Daily Archives: November 19, 2015

Questions answered by Chinese-English bilingual attorney: How to excel and succeed in international business and law

Alice Pai

Alice Pai

Alice Pai, a 2004 WMU-Cooley Law School graduate, is a Chinese-English-French trilingual attorney working as Senior Executive Officer and acts as the leading counsel on international legal matters for the Want Want Group, a Hong Kong listed multinational corporation that originated in Taiwan, with its headquarter in Shanghai, PRC. It is the largest rice cakes and flavored milk company in China, a pioneer in registering the first Taiwanese trademark, and owns most of the registered trademarks in China. Ms. Pai  has years of experience handling cross-border and international legal matters, including but not limited to, Chinese-English contract review, drafting, negotiation, translation, rendering legal consultations in international commercial law, corporate law (e.g. joint venture, corporate finance), foreign direct investment, international investment risk management, international trade law, intellectual property law, immigration law, and product liability law. She shares her views on how to succeed in law school and to excel in an international legal career.

  1. What inspired you to become an attorney?  From an early age, I have been inspired by my father to become an attorney.  I admired him judging cases and helping others using his legal expertise
  2. When did you arrive in the United States and how did you come to choose Cooley Law School? I arrived in the United States when I was 15 years old, and since then I have come a long way to overcome the language barriers. Cooley is a law school that gives students like me, who might be disadvantaged due to special circumstances, the opportunity to study law.
  3. From your background and experience, can you provide advice to others on how to survive and thrive in law school? Law school is very demanding and the training at Cooley is very solid.  In addition to working hard, students should consider obtaining Bar review materials for the courses they are taking before or during their enrollment in such courses. This will give students a good sense about the classes they are taking and will provide an overview of the courses.  Also, students should learn as early as possible, to write clearly, concisely, and logically so that they can write their exams effectively and efficiently in IRAC (the Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion).
  4. As a Chinese-English bilingual U.S. attorney working in Shanghai, what are the three things you believe helped you most in achieving your career goals? Personally, I believe they are:
    1. A solid legal knowledge and the ability to resolve problems by researching and condensing a large amount of materials within a short time;
    2. High level of fluency in languages and strong culture awareness that are needed to effectively communicate with clients; and
    3. Global vision and cross-field training, especially when working on international legal matters and when working in a big corporation where inter-departmental cooperation and handling multiple tasks at the same time are essential.
  5. What are the three things you feel an attorney must understand or do for future success as an attorney?
    1. Be aware and able to adapt to new ideas and knowledge by keeping oneself current about the existing and future needs of your clients;
    2. Acquire a broad range of non-legal knowledge (such as business, finance, technology, etc.), in addition to the legal knowledge;
    3. Be able to think outside of the box and to work with people of various cultural, national, professional backgrounds, and explain legal concepts effectively to people without a legal background.
  6. What are some obstacles that you have faced working between the United States and China, and how did you overcome them? One of the difficulties is the access of information. Due to the censorship in China, many websites (e.g. Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc.) are not accessible or difficult to get connected, although this problem can be resolved by using a VPN or other servers outside of China. Also, many English legal books and materials might not be available or only have limited selections.  Another difficulty is the international express mailings, which usually take at least 5-7 business days from Shanghai to the United States. It can be quite expensive, and there are many restrictions as to what you can or cannot enclose in the mail or packages.  Similarly, in Mainland China, airplanes and trains, domestic and international alike, tend to have delays for long periods of time (ranging from 30 minutes to hours and days). Be sure to schedule and allow for additional time to travel, especially for time-sensitive matters. Moreover, PRC, in many aspects, is still a developing or underdeveloped country. Things that are often easily handled or accomplished in the United States can be much more difficult  to get done in China. There is no solution to these situations presently, so please try one’s best and to understand that this way of life is its culture. (c’est la vie).
  7. Are there certain laws that make it hard to practice in both countries? If so, can you explain?  Yes. Some laws in PRC make practicing law in both China and the United States difficult.  For example, in China, the law requires that only Chinese nationals can take legal qualification exams. For foreign attorneys wishing to practice under the laws of their jurisdiction in China, they can open foreign attorney law firms according to the World Trade Organization so long as they meet the requirements of the Chinese government. Alternatively, they can also work as in-house counsel on matters involving international laws. Also, given the fact that China is still a communist country, many local laws might be tailored to preserve the ideology of communism or socialism and many court rulings might still be based on political concerns rather than pure legal reasoning. In addition, since PRC is a civil law country, there is no jury trial or discovery process.  Consequently, rather than lawyers, judges play a much more critical role in determining the outcome of cases.


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