LL.M. Class of 2013
As a young girl in China, Claire Zhao derived career inspiration from a source shared by many American counterparts: Hollywood. "I saw the lawyers in movies and said to myself, 'I want to be a lawyer.' From the time I was 11 or 12, my goal was very clear. I didn't ever think about changing that goal," Zhao says.
She tackled her objective logically, majoring in law and pursuing her LL.B. at Beijing Jiaotong University, then her LL.M. in international commercial law and European law at the U.K.'s University of Sheffield, and now an LL.M. at the Law School.
"According to Chinese law, a local lawyer working for an international law firm is subject to many restrictions unless they get foreign qualifications. I was helping clients who were mostly U.S. firms, so it is very helpful if I have the knowledge of American law. For both reasons, I came here," she says. Her work as a legal consultant for Minneapolis-based Faegre Baker Daniels' Shanghai office made Minnesota a natural choice.
Her area of expertise—advising multinational companies on labor and employment matters—makes sense, too. She points to China's need for employment lawyers, especially those who can deal with downsizing and redundancy during economic downturns. "Chinese employment law is very pro-employee," she explains. "However, if a company cannot profit, there is no reason for them to keep many employees that they cannot afford. That is a conflict. I see employment lawyers as very useful."
Because English is her second language, following lectures, completing reading assignments, and preparing homework are challenging. But Zhao's Sheffield LL.M. and practical experience will help support her chief goal this year: to pass the New York bar, one of only two U.S. exams offered to foreign students.
She is also comforted by the presence of other first-year students new to American law and to Minnesota's quirks—like the weather. Zhao says it's been beautiful, at least since she arrived in August. "Although I was warned that the winter is awful, I grew up in China at the same latitude as Minneapolis, so I'm not so scared," she laughs. "So far, so good."