Chinese law students enjoy their American Legal System Tour


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Twenty-five law students from the Chinese University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) in Beijing – consistently considered one of the best law schools in China – enjoyed a July 10 lecture about the practice of law in the United States, taught by Professor Anne Marie Burr, director of Legal Writing at Wayne Law, and Professor Howard Bromberg, assistant clinical professor at the University of Michigan.

The session, held at Oakland University, is part of the American Legal System Tour presented by CUPL and the Macomb Cultural and Economic Partnership (MCEP).

Bromberg and Burr used material from their textbook, “U.S. Legal Skills for Foreign Students,” to be published next year by Carolina Academic Press.

The duo, engaging the students in Socratic dialogue as though they were members of a law class at Michigan or Wayne Law, began with a client hypothetical, to put the lesson in context. They then discussed the U.S. court system, the concept of precedent and common law, the litigation process, and the parts of a judicial opinion.

Lastly, they assigned the students the role of law firm associates, to read a judicial opinion and provide legal advice to the hypothetical client.

They addressed the questions of whether the client had a recognizable cause of action, where a lawsuit could be filed, and what pleadings would be necessary to begin the lawsuit. The Chinese students were enthusiastic.

“They asked many questions about the use of precedent in the United States and engaged in a vigorous discussion on the probability that the client could win, given the case law,” Burr said.

Bromberg and Burr have plenty of experience teaching Chinese law students, having designed and implemented the legal practice program for the first western style law school in China. Peking University’s School of Transnational Law (STL) was launched in Shenzhen, China in 2008 to provide practice skills necessary to achieve success in global law firms. The first year class, consisting of 54 students, graduated in May of this year.

The two professors have lectured on their experiences teaching Chinese students on various occasions, most recently at the January 2012 Annual Association of American Law Schools conference in Washington, D.C.

Both professors hope to have the opportunity to repeat the experience in the years to come.

“Every summer I look forward to working with the CUPL students,” Burr said. “Their enthusiasm for the material is infectious and, the program is so well organized, I know they’ll have many opportunities to apply what they’ve learned.”

The CUPL students also visited the U-M Law School campus in Ann Arbor, Macomb County District and Circuit Courts, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Michigan Court of Appeals, Michigan Supreme Court, U.S. Attorneys’ Office, and several law offices; and met with several members of the judiciary including Macomb County District Court Judge Kim Weigand, 16th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Mark Switalski, U.S. District Judge George Steeh, Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Elizabeth Gleicher, and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly.

During the second week of their tour, the students “job shadow” various Macomb County judges where they will have the opportunity to apply the U.S. legal skills they have learned.

The final tour segment involves a visit to Washington D.C., where students will visit the White House, National Archives, Library of Congress, U.S. Congress, the U.S. Supreme  Court, and other attractions.

This is the second time the MCEP – a nonprofit group that acts as an organizer and clearinghouse for relationship initiatives and programs between China and Macomb County – hosted the CUPL American Legal System Tour. Edward Bruley, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Congress, Macomb County Commissioner, and MCEP Secretary of the Board, organized the event.

“The presentation by Professors Burr and Bromberg sets the tone and provides the knowledge base for the U.S. Legal System Tour,” he said. “We’re very thankful for their time and talent.”