Today, Nolan Shaw '12 has a sought-after associate position at global firm Hogan Lovells in Beijing, but his path there wasn't straightforward.
He grew up in California's Central Valley, studied science at Cal Poly Pomona and got a master's degree in English. Afterward, he spent two years teaching in rural China with a U.S. State Department program. That's when he decided he'd go to law school — and come back to China.
“I liked the law's real-life applications, and I knew I wanted to continue working in this rapidly developing country,” Shaw said.
Even though he wasn't a native speaker and didn't have a Chinese cultural background, Shaw credits UC Hastings with setting him up for success in East Asia.
After enrolling, he took seminars in Chinese Business Law and Legal Reform in East Asia and worked as a research assistant to Professor Keith Hand, who directs the school's growing East Asian Legal Studies program. UC Hastings approved a leave of absence for Shaw to spend a year studying in a language immersion program at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Through a guest lecture at UC Hastings, Shaw learned about an internship at Anderson & Anderson in Guangzhou, China, and spent a summer there working on cross-border dispute resolution. After graduation, one of China's largest domestic law firms, Zhong Lun, hired him as an associate.
“Nolan took advantage of our resources, and he worked hard to network and develop a pathway to China,” Prof. Hand said. “China wasn't the focus of his experience growing up, but it's an interest he was able to develop at UC Hastings. Now he has a job that many would want.”
Since UC Hastings officially launched the East Asian Legal Studies Program in January 2015, it has become a hub for scholarship and training on the region’s legal systems. East Asia's booming economies and evolving legal services markets have created demand for foreign-educated legal professionals among law firms, companies, government agencies and NGOs. With increasing Asian investment in the United States, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, there's also growing demand for this expertise domestically.
Prof. Hand has spent the last seven years building up the program along with its senior director, Professor Setsuo Miyazawa, a leading scholar of Japanese law. UC Hastings is the only law school in California with long-term faculty with specialties in both China and Japan. The curriculum includes survey courses on China and Japan, Chinese and Japanese business law courses, and a comparative course on legal reform in East Asia. Faculty also help students pursue other research interests through independent studies..
“We work with each student individually to put together the best program of study,” Prof. Hand says.
UC Hastings' San Franscisco campus provides an ideal location for interacting with East Asian scholars, practitioners and employers. The college hosts a wide range of public events on regional issues — including an East Asia speaker series, symposia, and conferences — allowing students to network and learn from practicing lawyers.
The program also connects students with exchange programs and internships to facilitate career development.
“It is essential for our students to get on the ground to experience East Asian jurisdictions and cultures firsthand and to build their language skills and professional networks,” Prof. Hand said. “Face-to-face contact is particularly important in that part of the world.”
Delida Wong '11, who recently joined the transactional risk team at Marsh in Hong Kong, credits such experiences with launching her career in East Asia. A native Cantonese speaker raised in San Francisco, Wong interned at Hogan Hartson (now Hogan Lovells) in Beijing after her first year at UC Hastings. She hadn't planned on working abroad, but she loved the experience so much she spent a semester at the UC Hastings exchange program at Peking University Law School. After graduation, she returned to Peking University for an LLM before becoming an associate at Hogan Lovells, where she spent more than three years.
“What I found most unique was the variety and diversity of the clients I was able to work with: princes, sheikhs, large fast food chains, retail chains and more. It's a hot market right now, so a lot of investors from all over the world want to come to China,” she said.
Besides Peking University, UC Hastings has semester-long exchange programs with two other law schools in Greater China, two in Japan, and one in South Korea. Most exchange partners offer English-language courses, so fluency in the local language isn't required. The university also has agreements to place interns with the Beijing Arbitration Commission; Yulchon, one of South Korea's largest corporate law firms; and the Taipei Bar Association.
The large network of UC Hastings alumni in the region provides one of most effective career resources for students. Many alumni, including Shaw, serve as mentors or return to campus to share insights about scoring internships and jobs in East Asian legal markets.
“I'm an example for future students who are contemplating a career in Asia,” Wong says. “It's possible to succeed if you put yourself out there.”