A Day in the Life of a U.S. Judicial Extern: Four STL Students Share their Experiences

During Fall 2017, three STL students and one graduate undertook prestigious judicial externships in the United States.  LI Mengshi (class of 2017), LI Yidan and ZHENG Xinjia (class of 2018), and ZHANG Xi (class of 2019) share their experiences.

LI Mengshi: Clerk for Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (Boston, Massachusetts)


During my internship at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), I performed tasks typically assigned to legal interns from U.S. law schools. My daily assignments included legal research and writing on cases pending oral argument, as well as analyses of cases seeking direct appellate review. Guided by the Chief Justice and his clerks, I drafted an opinion regarding a defendant who was seeking further appellate review of his murder conviction.

To help current and future STL students get a better picture of the daily life at the SJC, I lay out a high-level itinerary below:

Timeframe Assignments
Sep 5-Nov 16 Drafted 15 Direct Appellate Review Summaries.
Sep 5-22 To explore the possibility of a dissent, researched on whether certain type of Sexual Offender Registration Board (SORB) classification would infringe upon liberty interests that is a per se miscarriage of justice warranting retrial.
Sep 28-29 To prepare the court before oral arguments, researched on the appropriateness of certain probate conditions imposed on individuals with drug addictions, and what might be the legitimate court-initiated measures (detention or involuntary inpatient treatment).
Oct 10-17 Researched on the applicability of collateral estoppel in a parallel civil action when the underlying criminal appeal is pending; and then researched where the doctrine of abatement ab initio applied to the underlying criminal appeal (meaning once a defendant is dead, the criminal case is invalid from the beginning), whether and how would collateral estoppel apply.
Oct 23-Nov 9 Helped to draft a speech on the intersection between behavioral health and criminal justice reform based on Judge Minehan’s draft; discussed the topic with Judge Coffey and forensic scientist Stephanie; coordinated with organizers of the Event; attended the Event.
Nov 13-16 Drafted a Single Justice Opinion on gatekeeper petition.
Oct 30-31 Attended the Justice for All 2017 Working Group Summit.
Sep 5-Nov 10 Oral arguments:

  • Sat in oral arguments at the SJC.  Participated in discussions with the CA team after the Justices’ consultations.
  • Sat in oral arguments at trial court level, including the Land Court Department, the BLS, and mental health court as a specialty court.
Sep 5-Sep 19 Attended the Clerk/Intern Orientation Program of the 2017-2018 Court Year spanning standards of appellate review, finality of judgments, and preparing an opinion ready for the editing process.
Sep 5-Nov 16 Attended lectures and social law events, featuring:

  • a talk by Harold Koh on the development of international criminal law after the Nuremberg Trial,
  • the State of the Judiciary event summing up the achievements and future plan of Massachusetts, and
  • the 325th Anniversary of the SJC chaired by 4 Chief Justices

In addition to formal trainings and works at the SJC, I also enjoyed many fun events. Ranking first are meals with the Chief Justice and the Chief’s Cohort, led by our beloved Carina. To this day, I always think of moments like strolling from Mike’s Pastry to the Bill Russell statute with the Chief after dining at the North End, warm and relaxing after-work café breaks with Carina, and a hilarious bus ride to New York with Angelica (another intern for the Chief). I highly recommend any STL student loving the law to apply for such a court internship. It will be tremendously rewarding!

LI Yidan: Clerk for Chief Judge Patti Saris, United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Boston, Massachusetts)


The responsibilities of interns include assisting and observing court proceedings, conducting research/writing bench memo/drafting order regarding any assigned case, proofreading and cite-checking as requested by the law clerks. As is true in any professional law office, the work done by interns is the foundation. Judicial interns need to clearly identify the legal issues, lay out the legal standards in the particular jurisdiction, and thoroughly engage with the evidence on the docket. The key is to be as patient and thorough as one can. When I was working, I did as much research as I could and wrote as succinctly as I could.

In addition, communication was another import aspect of this job. The assignments would come from law clerks or the Chief Judge herself. The first step was to know what I was expected to do with each assignment. Sometimes they would tell me their initial assessment and ask me to confirm it. Sometimes they would tell me to “do whatever is necessary” with the case, which means I need to exercise my best judgment to advise the Judge on what she needs to do with regard to either a motion or a hearing. Once I developed my own understanding of the assignment, I would quickly touch base with the law clerks to exchange ideas. A quick talk like this would reduce the risks of misunderstanding and increase efficiency.

This job also required me to work under pressure. Anything can happen in court, including emergency cases or motions that require quick reactions.  It makes a difference under these stressful circumstances if you are able to spot issues with surgical precision and efficiently research and analyse the issues. I always reminded myself to stay level-headed and to think logically. I would highly recommend this internship to STL students who not only want to experience authentic American legal practice, but also have the drive to meet new challenges on a constant basis.

ZHENG Xinjia: Clerk for Chief Judge Geoffrey Crawford, United States District Court for the District of Vermont (Rutland, Vermont)


My daily responsibilities included attending court hearings, reviewing submissions from counsel, conducting legal research, drafting legal memos, and checking citations for final judgments.  I worked on cases involving the defense of entrapment by estoppel and negation of intent, the validity of arbitration agreements, disputes over jurisdiction, and claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (“FDCPA”), criminal law, contract law and the U.S. Constitution.

