do your research about the practice area in which you will be working before you leave; know what resources you will and will not be able to access on the Chinese internet. Be open-minded – try new experiences and new foods; travel around the city and the country, if possible; embrace the difference in the local culture; and look at your experience as a grand adventure (it is!).

Xiao Ma (肖)
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Rising 3L
Legal Interest Area: Dispute Resolution

Why did you come to China?
To get an experience of working in an Am100 law firm.

What has surprised you most about China?
The fast-growing Chinese legal market.

Would you recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student?
For those who may have an interest in practicing International law, the knowledge of China, especially Beijing, would be a great fortunate for your career.  There are some things you just cannot learn from a book or others, you need to see and feel by yourself.  For those who just want to practice domestic transactional work, a summer in Beijing would also be very helpful.  Sino-American business will take a big portion of the American legal market in future, some basic understanding of Chinese business and Chinese law can be help you stand out during the recruiting season.

Ryan Chan
University of San Francisco School of Law
Rising 2L

I came to China because in college I’ve always wanted to study abroad either in Beijing, China, or Hong Kong. Moreover, since I am Chinese, I have always wanted to learn more about my own culture/history. I also feel most comfortable here.

What surprised me most about China would be the pollution and language barrier. As I have heard before arriving, China’s pollution is terrible but it is another thing to see it in person. The pollution looks worse than the fog in Daly City, CA. Coming to China, I thought I could easily communicate with other Chinese people. However, Cantonese is very different from Beijing’s Mandarin.

I would recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student only if the firm is an American law firm. I can’t imagine working in a Chinese law firm if everyone there speaks Mandarin.

Maria Crespo
University of San Francisco School of Law
LLM IP, Mexico
Legal Interest Area: International Transactions, International Intellectual Property

Why did you come to China: Sheppard and Mullin offered a unique opportunity to expand my international transactions background and knowledge in Intellectual Property (Trademark) law with Chinese legal exposure.

What has surprised you most about China: The culture is amazing, cuisine, music, architecture, to mention some.

Would you recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student?  I strongly recommend a summer associate experience in China, and strongly recommend Sheppard and Mullin as a supportive and educational experience. My experience at Sheppard and Mullin is had been great, it is a pleasure to have such a smart team. I learned the Chinese legal process in trademarks, and how to understand the Chinese cases. Sheppard and Mullin’s employees were very helpful for me to accomplish this goal.

Olivia Sullivan
Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Rising 2L
Legal Interest Area:  International law- commercial litigation

Why did you come to China: I came to China because I took an introduction to Chinese law course at Loyola and was intrigued by both their legal system and culture. I’ve always been interested in international law and China is the place where many companies are taking their business so it seemed like the best place to get experience. China is also a great place to experience new culture and really good food.

What has surprised you most about China: We were told over and over again in our Chinese law course that the laws in China were vague and overbroad, it isn’t until you start reading and interpreting the Chinese laws for clients that you really realize how vague they really are. It makes practicing law here a lot more complex. I’m also surprised how many weird bathrooms there are and how delicious lizard wine is.

Would you recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student? I would recommend a summer associate position in China 10 times out of 10. The work is engaging and very different from anything you will get to do in the US. Very few other summer associate positions will offer you challenging legal work while also immersing you in a whole new culture. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have something really interesting to talk about during an interview!

Jessica Peterson
Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Rising 2L
Legal Interest Area: antitrust, corporate, international

Why did you come to China: I studied Chinese language at Michigan, and since studying abroad in China in college, I’ve wanted to work for a global law firm in a different country. When I got the opportunity to work at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, LLP in Beijing, China, I immediately took it, as it allowed me to do exactly what I’ve wanted to do. This job has not let me down! Working and living in Beijing, meeting expats, attending AmCham China events and hanging out with my co-workers has been so fun and such a great experience!

What has surprised you most about China: How crunchy the scorpions at Wangfujing Snack Street were. But on a more serious note, I was surprised by how accepting the Chinese people are of foreigners. Any time I’ve talked with a Chinese person, in English or in broken Chinese, they’ve always been very kind, willing to help. Another thing I was surprised about was how I’ve never felt unsafe in Beijing, even walking around at night. My apartment is pretty far outside of the city center (between the 5th and 6th rings), and no one speaks any English where I live, but I’ve never felt as though I were in any danger, and most people want me to help them learn English and they’ll help me with a few words in Chinese.

Would you recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student? YES! Absolutely! We not only do very interesting work, but we are treated like attorneys rather than associates. I have been given work that is given to the client. It is satisfying knowing that I’m doing something that could have an impact. Additionally, working in an American firm in China is such a unique experience, as we are both using what we’ve learned about US law, and learning different areas of Chinese law. It is very interesting to compare and contrast the two legal systems and analyze them side by side.

Keith Kelly
University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law
Rising 2L
Legal Interest Area: Intellectual Property, Entertainment

Why did you come to China: I am intrigued by China and its evolving legal system. I took the opportunity to study comparative law at Peking University this summer and was fortunate to secure a position as a Summer Associate at Sheppard Mullin. There may not be a more exciting place in the world for entertainment law than China right now. Their film industry is set to surpass Hollywood by 2017 while facing unprecedented levels of IP issues. Also, the food.

What has surprised you most about China: The amount of people in Beijing. They are everywhere. I have lived in New York City for most of my adult life and am generally accustomed to big cities. Beijing is on a completely different level. Subway rides during my morning commute are both exciting and absurd. Also, the people here are extremely nice. All 1.3 billion of them!

Would you recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student? Yes, without a doubt. Regardless of what kind of law you plan to practice, you will deal with China at some point. It is an extremely fast growing economy that is vastly different from the United States politically and legally. I can’t imagine a better place to learn from some of the best attorneys in the world while also being immersed in a wholly foreign culture. If you want to be challenged and truly learn, China is the place you need to be.

Chinese Law Clerks

Jianzhong Huang
Hometown: Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Law School of Tsinghua
Recently graduated with Master’s Degree.

Why did you decide to become an attorney: When I was considering what major to choose after I graduated from high school, someone (I can’t remember who he is) told me that being a lawyer will bring me endless money.

What do you like most about law in China: we don’t need to follow precedent cases.

What do you like most about US law: It is practical.

What is it like working at an American law firm in Beijing: Respected

Zhihua Zhou
Hometown: Henan Province
China University of Political Science and Law
Year In School: From 2014 to 2017

Why did you decide to become an attorney: I think it’s exciting to see different cases everyday, and you can give a resolution from the legal perspective.

What do you like most about law in China: It’s changing fast, and heading to the right direction.

What do you like most (and least) about US law: It’s precise. I think, it’s like the judge will create a formula to decide a case.

What is it like working at an American law firm in Beijing: I don’t have to worry about trying to impress my boss or colleagues all the time. I only need to do my job well.