Personal Statement

 Applicant: XXX           Program: LLM at Columbia Law School

To be a law student is to be an idealist. A freshman at university, I was most inspired by what John J. Bonsignore wrote at the beginning of his Before the Law, “Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you.” It provoked in me a strong sense of mission, as the legal profession is meant only for a selected few who are committed and dedicated. This idealism was later echoed by a distinguished speaker at a forum held in our university when she cited the Confucian dictum that “Great minds must persevere, for the journey is long and the mission is high.” She was referring to the need for the Chinese legal professionals to formulate a wealth of laws regarding securities and trusts in the capital market in order to honor the commitments China pledged when obtaining the WTO accession. From the outset of my academic training in law, I had a good sense of mission.

This commitment and passion for law studies allowed me to create some milestones in my academic and professional career. At the Law School of Jinan University, the best institution in Southern China, I achieved an outstanding scholastic performance, as indicated by my overall 3.68 GPA, which consistently ranked me among the top 5% in the entire grade. Among many merit-based awards and scholarships I received, the President’s Honorary Scholarship is the one that made me most proud of myself. Apart from taking a whole gamut of specialized courses that allowed me to develop a comprehensive and in-depth knowledge base across major fields of law, I also took a wide range of electives such as Environmental Resource Law and Microeconomics that allowed me to examine our legal practices in a larger perspective.

What is fascinating about studying law is that, even when the same law is applied, the prosecutor and the defense may arrive at diametrically opposite conclusions. This taught me the importance of cultivating rigorous thinking and critical analysis. Equally important was my cultivation of leadership skills—I was the vice chairman of the Student Congress of the University and the general secretary of the University Student Union. In addition, by offering free legal services to socially unprivileged groups like migrant workers in cities, I realized that the ultimate significance of law lies in promoting social equality and safeguarding the interests of the weak.

A turning point came in my final academic year when, through a highly selective university-wide qualifying process, I became one of the five law students to embark on an exchange program at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Despite all the difficulties I encountered in that new environment, I enjoyed studying in the way as my American classmates did, participating extensively in group discussions and course projects, developing critical analysis and original thinking rather than passive assimilation of knowledge (as was prevalent in China). In that stimulating new environment, I made the greatest academic achievement in my undergraduate program—my GPA was 3.98 and 3.8 in two semesters respectively. I took a number of sociology and political science courses in order to understand the American society. In “the Tripartite Political System of the US”, I was the only Asian student in the class, and I had to spend much more time than my American counterparts on reading a wealth of books in order to perform well in presentations and exams. My efforts and achievements were well recognized and I won the university’s “Meritorious Student Award”.

As a law student, I made other important achievements during my exchange program. I was the sole international student representing the University to attend the 20xx 16th American Model United Nations International Conference (AMUN) in Chicago, Illinois. As guest speaker, I made a keynote speech “The Current Legal and Social Environment of Algeria” which was very well received. This event allowed me to work together with the young leaders of the future to address the common challenges facing humanity. In addition, keeping in mind my mission to work for the public good, I was actively engaged in community services in the Eau Claire metropolitan area for the disabled and the elderly.

Toward the end of the exchange program, I returned to China and earned my Bachelor’s degree. Upon my graduation in the summer of 20xx, my excellent academic and extracurricular record in China and the US was highly valued by Paul Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, a leading international law firm whose headquarters are based in Los Angeles, which employed me as China Advisor at the Corporate Department. Paul Hastings, delivering innovative solutions to the complex legal challenges encountered by the world’s top financial institutions and Fortune 500 companies, offered me an exciting chance to work in the field of foreign direct investment, merger and acquisition and private equity fund. By performing legal research and due diligence investigations and preparing key legal documents, I was involved in the entire process of establishing foreign investment enterprises in China, of closing merging, acquisition, and risk investment cases. I analyzed legal issues involved in the transactions, offered legal consulting to clients concerning the questions they raised, and proposed feasible solutions and legal frameworks.

At Paul Hastings, I deepened my understanding of American laws and gained insights into how a leading international law firm operates businesses on a global scale. But as China Advisor, I also observed the challenges faced by international firms in their localizing efforts. Due to the differences between American law and the Chinese law, I had to devise innovative approaches in designing a framework that conforms to the Chinese law while satisfying the requirements of foreign investors, as in the case of SIG Asia Investments, LLLP, IDG and Goldman Sachs’s US$ 25 million Investment in Impression Creative Inc., led by Zhang Yimou, who directed the grand opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. I felt proud for serving as a bridge between the legal systems of the two different countries.

