Associate Professor Norman Ho’s latest article, Chinese Legal Thought in the Han-Tang Transition: Liu Song’s (D. 300) Theory of Adjudication, was deemed “very interesting and recommended” by the Legal Theory Blog, an influential scholarly blog focusing on legal theory. The Legal Theory Blog is managed by Lawrence Solum, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law at Georgetown University.
On June 2 and 3, STL Distinguished Professor from Practice Thomas Yunlong Man participated in the “5th Roundtable on International Law: Emerging Areas” in Beijing. The Roundtable was jointly sponsored by Chatham House and China University of Political Science and Law. Professor Man delivered remarks on “The WTO Dispute Settlement Body in Dispute: Crisis or Opportunity for New Direction?” Roundtable participants included scholars and researchers from University of Oxford, University of Sydney, Peking University and other top universities.
STL graduate Alejandra Tapia from Panama (LL.M. Class of 2016) was interviewed for an in-depth story on LL.M. programs in China. Below is an excerpt from the article, along with a link to the full story:
When Alejandra Tapia finished her undergraduate degree in Panama, she knew that most of her peers did the typical trajectory of going to the US or UK for a master’s.
“I thought, ‘well, that’s the path everyone follows back home,’” Tapia recalls. “And I said to myself, well, I want something different.”
Panama established diplomatic relations with China in June 2017, and with its strategic position on the canal, the country had retained an important commercial relationship with the mainland.
But beyond that, China had always been a part of Tapia’s life in Panama; there’s a large Chinese community in the country, and studying in China had always been something Tapia’s father talked to her about.
“He always told me, Alejandra you can always just explore and let’s see what you’d want to do—maybe study there,” Tapia says. “I said ‘no, I want be a lawyer and study in Panama.’ But then I thought, well it’s good to be different, good to stand out—plus we are a lot of lawyers in Panama.”
So Tapia researched her options and decided to go to with an LL.M. at the Peking University School of Transnational Law, in Shenzhen. After graduating, she was hired as the China liaison to the Hong Kong office of her law firm back home, where she had worked as a paralegal before graduate school.
Please click here to read the article in full.
STL Assistant Professor Stephen Minas has co-edited a new book, “EU Climate Diplomacy: Politics, Law and Negotiations,” with Vassilis Ntousas, Policy Advisor for International Relations at the Foundation for European Progressive Studies in Brussels. The book was published by Routledge in May 2018.
The book includes contributions from the European Commission, EU Member State negotiators and scholars on the development and characteristics of EU climate diplomacy, with particular focus on climate technology and finance. Full details on the book are available here.
The book is intended to be a resource on the multifaceted, multi-level nature of EU climate diplomacy. It underlines the ongoing importance of EU and Member State engagement with the development of international climate change law, and also examines the potential for greater cooperation between the EU and China in the framework of the Paris Agreement.
Commenting on the book, Professor Minas said, “Engagement not withdrawal is what is needed to meet shared global challenges. We are delighted to present this intervention and thanks again to all who contributed.”
Peking University retained its number 17 ranking in the 2018 Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, a prestigious peer ranking of the best universities in the world. According to Times Higher Education, the 2018 World Reputation Rankings are “based on the world’s largest invitation-only survey of leading academics. The survey asks scholars to name no more than 15 universities they believe are the best for research and teaching, based on their own experience.”
Peking University, or “Bei-da,” as it is known in Chinese, is China’s first and most renowned comprehensive research university. The University was founded in 1898 as the Imperial University of Peking and is regarded as a symbol of modern Chinese education. PKU has campuses in Beijing and Shenzhen. PKU students are among China’s best and the university’s outstanding faculty includes 53 members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), 7 members of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), and 14 members of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). For more information, visit the Peking University web site here.
On May 28, STL welcomed The Honorable Cortland Corsones, a Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of Vermont, and Theresa Corsones, Executive Director of the Vermont Bar Association. Judge Corsones and Director Corsones led a roundtable discussion with students on, “The Role of the Bench and Bar in Preserving the Rule of Law,” during which they offered a broad overview of the rule of law under the U.S. Constitution, and how that ties in with current access to justice initiatives by U.S. courts and the private bar. The discussion included an extended Q&A on topics ranging from differences in federal versus state court practice; technology in the courts and the impact on the judicial process; the importance of pro bono work to ensuring access to justice; and other such topics.
Judge Corsones and Director Corsones were first introduced to STL by 4L student ZHENG Xinjia and 3L student ZHANG Xi during their externships in Fall 2017 with The Honorable Geoffrey W. Crawford, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont.
