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)

李梦诗

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)

李一丹

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)

郑欣嘉

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)

张熙

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 Celebrates the Class of 2018

286A0487On May 19, 2018, the STL community celebrated the seventh Commencement Ceremony of Peking University’s School of Transnational Law (STL).  The ceremony recognized the extraordinary achievement of STL’s 96 J.D./J.M. graduates and 2 LL.M. graduates.

STL Dean Philip McConnaughay began the ceremony with a brief address to the graduates.  “You have successfully completed the world’s only American Law Juris Doctor, China Law Juris Master dual degree program, much of it in English and all of it extremely demanding,” he said.

“All of you are now members of an elite group of lawyers prepared to understand and practice the law of China, the law of the United States, the law of the United Kingdom, the law of the European Union, and whatever laws, rules and practices eventually emerge from the meeting and modification of all of these.  You are true transnational lawyers, and we hope, the kind of ethical lawyers and professionals who will continue to make STL proud,” remarked Dean McConnaughay.

119A9959

This year’s commencement was held in the International Conference Center on Peking University’s Shenzhen Graduate Campus. During the ceremony, graduates and their families heard from STL’s Founding Dean and current Executive Vice Chancellor of NYU’s Shanghai campus, Jeffrey Lehman; The Honorable Pei Xianding, Chief Judge of The First Circuit Court of The Supreme People’s Court; STL Professor Zhu Daming; and graduating student Yuan Ziyan.

Dean Lehman’s speech included a thoughtful reflection on the importance of persuasion to effective transnational lawyering.  Dean Lehman said,

The reason why I believe it is so important to focus on “persuasion” rather than “argument” is that “persuasion” incorporates a crucial, essentially human quality, the quality of empathy for other people. …

Persuasion means offering your listener, in terms that they can appreciate, a logical path that will carry them from where they are to where you want them to be.  The best transnational lawyers are able to feel empathy for people who are very, very different from them.  People who speak other languages.  People who grew up in different cultures.  They are able to bridge enormous gaps, combining the virtues of two very different cultures and creating very powerful transnational partnerships.  By nurturing within you the transnational lawyer’s ability to persuade effectively, STL has prepared all of you to lead lives of accomplishment and contribution.

119A9992

STL Associate Professor Zhu Daming addressed the graduates on behalf of the faculty.  His remarks inspired graduates to use their legal training to create a better world for themselves and for society.  “The purpose for which we chose law, why we kept expanding our knowledge base is not solely that we could become legal professionals or that we could gain great wealth.  As legal practitioners from Peking University School of Transnational Law, I hope you become professionals who always harbor the dream of the rule by law, who always have the courage to shoulder responsibilities, who remain down-to-earth and keen to contribute, and who possess both legal wisdom and ethics,” urged Professor Zhu.

119A0063

In his keynote address, Chief Judge Pei offered four principle aspirations for STL graduates: first, aspiring to be a noble and ethical person; second, aspiring to be a legal practitioner who holds firm beliefs and strong convictions; third, aspiring to be worthy of the great promise and opportunities afforded by China’s continued development; and fourth, aspiring to be a human being who contributes to the whole of society.

Judge Pei also lauded STL graduates and the special education they have received.  “STL is an international law school providing a unique global legal education during a period of reform and opening-up, with the geographical advantages of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, and a combination of senior professors and outstanding students. … During this promising period with great opportunities, STL graduates, with their strong legal foundations, are thus able to be talents who contribute to society through their dedication to China’s and the world’s peaceful development and progress, ” he said.

119A0266

Like the classes before them, the Class of 2018 is pursuing positions in leading multinational and top-tier Chinese law firms (e.g., Fangda, Linklaters, Kirkland & Ellis, Zhong Lun, Hui Zhong, Freshfields, Han Kun, Jun He), the legal departments of leading multinational and Chinese corporations and financial institutions (e.g., Ping An, DJI Drones, Huawei, Shenzhen Stock Exchange, SoftBank in Tokyo), government and judicial agencies (e.g., Hebei Provincial Government, High Court of Tianjin, Shenzhen Government), and SOEs (e.g., China Securities, China Agriculture Bank).  A few graduates have even started their own businesses.

Yuan Ziyan, who provided the address on behalf of the graduates, talked about how her STL education has provided her with more than just legal knowledge.  “For me, being at STL enabled me to realize that the most important thing in my life is possibility.  Studying both U.S. law and Chinese law in STL introduced me to new perspectives and afforded me precious opportunities to meet and talk with great minds from diverse backgrounds. … I learned how important critical thinking is when looking at the world.  I began to discover more possibilities of life, and all of these are valuable gifts STL has give me,” said Yuan Ziyan.

119A0131

Congratulations, STL Class of 2018!

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.

