From Helen Hu,
March 11, 2013
After staying in the U.S. for ten years, I returned to Shanghai in 2011 with a job offer to join O'Melveny & Myers. Moving back to China was a big decision that surprised many people who thought I had settled down in Minneapolis. It has been more than two years since the relocation, and I haven't regretted a moment.
My route reflects a typical Chinese "returnee's" life: I was born and educated in Shanghai. With a first level scholarship, I went to the East China University of Law and Politics for my law degree and then practiced with a reputable Chinese law firm, Duan & Duan, for four years.
Propelled by an eagerness to see a different world, I landed in the Twin Cities airport in 2001 with an admission letter to the Law School LL.M. program and two pieces of luggage. My objective was to complete the one-year LL.M. program and return to Shanghai to continue my practice. The plan, of course, changed, and I ended up staying for ten years.
The LL.M. program opened new doors to me. I loved the curriculum, the library, the professors, and the fact that we, a group of foreign lawyers, were free to take any classes and be treated just like J.D. candidates. Everything about the Law School was so different, yet interesting to me. I decided to stay longer.
In 2005, I graduated cum laude with a J.D. degree. The Law School degree allowed me to access a different world. In the following six years, I practiced in Texas and Minnesota, working in areas that included corporate real estate, securities, general corporate law, and litigation. It was a wonderful experience to combine the knowledge from the Law School with my prior experience, allowing me to observe things from the unique angle of a Chinese lawyer.
Many people I know who share similar experiences choose to stay in the U.S. for different reasons. However, I always wanted to return to China. In the past 20 years, China has experienced tremendous changes. Foreign capital has rushed in for market shares, and the growing Chinese middle class has emerged into a purchasing power that most multinational companies cannot ignore. The activities in China are so exciting that I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to participate on the ground. When opportunity knocked, I took it and jumped in.
Working at the frontline of private equity and venture capital investments, I have observed an unbelievable capital movement targeting the Chinese market. To a deal lawyer, there is nothing more exciting than swimming in an ocean of deals. China has given me such an opportunity and I am grateful for it.
There are concerns that the exponential growth in China over the past quarter-century is coming to an end. On the contrary, this is the beginning of a new era. In my work I have observed an increasing level of complexity, more sophisticated transactions, and greater business acumen in China. Not only am I able to capitalize on my knowledge and experience, I also learn new things every day from my colleagues, clients, and even opposing counsels. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to provide value-added service to my clients and to continue growing every day.