During my internship, I went to the Second Circuit in New York where Judge Crawford was invited to serve as a guest judge. In the Second Circuit, I observed and appreciated the very high level performance of elite litigators. I also got chances to meet with state court judges, state prosecutors, lawyers, law school professors and law students in Vermont. We also were honorably invited to visit the Vermont Bar Association and participate in their Annual Meetings.

This internship broadened my horizons. It upgraded my understanding of the U.S. judicial system and served as valuable legal professional training, as well as a wonderful cultural exchange experience.

I am really grateful for the training I received from STL, including but not limited to STL’s dual-degree curriculum, moot court opportunities and law review, all of which enabled me to successfully complete my judicial internship.  The skills I learned in STL allowed me to comfortably adjust to new conditions, use my problem solving skills to analyzing new legal problems and present my legal analysis confidently in front of Judge Crawford and colleagues.

Meanwhile, this experience also reminded me of my mission and dedication as a law school student who has received nearly eight-year legal training in both Chinese law and American law. Being able to understand the differences in legal regimes, judicial practice, professional environments as well as social and cultural traditions, I was obliged to confidently represent our deeply loved country in cross-border legal communications and gracefully mitigate the gaps in transnational law practice.

“Not everything that can be counted counts; not everything that counts can be counted.” A brief quote in memory of my unforgettable internship in the District Court of Vermont.

ZHANG Xi: Clerk for Chief Judge Geoffrey Crawford, United States District Court for the District of Vermont (Rutland, Vermont)


During this externship, I conducted in-depth legal research to support court orders and opinions, and I attended drug court every two weeks.  Judge Crawford was very kind to let us audit every hearing, even the routine ones.  Observing hearings was one of the favorite parts of my externship.

I learned a lot from this incredible externship, including refining my research and advocacy skills. I have heard that the first supervisor/mentor in one’s career can have an influence over the course of your career.  I feel so lucky and honored that I started my career with Judge Crawford and the U.S. District Court of Vermont.  Judge Crawford’s commitment to his work and his kindness toward colleagues left a deep impression, which will empower my career constantly.

STL Welcomes New Students from China and Abroad

DSC01582Peking University School of Transnational Law (“STL”) began the 2018-2019 academic year welcoming new students from throughout China and around the world.  The new class includes 124 students in Common Law J.D. and China Law J.M. dual degree program, along with 11 LL.M. and several exchange students from different countries, including Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and others.  Total new students number hits the record of STL’s history.

Orientation started on August 12 to welcome new students and lasted for three days.  Events included opening ceremony; introductions to STL’s academic rules and policies, student services and career resources, Legal English Center; a library tour; discussion panels with upper-lever students, faculty and alumni.  New students also attended a lecture on Professionalism and a class on how to read and analyze a judicial opinion that included a case briefing exercise.

On August 30-31, the Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School (“PKUSZ”) will host its campus-wide orientation for new graduate students.  PKUSZ is home to eight elite graduate schools: the School of Electronic and Computer Engineering; the School of Chemical Biology and Biotechnology; the School of Environment and Energy; the School of Urban Planning and Design; the School of Advanced Materials; the HSBC Business School; the School of Humanities and Social Sciences; and the School of Transnational Law.

STL Building Earns Accolades for Educational Design

Peking University School of Transnational Law’s “STL Building” was honored at the 2018 Better Educational Environment Dynamic (BEED) Asia Spring Summit in Shanghai, April 12-14.  The STL Building, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), one of the world’s premier architectural firms, was one of ten projects honored with a BEED Educational Facility Design Award.  BEED Asia is devoted to supporting innovation in educational design with a platform that connects educational institutions with cutting-edge architects and designers, project vendors, and advanced technology providers.

Completed in January 2017, the 8,900 square-meter STL Building serves as the gateway for the Peking University Shenzhen Graduate Campus.  The centerpiece of the building is a grand tiered atrium with spectacular outward views of the beautifully restored Dashahe River Parkway.  Other signature features include a 100-person classroom that can be converted into a high-tech moot courtroom; an on-site law library equipped with the latest in digital research platforms; legal clinic and student organizations suites; outdoor terraces and reading gardens, including a stunning rooftop terrace; and abundant student study space with comfortable seating.

STL’s Founding Dean Jeffrey Lehman Named One of China’s Most Influential Foreign Experts

微信图片_20180416081444STL’s Founding Dean Jeffrey Lehman was recognized as one of the 40 most influential foreign experts since China’s reform and opening up 40 years ago.  The award was announced by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) at SAFEA’s 16th China International Talent Exchange Conference in Shenzhen on April 14, 2018.

“Jeffrey Lehman is especially deserving of this recognition.  He has personally established two of the most forward-looking intuitions of higher education in China, both of which promise a lasting and significant impact on China’s relationships with the global community,” said STL Dean Philip McConnaughay.

