“Being in law school in America gives you a different perspective,” said Yuanxing Chen JD’90, senior legal counsel at DuPont China Holding Co. Ltd. in Shanghai. He is standing in front of a display case filled with seemingly unrelated products — Teflon® cooking pans, military flak jackets, Corian® cutting boards, flameproof hoods and cans of auto refinisher. They illustrate applications of the more than 200 products that DuPont manufactures and sells in China. They also represent the breadth of Chen’s busy job.
“DuPont is growing very fast in China,” explained Chen, who has been with the corporation for eight years. He and two other staff members are responsible for all the legal work for DuPont China and in Dupont’s Shanghai office, one of the company’s three branches in China. “I get involved with whatever legal issues DuPont has in China. It may be intellectual property, investment issues, or land-use concerns. I am involved in the beginning, from negotiating with our partners or dealing with government authorities to preparing the necessary legal documents.”
A major challenge for Chen and other attorneys working in China is staying abreast of all the changes in the country’s legal system. “It’s difficult to keep up because it’s evolving very fast,” he said.
“As an attorney, I have to stay current with the published regulations. China doesn’t have an official legal reporting system, which is something I’d like to see. The Internet has helped, and now there are some publishing companies that help keep us up to date, but it’s still difficult.”
Chen insists that there are plenty of opportunities for American attorneys in China, but the right preparation is key. “Business is booming in China,” he noted. “More and more, China is becoming the manufacturing base for many multinational companies, and these companies need attorneys. Many of them want American attorneys, but if you don’t speak Chinese, you’ll run into problems. Your success will depend on your determination and your language skills.”
He credits much of his own success to what he learned at the College of Law. “Willamette taught me what the law means and how to analyze legal issues,” he noted. “It gave me a different perspective. It has made me able to compare different systems, which is helpful in my work at DuPont.”