Student Spotlight: Dual JD student embraces global outlook in legal field

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Born in Toronto, the only child of immigrants who immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong in the 1980s, Eugene Yeung moved to Hong Kong as a baby, and returned to Toronto in 2013. His father is an executive in the in-vitro diagnostics and life science industry with experience across North America and Asia Pacific, based in the Greater China region for the past 20 years.

“Watching my father’s global career while growing up certainly serves as an inspiration behind my own pursuit of a transnational career and a Dual JD,” says Yeung, now in his 1L year in the Dual JD Program offered by Detroit Mercy Law School and the University of Windsor.

While earning his B.A. in political science, with honors, from the University of Toronto, Yeung saw that power emanates from the law-making and law-enforcement functions of society—and that being steeped in the law could serve as a catalyst for making a positive impact in the world. The realization gave impetus to his decision to pursue a legal education.

Yeung got a taste of the legal field in the summer after his first undergrad year, interning in Shanghai with the Asia Pacific legal team at Beckman Coulter, a multi-national diagnostics/life science company and subsidiary of Danaher Corp.

Reporting to the Assistant General Counsel, Asia Pacific, and working closely with the Regional Paralegal, he worked on cases involving anti-graft, internal compliance investigations, and branch establishment; produced Chinese to English translations of investigation transcripts and non-disclosure agreements; and ensured internal commercial practices were in compliance with anti-graft laws.

The highlight was the transnational nature of the job, with the opportunity to engage with matters across different jurisdictions.

“I would often start the day reviewing a file from one location, say a product liability matter arising out of the Taipei office, and end the day reviewing a matter from another, like corresponding with outside counsel on a compliance issue in the Seoul office,” he says. “My time at Beckman Coulter showed me the dynamism flowing from a global career is truly unparalleled. This dynamism is certainly part of what makes the Dual J.D. Program so exciting.”

His work during undergrad as a court intake worker at the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General sparked a passion for client-centered work and access to justice initiatives. Based out of the Ontario Court of Justice in Toronto, he reviewed probation and conditional sentences ensuring clients understood the legal implications.

“The clients, often indigent and racial minorities, lacked basic understanding of the law. Seeing clients leave my office much more informed than they were when they first stepped in was undoubtedly a gratifying experience,” he says. “More importantly, I saw first-hand the value of empathy and a listen-first approach in maintaining a client-centered approach to legal work.”

Yeung observed none of the counsel representing these clients looked like him or the clients they represented.

“Efforts in ensuring representation of visible minorities in the legal profession was still very much a work in progress,” he says. “As a minority raised in an immigrant family, I’m cognizant of the privilege that come with being a law student. This is why I’m committed to ensuring more doors are open for members from underrepresented groups to join the legal profession through mentorship and embracing a ‘pay it forward’ mentality.”

Yeung joined the Dual JD Program last fall with a view to a multi-jurisdictional/global career in an international full-service firm.

“A multi-jurisdictional practice enables me to serve a clientele that is international in breadth,” he says. “The complexity that accompanies cross-border matters is a perfect fit for my intellectual curiosity, and will also broaden my ability to make a positive impact on the profession, such as empowering members from underrepresented groups to join the legal profession in the U.S. and Canada.”

He does, however, remain open to different practice groups.

“I find transactional matters such as mergers and acquisitions and emerging markets advisory to be quite fascinating. I also find white collar-crime litigation to be an intriguing practice area,” he says. “I’m still exploring and remain open minded as I encounter more areas of the law.”

This summer, he will extern for Judge Arthur J. Tarnow at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit.

“I was eager to join Judge Tarnow’s chambers due to his unique background as a public defender,” Yeung says. “One of the areas that has made me most intellectually curious has been the intricacies of legal analysis—I’ve found that to be quite fascinating, in particular how the judiciary gives meaning where ambiguities in the law exist. I look forward to seeing up close how meaning is given where ambiguities exist in the law.”

Yeung appreciates the personal touch of the JD program.

“As a dual student from Canada, the faculty and staff have been consistent in their commitment to getting to know me on a personal level as well as how they can support me as a remote law student,” he says. “From working with the Career Services Office to the Dual J.D. Program Director, they constantly make sure I have the appropriate supports so I can excel academically and professionally.”
He adds that his remote 1L life has allowed the collegiality of the program to shine through.

“This is partly why I was so excited to join it,” he says. “While my colleagues and I are committed to the collective success of everyone in the program, Detroit Mercy Law faculty has emphasized the need for students to practice wellness in light of the pandemic.

“In particular, working with Professor Cara Cunningham Warren in Comparative Legal Writing and Research has been one of the standout experiences. The level of care and compassion she shows her students has certainly been much needed in a pandemic. She demonstrates an unmatched level of approachability, as she will not rest until all the questions have been answered, ensuring everyone has a grasp of the material. I had the honor this month of being awarded the Book Award for top academic achievement in Comparative Legal Writing and Research I, and I most certainly credit Professor Warren for my academic success in the course.”

Passionate about giving back to the community, he achieved that last summer as a Policy Analyst, Social/Housing at AdvantAge Ontario, a lobbying group representing not-for-profit longterm care (LTC) homes.

At the height of the LTC sector’s fight against the first wave of COVID-19, Yeung conducted research and monitored policy directives issued by the Government of Ontario.

“Any changes, such as restrictions to family visits and testing of staff and residents, would be communicated to the LTC homes we represented,” he says. “I also managed a database tracking active COVID cases in LTC homes, liaising between local public health units and homes in outbreak to ensure that the home received the appropriate assistance. This was another gratifying experience where I was able to make a positive impact on the community.”

Yeung is highly involved at North Toronto Chinese Baptist Church, where he mentors middle and high school students; and says his Christian faith has instilled a heart of service and a commitment to do good.

“This heart of service is something I’ll strive to bring to the legal profession in my work with clients,” he says.

In law school, he is a 1L representative for the Asian Law Students Organization and a member of Christian Legal Fellowship.

“My short time in law school has shown me the value of paying it forward, and I’m eager to start practicing that in my own life,” he says.

He enjoys spending time with his parents and friends, and travel was a pre-pandemic passion; and he is a big fan of Spanish pro tennis star Rafael Nadal, and the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team.

“Having grown up in a big city, I’ve enjoyed exploring some of the world’s most vibrant cities, such as Tokyo, Paris, and New York City. In the summer, you’ll find me on tennis courts or softball diamond,” he says.

“Once the border opens and life returns to normal, I look forward to watching my Jays get a big win at Comerica Park—this will not make me many friends in Detroit,” he says with a smile. “I also look forward to exploring Belle Isle, and enjoying a meal at the London Chop House—I’ve heard their happy hour is a can’t-miss.”

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