Peking University School of Transnational Law (“STL”), part of PKU’s Shenzhen Graduate School, is the only law school in the world that combines an American-style Juris Doctor degree (J.D.) with a China law Juris Master degree (J.M.). STL provides an academically rigorous, bilingual four-year program of legal education that prepares students for the mixture of common law, civil law, and Chinese legal traditions increasingly characteristic of the global economy.
China’s State Council authorized the creation of China’s first common law Juris Doctor curriculum in 2007. The following year, Peking University’s new School of Transnational Law admitted its first students. The University appointed Jeffrey Lehman, a former president of Cornell University and dean of the University of Michigan Law School, as STL’s Founding Dean. STL’s current dean, Philip McConnaughay, was Founding Dean of Penn State University’s Schools of Law and International Affairs, a former professor of law at the University of Illinois, and a former partner of the leading international law firm, Morrison & Foerster.
Although STL is still young, with only six graduating classes to date, it already has captured the attention of the world’s leading law firms, companies, government offices, NGOs and universities. Post-graduate placement of STL graduates is nearly 100 percent. STL graduates now work with leading law firms such as Fangda Partners, King & Wood Mallesons, Junhe, Kirkland & Ellis, Shearman & Sterling, Paul Weiss, Simpson Thatcher, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, DLA Piper, Morrison & Foerster, and others; with leading companies such as Huawei Technologies, Tencent, Baidu, Walmart China, Ping An, General Electric, and others; and with leading government offices and nonprofit organizations such as the Qianhai Equity Exchange, the Supreme People’s Court, the South China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission, the United Nations Refugee Agency, CIETAC and others. STL graduates pursuing academic careers have been accepted into advanced degree programs at such elite universities as Harvard, Yale, Science Po, College of Europe and others.
These employers and universities recognize that the true value of STL’s J.D. and J.M. degrees includes far more than simply educating students about the content of different areas of Chinese and American law. The true value lies in imparting the skills that make for great lawyers, jurists and leaders of any nationality: rigorous analytical thinking, the ability to see all sides of an issue, the ability to solve complex problems creatively, and the ability to persuade. STL students acquire these skills because of STL’s unique method of instruction: serious, reflective study of actual cases accompanied by intensely interactive class sessions in which professors question and challenge students, day after day, about the cases they read. The effect of this method becomes apparent to STL students:
“The study of American law is something new and unfamiliar to me, unlike any schooling I’ve ever been through before. The professors use the Socratic method here; they call on you, ask you a question, and you answer it. At first, I thought it was inefficient – why didn’t they just give a lecture? But I soon learned that it was not just an efficiency matter, but a way to educate yourself. Through professors’ questions, you learn to teach yourself. And through this method of questioning, answering, questioning, answering, they seek to develop in you the ability to analyze … the professors train the mind.”
Increasingly, STL’s curriculum also offers supervised real world practice experience. Students in STL’s new Small Business Entrepreneurship Clinic, for example, will advise emerging Shenzhen businesses on the wide range of business, intellectual property, and other regulatory and personal issues that typically accompany the ramp-up effort of new businesses. Students in STL’s Public Interest Advocacy Clinic work remotely via audiovisual connection, but real-time, with experienced public interest lawyers in the United States on major social change initiatives and litigation there.
STL’s fundamental mission is to (i) educate top university graduates about different legal traditions and systems and thereby promote their ability to contend with the new policies and practices likely to emerge in a globalized economy; (ii) contribute to the creation of a Chinese legal profession equipped to serve China’s increasingly sophisticated domestic economy and to compete successfully on an international scale with dominant American and British law firms; and (iii) provide domestically in an affordable way the graduate-level legal education top Chinese students traditionally have only been able to obtain abroad at great expense.
STL has assembled an outstanding multinational faculty of scholars from China, the U.S. and the EU, whose previous and concurrent appointments include such esteemed law faculties as those of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, the University of Chicago, Peking University, Tsinghua University, University College London, University Aix-Marseille, Hong Kong University, and others. As one of STL’s students recently exclaimed, “Studying at STL is like studying abroad in China!”
China’s best and brightest students are vying for admission to STL. In order to be eligible for admission, PRC students must either (i) earn exemption from China’s national graduate school entrance exam by virtue of being one of the top few graduates of one of China’s top-tier universities, or (ii) meet or exceed the Peking University “cut score” on the national graduate school entrance exam, which is the highest cut score in China. STL applicants also must take the LSAT exam, and submit to a rigorous in-person English-language interview by STL faculty before being offered admission.
The achievements of STL students already are gaining attention worldwide. In 2013, STL’s Jessup International Law Moot Court Team was China National Champion. STL’s 2014 and 2015 Vis International Arbitration Moot Teams were China National Champions, winning all expense paid trips to the Vis International competition in Vienna, Austria. STL students established and now edit the Peking University Transnational Law Review, an English language journal with worldwide readership. In 2014, STL students established China’s first Public Interest Law Foundation, known commonly as “PILF.”
STL continues to advance on this exciting trajectory.