小北的不老歌

Monthly Archive: July 2006

Getting ready for the move

Threw away some, sold some, and threw away some more.

Finally, just about everything is packed into a dozen big boxes and shipped via FedEx. Remaining odds and ends, including some that I thought were lost long time ago but resurfaced during the packing, either go in the car with us for the long drive, or end up in the trash.

Departure is set for Monday evening. It’s going to be a long drive.

Shallow reflections of McKeldin

A few hours earlier Ping called to tell me her good news. It looks like she also got her future employment settled, even before she quits her old job and starts B-school. It’s at a well-respected investment bank with offices scattered across the globe, so in all likelihood we will both have the option to split the time between a U.S. office and an overseas office in China next summer.

Later, I dropped of my car at the dealership for the third time in a month to get a noisy strut replaced. Without a car I pretty much could not function, so I decided to get a ride to the nearby University of Maryland, my alma mater, to spend a few hours at the library.

It must have been months since I last visited. Fiberglass Terrapin mascots popped up everywhere on campus like giant mushrooms with an evil grin. The rolling meadow in front of the church was green as ever in the heat of the July sun. The never-ending construction work on the Stamp Union had miraculously ended, leaving the interior of the Union as confusing to an old-timer like me as a labyrinth.

I sat in the corner of the McKeldin Library, facing a window that looks out to my old dorm, Dorchester Hall, where I lived for the first year after I came here. At that time it was fashionable if not entirely lucrative for Chinese students with an advanced degree from the U.S. to return to China. That thought crossed my mind a million times too, but for whatever reason I stayed, perhaps feeling insecure about my dime-a-dozen undergraduate degrees.

When I first applied to American colleges as a high school kid, my primary motivation was to be able to sell my labor to whoever is willing to pay a price higher than what I can expect in my home country, so that I can buy good things, like a car so that I would be done with riding the bicycle everywhere. That, and the promised “land of the free.”

It’s a wonder what a decade can do to a person. I have a car now and don’t ride the bicycle anymore, but I wish I could live without the car and that I could have a bike and have the time to ride it on the weekends. The “land of the free” is, as it turned out, not free, at least not as free as I thought, if there are various degrees of “free,” and I, living in this free society, somehow managed to develop a belief that being free always comes at a cost — a cost that is often to much to bear.

It’s also a wonder what a decade can do to a country. Ten years ago if someone returned to China after having completed an American education, there were typically two explanations: either he is exceedingly patriotic and wants to serve the motherland, or he miserably failed to secure even a half-decent, minimum-wage-paying, green-card-earning job to stay in the U.S. The newspapers often touted the former (and invariably described the good things this individual has turned down: job, house, car, even a future wife candidate, all arranged by his boss — some romantic imagination at work, Chinese style), while neighborhood gossip often concluded the latter.

But ten years later, the tables have started to turn. More and more people are heading back, perhaps still partly owning to patriotism, but more and more it is because it makes economic sense to head back, for the same salary, lower cost of living, and more advancement opportunities.

It’s a lot of fun watching this trend. The earliest signs that I detected were from my classmates in the law school, as I often told my friends. There were some law students who had no prior connection with China and barely spoke any Chinese but wanted to work in China because the pay is actually higher there, with the expat stipends and the lower tax rate (and of course, the vast reserve of underpaid, well-educated and good looking — all measured by Western standards– Chinese girls, but I quickly knocked some sense into those single guys who dared think that way). The Q&A session of one of the 1L receptions that I went to, hosted by one of the premier international law firms based in NY, quickly evolved into an exclusive discussion of opportunities in China as students of all ethnic backgrounds poured questions about opportunities for foreign lawyers in China (and the answers were overwhelmingly positive, too).

Then I accompanied Ping to her Chicago GSB admitted student event where the discussion once again centered around China and the vast opportunities there. The most recent official Chicago GSB publication had a special on how foreigners can land a job in the Asia Pacific and, in particular, China (we chuckled as we read that article — who would have thought?).

The conclusive proof came this week. The law firm I interviewed at gave me an offer on the spot partly because it is prepared to expand its presence in China and its DC office was apparently in need for well-qualified, American trained, Mandarin-speaking lawyers (and to think, I don’t need any visa or work permits to visit China or even work there, ha). The investment bank where Ping will probably spend her next summer also highlighted her ability to speak Mandarin, and its managing partner has visited Beijing three times so far this year in an effort to expand their business there as well.

So these are the random thoughts as I sit in McKeldin, waiting for my car to be repaired. I sometimes complained that I was born a few decades too late (otherwise I would have found half a dozen fresh topics on law and economics for my LR note), but looking at this from a different angle, there is no better time than now to be a Chinese.

good news and bad news

Got back to DC last night. The bad news is that my professor emailed me back and said that the idea I had for my LR note was very similar to an article from 30+ years ago. So I am back in the hunt for a topic. The good news is that I went for an interview with the DC office of a NY firm and received an offer on the spot. This somehow offsets my disappointment in getting my note topic nixed. But, if I learned anything outside of law during my 1st year in law school, it is how to deal with disappointments, especially in this field where the smartest converge. So this smal setback is nothing that can’t be drowned with a couple beers.