For the fifth consecutive year, Peking University (PKU) tops the elite Times Higher Education (THE) Emerging Economies University Rankings. Over 350 universities from over 42 countries were ranked across five principal performance areas: “Teaching (the learning environment), Research (volume, income and reputation), Citations (research influence), International outlook (staff, students and research), and Industry Income (knowledge transfer).”
PKU is China’s first and most renowned comprehensive research university, having just celebrated its 120th anniversary on May 4, 2018. Teaching students who are among the best in China, PKU boasts an outstanding faculty, including 53 members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), 7 members of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), and 14 members of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS).
For more information on the 2018 THE Emerging Economies University Rankings, please visit https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/emerging-economies-university-rankings-2018-methodology.
On April 27, 2018, STL Distinguished Professor from Practice Professor Thomas Yunlong Man was a panelist in an international symposium at Beijing Normal University on “Establishing Cooperation Mechanisms Regarding Persons Sought for Corruption and Asset Recovery.” The Symposium was sponsored by the Beijing-based Research Center on International Cooperation Regarding Persons Sought for Corruption and Asset Recovery in G20 Member States, the mission of which is to provide a platform for G20 members to cooperate on cross-border anti-corruption efforts. Professor Man presented his paper, Effective Compliance Programs to Prevent Corporate Liability under FCPA and UK Bribery Act.
Professor Mark Feldman has been appointed by the Geneva Center for International Dispute Settlement (CIDS) to its new Academic Forum on Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). The purpose of the Academic Forum is to bring together the world’s leading scholars of investor-state dispute resolution to consider the possible reform of ISDS, which currently is under review by a working group of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).
The inaugural meeting of the Academic Forum was held on April 26, 2018 in New York. The meeting was co-organized by Columbia University and CIDS, and was hosted by the New York International Arbitration Commission.
Professor Feldman previously served as an invited member of the E15 Initiative Task Force on Investment Policy (World Economic Forum/ICTSD). Prior to joining STL, he served as Chief of NAFTA-CAFTA Arbitration in the Office of Legal Counsel of the United States Department of State, where he represented the interests of the United States in investor-state arbitrations.
Visiting Professor Preston Torbert’s innovative course, “Drafting Bilingual Contracts: The Problem of Ambiguity,” was featured prominently in the April 21, 2018 issue of China Legal Daily. An English translation of the article follows.
To Study and in Due Course Practice What One Has Studied, Is This Not a Pleasure?
“Can a Chinese law student improve a contract in English drafted by the most accomplished American lawyers?”
The answer to this question begins with a story from many years ago.
A week after I graduated from Harvard Law School in June, 1974, my mother handed me a new draft lease for a building that my family owned, asking me whether I had any comments on it. I read it carefully and then suggested only one change—a rent escalation clause based on the consumer price index. But after three years of legal education I was unable to make any legal comments on the contract! I was embarrassed and surprised. I had had great teachers of contracts, but they emphasized theory, not practice. I resolved to help law students do better.
To implement this resolution I started teaching at the Peking University School of Transnational Law in 2012. My course, “Drafting Bilingual Contracts: The Problem of Ambiguity,” is based on my experience–several decades of drafting and negotiating Chinese-English bilingual joint venture contracts for American clients. In the 1980s, I formed a China practice group in the Chicago office of Baker & McKenzie that included about ten legal specialists. Working together with my Chinese colleagues over many years, I learned a great deal about the ambiguous nature of the English language and wrote four books on the subject. Therefore, the main theme of the course I have created in Shenzhen is ambiguity, because ambiguity is the major cause of contract litigation and ambiguity, especially in bilingual contracts in international trade and investment. Although ambiguity is ubiquitous, it often is unnoticed. And it causes problems when, during the term of the contract, an unanticipated event occurs and each party carefully examines the language of the contract to determine its rights. Often the language is ambiguous, the parties adopt different self-serving interpretations, and a dispute is born. In the course in Shenzhen, I teach my students how to identify contract ambiguities, how to analyze them, and how to reduce the risk of ambiguity in order to protect a client’s interest. My students acquire three practical legal skills: (1) an understanding of the meticulous attention to detail required in reviewing a contract, (2) a mental checklist of ambiguity issues, and (3) a toolkit for reducing ambiguity.
The exam for the course asks the students to use their understanding, mental checklist, and toolkit to review and comment on an actual contract in English. I have selected “material” (i.e., important) contracts of major companies listed in the United States. The American Securities and Exchange Commission has a database of these contracts and they are available to the public, but only after the parties have deleted any confidential information. In prior years, I have used contracts to which Huawei, Alibaba, Tencent, Google, Microsoft, Motorola, Yahoo, and Goldman Sachs were parties.