STL Hosts Summer Honors Program for Top University Students

On July 28 through August 4, 2018, Peking University School of Transnational Law (“STL”) hosted over 100 students from China’s and World’s most prestigious universities, including Peking University, Fudan University, Wuhan University, Sun Yat-Sen University and Oxford University for Summer Honors Program (“SHP”).  SHP at STL is an opportunity for outstanding college students to spend a week in residence experiencing the academic and daily life in China’s most innovative law school setting.

Throughout the 7-day program, students were introduced to STL’s cutting edge English-language J.D. and China law J.M. curriculums.  Students experienced actual law school classes taught by STL’s distinguished multinational faculty, participated in case briefing exercises and moot court arguments, met with current STL students and alumni to discuss life at STL and visited Tencent.  Students also traveled to Hong Kong for two days, observing proceedings at Hong Kong International Arbitration Center, Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal and Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The People’s Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

STL’s SHP program was established in 2009.  Many current STL students and alumni participated in SHP before enrolling in STL.  For more information about SHP 2019, please contact shp@stl.pku.edu.cn.

Professor Minas Participates in Major International Environmental Law Conference

IMG_1664On July 4-6, 2018, Assistant Professor Stephen Minas participated in the 16th Annual Colloquium of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Academy of Environmental Law hosted by the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.  Founded in 1948, IUCN is a leading global environmental organization with a diverse membership of States, NGOs, academic institutions and business associations.

The theme of the colloquium, “The Transformation of Environmental Law and Governance: Innovation, Risk and Resilience,” focused on the intersection of technology and law.  Professor Minas presented on the role of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Technology Executive Committee (TEC) in furthering technology development and transfer under the Climate Convention and the Paris Agreement.

Summarizing the colloquium, Professor Minas observed, “Creative thinking on bringing together technological innovations and innovations in governance to protect our shared environment has never been more necessary.  IUCN and its diverse network are playing a key role in this effort, and we were fortunate indeed to be hosted by the University of Strathclyde and the wonderful city of Glasgow to continue the discussion.”

Professor Minas is a member of IUCN’s World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL).

STL Professors Co-Author Article on Food Safety Law in Leading Academic Journal

C.V. Starr Professor of Law Francis Snyder and Yi Seul Kim, senior C.V. Starr Lecturer of Law, recently authored the article, China’s 2015 Food Safety Law: Crossing the River but Feeling the Stones and Avoiding Low Branches?, which was featured as “Editor’s Choice” in the June 2018 issue of the Chinese Journal of Comparative Law (Oxford University Press).  The Chinese Journal of Comparative Law is one of the leading journals in the world that covers Chinese law in a comparative perspective.  An abstract of Professor Snyder’s and Kim’s article follows:

This article provides an overview of China’s 2015 Food Safety Law (FSL 2015). It analyses the main innovations of FSL 2015 compared to its predecessor, FSL 2009, which was China’s first-ever legislation expressly on food safety. It shows that FSL 2015 represents a dramatic step forward in China’s regulation of food safety. It also sets FSL 2015 in its social and economic context, drawing on the logic ascribed to Deng Xiaoping. It first emphasizes the gradual normative progress of Chinese food safety legislation, using the metaphor of crossing the river by feeling the stones—in other words, by step-by-step gradualism, exploration, and experimentation. Then, it notes that many stones in the watery pathway may be slippery, risky, insecure, or painful and that major difficult challenges remain. Finally, it considers certain structural obstacles or systemic features as overhanging branches to minimize or avoid; they constitute continuing issues in ensuring safe food in China. The article also compares FSL 2015 with selected features of food safety law in the European Union, the USA, and Brazil. While showing that FSL 2015 draws substantially on an international normative repertoire for food safety, it also emphasizes the extent to which FSL 2015 has specific Chinese characteristics.

Professor Man Keynote Speaker at International Symposium on Sino Swiss Evidence Science

STL Professor from Practice Thomas Yunlong Man was a keynote speaker at the Third International Symposium on Sino Swiss Evidence Science organized by Sino Swiss Evidence Science Research Center, June 25 – 27 in Hangzhou.  More than 70 scholars from China, Switzerland, the United States and Australia participated in the symposium.

Professor Man presented on “Allocation of Burden of Proof in Chinese Civil Litigation.”  Other keynote speakers included Professor Ronald J. Allen from Northwestern University, Professor Zhang Baosheng from China University of Political Science and Law, Professor Christophe Champod from University of Lausanne, Professor David Caruso from University of Adelaide, and Professor Jeff Cheng-Lung Lee from Qatar Police Academy.

Interview with Professor Finder about People’s Supreme Court and Chinese Judicial Reform

STL Distinguished Scholar in Residence Susan Finder, a leading expert on China’s judicial system and the author of the widely read Supreme People’s Court Monitor blog, was interviewed in a recent issue of the People’s Court Daily.  In the interview, which took place at the 19th Applied Law Forum in Beijing, Professor Finder spoke on “How & Why I Research the SPC: Some Tentative Views on Judicial Reform,” in which she shared insights about the professionalization of courts and judges, judicial fairness and transparency, and judiciary autonomy.  The interview is available in Chinese here.

Newsletter Sign Up

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