NYC

In NYC for a couple days. Stayed in the hotel this morning to outline the idea I had for the LR note while Ping strutted away in her suit to a pre-MBA i-banking event. A couple hours later I fired off an email to my editor with my outline attached (using “borrowed” wireless connection), and felt pretty good about being able to spend the rest of the day wandering in NYC with some old friends doing absolutely nothing in this busy city.

Note II

Thanks for everyone’s kind suggestions — it looks like I have a viable note topic, for now at least, unless it again turns out to have been written by someone else before.

Through out the brainstorming process I felt like I was walking in a vast field and everywhere I looked there were no stones unturned as far as I could see. Many of my “brilliant” ideas were actually already explored and written about by others, and after reading their articles I knew I couldn’t have done a better job. It was a frustrating process — and one that made me wonder why wasn’t I born 5 years earlier, and sometimes, 25 years earlier. Case in point: I had this great idea of writing about the allocation of attorney fees under the American and British system (American: each party pays their own legal fees, British: loser pays all) and their implications on individual’s decision to bring suit or not. I had a hunch that a mathematical model could pin down the behavioral difference of litigants under the two different systems… but alas, as I researched this topic I found out that someone, now a HLS professor no less, already wrote about this precise topic 25 years ago, and did a much better job with the article than I could ever hope to do…

Anyways, I am happy with what I have now. It is related to property law and law and economics, and argues something that’s hopefully (fingers crossed) rather novel. At least that way I get to masquerade my ignorance in law with my limited knowledge in economics and math.

Note

What to write for my LR note? So far I have no clue. Coming up with a note topic is my #1 priority in the next couple weeks. This means a lot of reading, thinking, head scratching and hair pulling.

I’d appreciate any suggestions. Anyone with a legal topic that can save me from the next few weeks of frustration and deperation please kindly offer your help.

Where did the LR people work?

I looked up where the current members of the Michigan Law Review worked as a 2L summer associate, and was surprised to find out that Michigan students were indeed as spread out as the admissions people said we were going to be. Only 7 went to NYC, 13 in DC, and the rest in all parts of the country (and the world).

Another weird thing: of the 13 in DC, more than half went to two firms: Williams & Connolly, and Covington & Burling. I know these are #1 and #2 firms in DC in terms of selectivity, and I am really happy that this many Michigan people made the cut, but I don’t see such a concentration in the NYC market (7 people went to 7 different firms – all good ones though).

Updates

I was quite busy this past weekend. I started to summarize the various types of 1L jobs but couldn’t see myself finish it anytime soon (that’s some serious writing…) I completed my internship with the Judge (the internship was a highly fulfilling experience – more on that later), met with a friend and took her around in DC, and today went to chat with two partners from an IP law firm.

The weekend was busy but I was happy. When I asked the Judge if I could reapply for a clerkship with him in two years, he winked and said don’t you worry about it. The clerk I worked with said this was highly unusual, as the Judge had done the same to only one other intern in the past, so I was honored. The friend that came over to visit over the weekend was a pleasure to talk to, although we’d talked with each other quite a bit before but never met in person, so the simmering DC summer heat didn’t seem all that bad. And finally the two partners I talked to today seemed really personable – and likable – and I was very impressed by what I learned about the firm from the conversation. The lunch was excellent, too.

More about the firm: I guess since I had nothing but positive comments about the firm it’s OK to mention it by name. It is the DC office of Kenyon & Kenyon, a NYC-based IP firm. Earlier in the summer I received an email from its HR inviting Michigan students to bid on K&K for OCI. K&K is among the few IP firms that I have heard of even before law school, so I decided to reply to that email and requested an informational meeting with one of their DC associates so that I can learn more about the firm and IP litigation in general (at that time I was still unsure about whether I should go into IP or do the good old corporate law). A month later I got my wish – sort of – I ended up meeting not an associate, but two of its partners, got a lot of good advice from them and left with a strongly positive feeling of the firm and its people. Highly recommended for anyone who’s interested in doing quality IP work.

一年级暑期实习(三)

法院实习

在联邦和州法院的实习工作之间,一般认为联邦法院的更好,因为在一家联邦法院实习时接触到的民法诉讼程序以及其他联邦法律在全美各地的联邦法院都适用,而在各州的州法院实习则大多接触到的是州法律,适用地域小。另外一个不争的事实是(小声地说):联邦法官的素质要比同级别的州法官高,所以找到一个好的联邦法官做实习的机会比找到一个好的州法官的几率要高。

