A different perspective

Ni hao from Beijing!

This week, as with every other week at Zhicheng, has been full of a million and one different things. While this frantic pace can be dizzying at times, I really can’t complain. I feel very fortunate to be working for an organization that provides its interns with so many interesting opportunities.

On Tuesday my supervisor at Zhicheng arranged a visit to the Fengtai District Court. We sat in on a really simple case: the plaintiff, a food distributor, sued the defendant, a hotel known as the “Papaya Hotel,” for unpaid fruit. The whole case, aside from seeming like one of those funny fact patterns you read in Legal Practice, was quite simple. Afterwards the judge explained that he intended for us to sit in on a straightforward case so that we wouldn’t be distracted by extraneous details. This allowed us to instead focus on the interesting way that Chinese courts arbitrate disputes.

Unlike American courts, where arbitration takes place prior to the actual trial, Chinese courts insert mandatory arbitration sessions into each stage of litigation. After the judge heard both sides of the Papaya Hotel case he ordered the parties, who could not come to an agreement, to arbitrate their dispute before the case could continue. There is a clear benefit to this approach to litigation: arbitration costs much less. Cases that should settle are much more likely to settle in the Chinese system prior to continuing on appeal. This means that judges can handle more cases, which is presumably more efficient.

In addition to the trip to Fengtai District Court, I also had the benefit of visiting the Beijing office of King & Wood, the largest Chinese law firm. King & Wood and Zhicheng have a great relationship--King & Wood annually makes a sizable donation to Zhicheng--which is why my supervisor could arrange this trip. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this visit was that everyone that I met spoke perfect English. Further, almost all of the lawyers we spoke with had spent some time outside of China working in either Australia or the United States. Now that I think about it, the judge who met with us at the district court also spent a number of months studying abroad in America.

To succeed as a lawyer, global experience and language ability are crucial. This is just another reason that I feel so fortunate to be working in China this summer. I really believe that this experience has widened my perspective on the law and increased my ability to communicate, both in Chinese and English. As I begin my legal career I know that I will constantly draw on my experiences at Zhicheng.