The exam instructs each student: “Assume you are an in-house lawyer working at [name of company]. The General Counsel gives you the attached Agreement to review to see whether it should be revised before it is used as the draft for another similar contract in the future.” The exam gives the students three hours to review the contract for ambiguities, comment on them, and suggest changes to protect the company’s interest.
After grading the exams and consulting with the Dean, Phil McConnaughay, I spend two weeks selecting the best student comments and summarizing them in a 20-30 page Summary. Zhang Chenli 张趁利, the Director of Development and Career Services, and I then send the Summary to the General Counsel of the company.
I make clear in the Summary that it “does not constitute a formal legal opinion from me or from Baker McKenzie, the law firm where I spent several decades. It is merely the comments of law students who are not yet members of the bar. Since the students lack an understanding of the company’s business, they look at the contract only from the perspective of the course–searching for and revising ambiguities. Nevertheless, their gratuitous comments can add value for the company.” Since these legal opinions are aimed at actual contracts (such as, contracts of Goldman Sachs and Huawei), in the past three years, Director Zhang Chenli and I have received many favorable responses such as the following from the Legal Departments of the companies:
“We wanted to contact you to let you know how much we appreciate the insights you shared with us from you and your students. [The General Counsel] passed your [Summary] on to our group because we worked on the transaction that ultimately gave rise to the [exam contract]. It is always illuminating to have fresh sets of eyes reviewing our work, and it is clear that you and your students put a lot of thought and effort into reading and thinking about the [exam contract] you used in your class. Thank you for sharing the resulting insights with us. We will definitely keep them in mind.”
“Professor Torbert, thank you for sending us the [Summary], there are valuable comments for our contract drafting and reviewing. I will circulate it internally and let you know if we have questions.”
“I … read the Summary, and found it so impressive! As an in-house counsel mainly working on M&A deals, I deal with M&A contracts and commercial contracts every day… I’ve learned a lot from your Summary, which I believe will absolutely inspire me in my future daily work.”
All substantial contracts—even the best—contain ambiguities because ambiguities, like flaws in computer software programs, are an unavoidable characteristic of the product. To the extent that the drafter can find and eliminate ambiguities or the programmer can find and eliminate flaws, the contract or the software program is better. But a busy in-house legal department usually does not have the resources either to conduct a meticulous contract review itself or to pay outside counsel to do so. In short, my students’ comments can be viewed as similar to a benevolent hacker’s reporting of some minor software flaws to a programmer or perhaps a White Hat community’s “crowd-sourced” reporting.
Ambiguity is the greatest source of contract disputes, but ambiguities are inevitable, so the fewer the ambiguities, the better the contract. The above responses from the Legal Departments show that Chinese law students, with proper training, can acquire unique practical skills developed through many years of practice by me and my colleagues in the China Practice Group in the Baker McKenzie Chicago office.
Therefore, the answer to the question posed at the beginning of this article is “Yes.” The Chinese law students through study and application of these skills can improve the work of the most sophisticated law firms and in-house legal departments. “To study and in due course practice what one has studied, is this not a pleasure?” If I indulge myself, I can say that this is a great achievement of Chinese-American cooperation in legal education.
 The translation is of an article that appeared in Chinese in the Fazhiribao (The Legal Daily) newspaper on April 21, 2018.
 This quote from The Analects of Confucius refers to the unity of theory and practice.
About the author: Mr. Preston M. Torbert is a well-known American “China law” specialist who for many years served as a partner in Baker McKenzie, one of the world’s largest law firms. He has two doctorates, one in law from Harvard, the other in Chinese history from the University of Chicago and for many years devoted himself to Sino-U.S. trade and investment, especially the research and practice of bilingual legal documents.
Back in 1975, Mr. Torbert visited China for the first time. In the 1980s, he established a Chinese law group in the Chicago office of Baker McKenzie. Of the ten members of the group, all were Chinese except for him; he was the only “foreigner.” In 1981, he helped Baker McKenzie establish a Beijing office. Mr. Torbert teaches as an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago Law School and starting in 2012 was invited to teach at the Peking University School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen. His course “Drafting Bilingual Contracts: The Problem of Ambiguity” is the most popular elective course at the School of Transnational Law.
Mr. Torbert has a good command of nine languages (including Chinese) and has published in China four legal books in Chinese, including “Legal English: The Interpretation of Chinese-English Bilingual legal Documents.” When he is in Shenzhen, he is a loyal subscriber and reader of the Legal Daily.