Asper Review of International Business & Trade Law
The number of Chinese lawyers and law schools is burgeoning as China's legal system undergoes significant substantive changes. Whether in business transactions or in legal disputes about products liability, intellectual property, or any number of other issues, U.S. lawyers in this era of globalization will begin to have more frequent interactions with their Chinese counterparts. Additionally, more and more U.S. law students and professors are involved in international exchanges with Chinese law schools. These growing opportunities for interaction among U.S.- and China-trained legal professionals bring with them unique challenges and opportunities because of cultural, political, and legal system differences.
The authors of this essay are U.S. law professors who spent the spring 2007 semester as Fulbright Lecturers in Law, teaching U.S. law courses to Chinese law students. We taught widely different substantive subjects at schools that varied greatly in rank and reputation. Despite the many surface differences, we had some very similar experiences. From our time in China, we came away impressed by the intelligence and diligence of that country's future lawyers. We also took away some observations about the Chinese legal education system and about our Chinese students' limited knowledge of the U.S. legal system and the U.S. generally.
In this essay we share our observations in the hope that both U.S. lawyers who will interact with their Chinese counterparts and U.S. students and professors at Chinese law schools will benefit from our learning experiences. We begin with a discussion of the significant differences in the legal education systems of the two countries and our teaching methods for bridging that gap, not because we believe the U.S. legal education system is perfect, but because we believe that understanding these differences will help to ensure that U.S.-trained legal professionals interacting with Chinese-trained legal professionals do not have ethno-centric expectations about how their counterparts may view and analyze various legal issues. We then discuss our Chinese students' limited information about the U.S. legal system and U.S. culture in general, since this too could have profound, unintended effects on cross-cultural interactions if it is not expressly recognized. We hope that this discussion is not filtered through the lens of American exceptionalism. Simply because the Chinese have differing perspectives does not mean that those views are ill-founded or misplaced. Rather, we highlight those differences to help improve communications between members of the Chinese and U.S. legal communities. We do so in the same spirit of mutual respect that guided us and our students, as together we pursued the quest for knowledge to improve ourselves and ultimately our two legal systems.
University of Manitoba
Malinda L. Seymore, Patricia R. McCubbin, Andrea Curcio & Llewellyn J. Gibbons,
China's Future Lawyers: Some Differences in Education and Outlook,
Aper Rev. Int'l Bus. & Trade L.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.tamu.edu/facscholar/24