After one year, in order to expand my experiences, I joined Clifford Chance LLP, one of the five leading British law firms and the largest international law firm in Europe. As a lawyer at the Capital Market Department, I performed responsibilities that largely overlapped with those that I performed at Paul Hasting, in merging and acquisition, PE fund, and international investment. However, the range of the industries for investment is much more expansive, covering medical equipment production, education, new energy development, manufacturing, hi-tech, and real estates. My greatest achievement is providing consulting to Aluminum Corporation of China ("Chinalco") on its US$ 19.5 billion strategic partnership with the Rio Tinto group, the largest outbound investment ever undertaken by a Chinese company. In this project, my responsibility was to collect all the relevant statistics and present legal interpretations that would support that this major strategic partnership project on the pat of Chinalco is not monopolistic in nature. Although the Rio Tinto group unilaterally breached the contract due to political pressure from the Australian government, leading to the abortion of the project, our legal advising proved rigorous and tenable, helping Chinalco claim US$ 1.95 billion as compensation.

Over the past three years of professional work at two top international law firms, I have been involved in a total of 15 key projects that involved major domestic and international companies like Merrill Lynch, Crimson Capital Partners, Ciments Francais (for a detailed account of those projects, my responsibilities and achievements, please refer to my Resume). For the growth of a young law student, this is indeed a rare and most rewarding experience. I have accessed a much higher vantage point than most of my peers and hence I have grown more ambitious than ever. Having obtained my formal qualifications as a licensed lawyer, I believe that my full potential needs to be exploited and there is a much broader international arena where I can thrive as an accomplished legal professional, especially in view of the increasing integration of China with the res of the world in economic and legal spheres. Toward this objective, I would like to pursue more advanced legal training at a prestigious law school in the United States.

In my proposed LLM program at Berkeley, I would to focus my interest on business law and this is closely connected to my accumulated professional expertise in corporate law, venture capital, IPO, private fund, merging and acquisition. I want this LLM degree because I want to enhance my knowledge and skills in American law. My legal practices over the past three years have largely been one-sided—advising international companies regarding Chinese laws. Now, I want to counterbalance this one-sidedness by gaining in-depth knowledge and expertise in American and British laws as the home countries of those international companies I have advised are mostly from America and Britain. Their global strategies are primarily based on their own domestic standards and practices. The knowledge I acquired from my undergraduate education about European and American common laws is all too rudimentary and it is indeed an area I must improve systematically and profoundly in order to work more productively in my future career.

Obviously, the LLM program at Berkeley is a perfect match for my envisioned future. Berkeley is situated in the Bay Area where a large number of high-tech companies are based. Venture capital and PE funds originated largely from the funds that were first financed for those hi-tech companies, which rapidly grew into a sizable industry. As the best law school in the region, Berkeley’s law school boasts a most outstanding faculty, with their unique perspectives and cutting-edge research on law and technology. This unparalleled geographical position has made Berkeley a leader in the entire country in applying their research findings to real-world situations. In choosing to study at Berkeley, I believe that the best way to learn is to learn from the best. On my own part, I will prove myself a valuable asset to the Berkeley law student community. By applying the principles and the theories from your LLM, I can reflect upon my past legal career in China and involve my prospective classmates in interesting case studies concerning how international law firms can fit into the rapidly developing legal service market in China. I can invite their comments on the specific legal cases I have handled, that is, how well I have served as a bridge for international law firms in their globalizing and localizing endeavors. Finally, by establishing a broad alumni network at Berkeley, I can draw interested alumni to operate businesses in China. There are so many ways that I can contribute to your diversity.

With regard to my future plans, I have reached an agreement with my current employer that, upon my graduation, they will recommend me to work at its branch office in the U.S. office for two or three years to accumulate international experiences and perspectives. After that, I will return to its Chinese office where, with my heightened trained and expertise, I will perform greater responsibilities and handle more important cases. With five years, I expect to become a well-recognized specialist in handling legal cases in respect to corporate restructuring and capital market transaction, offering value-added services and develop creative resolution mechanisms that can steer a course out of complicated cases. Through my sustained efforts, I hope to become a market leader of high credibility in a particular field and one of a limited number of Chinese lawyers, who can find my way to the position of a partner in a prestigious international law firm. However, my personal aspiration goes far beyond that. Keeping in mind my mission to perform a positive role in the larger society, I will use my expertise to participate in legislation and judiciary decision-making processes of my home country where existing laws need to be improved and many more are yet to be framed. In this connection, I am also interested in offering free legal services to my community and to local NGOs and in sharing my experiences with young students as a guest speaker or guest professor.

Having created several milestones in the past, I hope to create yet another key milestone by becoming an outstanding student in your world-class law school. Knowing what I am and what I want to be, I am strongly motivated and highly goal-driven. I am determined to make myself a valuable addition to your law school, worthy of your prestige in every aspect of my endeavors and achievements.




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