Lehman currently is the Founding Vice Chancellor of New York University’s Shanghai campus.  He was the Founding Dean of STL, serving from 2007-2012.  Previously, he was President of Cornell University and Dean of the University of Michigan Law School.

Lehman’s additional achievements and awards include China’s esteemed Friendship Award, the highest honor for “foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to the country’s economic and social progress,” and the Shanghai Magnolia Gold Award, presented annually in recognition of major contributions by members of Shanghai’s expatriate community.  Lehman also is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Peking University.

More information about SAFEA’s Influential Foreign Expert Awards is available here.

Professor Norman P. Ho Invited to Present at CUHK Law

On September 7, 2018, STL Associate Professor Norman P. Ho was invited to deliver a public lecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law (“CUHK Law”).  Professor Norman P. Ho is a scholar on legal theory and legal history.  His lecture was titled “Confucianism and Chinese Law, Past and Present.”

The lecture was part of the ongoing Greater Chinese Legal History Seminar Series, a monthly event that features speakers on Chinese legal history.  The Series is organized by Steven Gallagher, Associate Professor of Practice & Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at CUHK Law and Lutz-Christian Wolff, Wei Lun Professor of Law at CUHK Law & Dean of the Graduate School at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Photo Credit: The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Professor Kang’s Article Published in Leading Corporate Law Journal

STL Professor Sang Yop Kang’s article, “Game of Thrones”: Corporate Governance Issues of Children’s Competition in Family Corporations“, recently was published by the Berkeley Business Law Journal, one of the leading corporate law journals.  The article explores a “game of thrones” in a family corporation when the children of a parent-controller compete to become the successor.  Taking a theory-based approach, the article examines the negative externality problems shareholders and creditors face from such a “game of thrones” and explores whether shareholders have legal or non-legal recourse.

Professor Kang previously presented this article at a conference of leading law scholars held at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.  Professor Kang teaches and researches in the areas of corporate governance, corporate law, law and economics, capital markets and financial market regulations.

STL Professors Appointed to CICC Expert Committee

China’s Supreme People’s Court has appointed three current and former STL professors to a Committee of Experts established to advise China’s new International Commercial Court (CICC).  Distinguished Scholar in Residence Professor Susan Finder, Emeritus  Professor Peter Malanczuk, and former Visiting Professor Gary Born joined 29 other experts at an August 26 induction ceremony in Beijing that included members of the Sureme People’s Court and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce.  The CICC Expert Committee is the first ever appointed by the People’s Supreme Court that includes members from outside Mainland China.

Professors Finder and Malanczuk were invited to address the gathering.  Professor Finder concluded her remarks by saying that the new Court should use this opportunity to train a new generation of Chinese international judicial personnel (including STL students).

Top University Students Experienced STL’s Mini Camp

8M7A0039On August 25-27, 2018, Peking University School of Transnational Law (“STL”) hosted 106 students from China’s prestigious universities for Mini Camp. Throughout the two day program, students were introduced to STL’s cutting edge English-language J.D. and China Law J.M. curriculums. They also met with STL current students to discuss life at STL and attended STL’s Intramural Moot Final.

It was the second time STL held Mini Camp. Like Summer Honors Program, some current students participated in last year’s mini-camp before enrolling in STL.

One of the students said after the Mini Camp, “Impressed by all its faculty members, I can not take my eyes off STL. There is no such place in China that can render excellent academic as well as professional training in both Chinese law and American law. Also, a series of questions put forward by different professors in the class affords me a glimpse into the philosophy of STL that not only encourages deep thinking but also enlightenment in one’s life. STL helps you learn laws, but it goes beyond laws. In the most innovative city, with the most innovative curriculums and professors, STL is a shining example of pioneering spirit.”


STL Holds 2018 Intramural Moot Court

8M7A0118STL students had the opportunity to test their advocacy skills in competition this month through the 2018 STL Intramural Moot Court Competition.  STL students were invited to join the competition by submitting an argument on behalf of one side in a fictional U.S. Supreme Court case.  Participants then argued in preliminary and semi-final rounds to determine which four participants could argue in the final round on Saturday, August 25.

This was the first Intramural Moot Court Competition organized by STL’s Moot Court Board, a group of upper-level students who previously represented STL in moot court competitions.

Four STL 2Ls, Zhang Fengming, Lin Yifu, Cui Luting, and Yin Wenjie advanced to the final rounds.  Each finalist presented their arguments before a panel of four judges: Dean Philip McConnaughay, Susan Ning, partner at King Wood & Mallesons, Duncan Watson, partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, and Gu Dai, an STL alumna, partner at Yi & Partners.  The judges were impressed by all four finalists.  Cui Luting received the prize for Best Oralist from the judges.  Lin Yifu received the prize for Best Written Submission from the Moot Court Board.

Students who participated in the Moot Court will now have the opportunity to apply to join STL’s Moot Court Program, which sends teams to several national and international moot court competitions every year, including the Willem C. Vis International Arbitration Competition, the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot, the Stetson International Environmental Law Moot, the Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot, among others.


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Peking University School of Transnational Law

Room 410, School of Transnational Law
Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School,
University Town, Xili, Nanshan District,
Shenzhen, China 518055