After six years of practicing law in China, Eric Zhu went to Duke for his LL.M. to get a better understanding of US law and to pass the New York State Bar exam.
Here, he discusses his LL.M. experience, and how he thinks it can benefit both his career and the development of IP law in China.
What is your background, and why did you choose Duke to do your LL.M.?
Before I went to Duke, I spent around six years practicing intellectual property law in China.
One of the reasons why I chose Duke is because it was one of my best options at the time. Duke Law is one of the top-10 law schools in the United States. I decided to go to Duke with my wife and our two-year-old daughter, so I did not choose a law school in a big city like D.C. or New York. A friend told me Duke is an ideal place for families. Living costs aren't high, and it is safe, quiet, and friendly.
What did you expect to get out of the program?
My expectation was that I could get some basic knowledge of US law from the program. Because I work for an international law firm in China, it is better for me to know the common law system. Also after the LL.M., I could take the New York Bar. So I think to know US culture, the legal system, and to take the NY Bar were my expectations from the program.
What was your favorite class and why?
It was “Distinctive Aspects of US Law” given by Thomas B. Metzloff. The course introduces the US legal system and what is unique in the States, mostly about the Constitution, such as equal protection, gun control, gay marriage and other hotly debated issues. We had a group discussion each week on a particular subject which was quite fun and inspiring.
I also liked “Civil Procedures” taught by Margaret H. Lemos. It was a small class with just twenty students. I had the class with JD students. I liked Professor Lemos' teaching style in allowing students to discuss and analyze each case from different perspectives. It was quite different from what I had in law school in China, where we focused on memorizing the rules too much, but rarely went deep for reasons behind those rules.
I also took quite a few good IP classes at Duke, such as “Trademark” given by David L. Lange and “Copyright” given by Jerome H. Reichman. By the way, Duke Law also offers LL.M. students certificates in specialized areas such as IP, Business and Environmental Law.
How do you think the LL.M. will help your career?
I think the study in Duke will help my career in the long term. Because I work for a US law firm, it is better to have foreign legal education and bar qualification to get on the right career track.
In practice, I can have benefit from a better understanding of the needs of our clients from US and other common law countries. Before the study, my knowledge was quite limited in the Chinese culture and Chinese legal system.
What are your plans for the next few years?
I have rejoined my firm in Shanghai, and will focus on IP law practice.
I see that IP law is still a relatively new area in China. There is still a gap in IP protection between China and other developed countries. The influence what we, each LL.M., can have is to develop the law system in China and close that gap.
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