在联邦和州两套相对独立的司法系统各自都有审判法院,上诉法院和最高法院,可以按照自己的喜好来申请实习:在审判院实习的好处是能接触很多案子,而且身处诉讼第一线,能够学习到不少实际操作技巧;然而缺点是一般案子繁多,很短时间就要结一个,所以有可能广度有余深度不足,而且练笔的机会不多(但这也是因法官而异)。在上诉法院和最高院实习的好处是能够得到充分的机会锻炼逻辑思维和写作能力,因为到了上诉阶段,尤其是最高院受理的案件,一般问题都比较棘手或者模棱两可,在双方提供的材料之外需要做大量的研究工作反复讨论之后才能够作出判决,而写出一份论述完整令人信服的判决书则是另一项费时费力却又十分锻炼人的工作(当然,写完以后这份判决书就成了案例法会被发表,下级法院会仔细学习“上级”精神,也算是实习的一个额外收获),缺点是接触面较窄,一般诉讼到上诉阶段就没有什么太多的唇枪舌战,不能直接体会到庭辩的气氛,而且以我实习的州最高院为例,一份好的判决书从接手到最后校对工作需耗时四周左右,这样一份实习下来最多经手两个案子,深度有余而广度不足。

选择法院时考虑的这些因素同样也适用于选择法官。在面试时一定要问清楚法官会给实习生派什么活。希望观摩实际诉讼过程的就要问好是不是能跟着法官一起出庭,希望加强写作训练的就要问是不是可以独立撰写判决书,等等。同样是一个法院的法官,我的法官就十分信赖实习生,和他的clerk一样对待,要求实习生也独立撰写判决书,而另一个法官则坚持只让实习生做一些外围研究工作,写一些备忘录之类的短篇文章,所以说各个法官的做法不同,所以一定要在实习开始前有个了解。

最后两点题外话:
1。面试后法官如果正式通知同意收你,除有特殊情况外千万不要回绝。业界流传“never say no to a judge”大意如此,是行业不成文的基本规矩。所以选择和哪位法官面试时一定要想好,如果法官愿意接收的话自已也愿意为这位法官干,如果面试时发现意向不合的话也要婉转但明白地表示出来,千万不要等到面试完了法官决定收你了以后再回绝。至于这条规矩的由来,我猜测大概是因为对于一个律师来说,没有什么比给法官留下一个坏印象更加糟糕的事了。(另外也要给你的学弟学妹留条后路——我的法官今年招clerk的时候有两个同一学校毕业的就事后变卦,法官直说这个学校教出来的人怎么连这点规矩都不懂,一个电话打到学校就业办,下一年度便不再从这个学校招人)
2。实习时能认识从别的学校来的实习生,能知道别的学校的趣闻轶事,还能集思广益找机会让法官大人请客吃饭,是一个认识新朋友的好机会。
P7140403
最后一天法官再次请客,珂莱尔小姐扎着红领巾,小北三杯啤酒下肚,两个实习生大快朵颐完毕。

一年级暑期实习(二)

一年级暑期工作大致分为如下几类:

律所

如前所述,大型律所竞争非常激烈,一方面因为大多数学生毕业后都会在律所工作,如果一年级夏天就能找到律所工作的话,一般会被邀请二年级夏天回来再次实习一次,那么毕业以后的工作就算基本确定了,另一方面是报酬颇高,和正式员工一样,每周约二千四百至二千八百美元不等,对一个学生来说是不少的数目,一般一个夏天做下来以后攒下来的钱应付下一年的生活费基本不成问题。除此以外,从中积攒的实际工作经验也是十分宝贵的,因为如果日后希望去律所工作,先在律所里实习可以了解工作流程,认识不少律师,同时对这个律所有深入的了解,这样二年级夏天再找实习的时候就更加有的放矢。

很多一流律所是讲明不收一年级实习生的,多数接收一年级实习生的也只收一到两个,极少的招收五个以上的。能够在第一年夏天就找到大型律所工作的学生大多是某一方面十分突出,有律所想要的特点,例如:第一学期成绩拔尖的;面试时口才优秀的;少数民族(非裔,拉美裔,和具有印第安血统的学生。如果是中国学生的话这一点不占任何优势);有技术背景希望作知识产权的;在律所有熟人的(或者父母是律所的大客户),等等。

如果十分希望第一年就在律所做的话,除了大所以外还应当考虑中小型律所,尤其要充分利用自己的地缘优势。对于美国学生来说他们可以回家庭所在地,或者本科读书的城市来申请,当地的中小型律所如果在本地没有很好的法学院的话一般很乐意接收外地名校的一年级学生。对于中国学生来说,如果之前在美国某处住过一段时间,不论是念书还是工作,都可以到那里去试一试。另外回国找内资所或者外所在国内的办事处实习也是很不错的选择,尤其是对于出国前没有国内法律背景而希望最终回国工作的同学,更是一个了解国内法律市场,培养人际关系的好机会。美国中小型律所给实习生的报酬差别很大,从与大型律所持平,到每周八百一千的都有,但一般这些律所为了在招聘方面与大型律所保持竞争力,薪水不会低很多,我知道的几个二级市场的所的周薪,大约在一千八到二千二左右。国内律所的情况不清楚,好像除君合柳沈以外没有专门给中国留学生回国实习的项目,要一个一个地去联系。

(本节待续)