By Andrew Cohen
A multinational trip to Asia helped Dean Sujit Choudhry accelerate some of his top priorities for Berkeley Law: engaging alumni, promoting the school to top international students, and fueling the technology law unit’s trans-Pacific programming.
The recent 16-day jaunt included visits to Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Taipei, Seoul, and Hong Kong. Choudhry was joined during parts of the trip by two leaders of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology (BCLT), Professor Robert Merges and Executive Director Jim Dempsey, as well as Chaney Kourouniotis of the LL.M. Program. Overall, the Berkeley Law contingent attended 48 meetings or events.
“We had a hectic schedule, but I’m confident that our labors will bear fruit in the years to come,” Choudhry said.
The whirlwind schedule included 19 visits to law firms, as well as alumni social events in each city that collectively drew about 200 graduates. There were also four meetings with law school deans and four more with justices at the Beijing Intellectual Property Court, Judicial Yuan of Taiwan, Supreme Court of Korea, and Constitutional Court of Korea.
Choudhry and Merges gave public lectures in Taiwan, Japan, and Korea, and Merges also delivered a lecture in China.
“We want to attract the very best international students to Berkeley, learn more about trans-Pacific legal practice, and explore innovative partnerships with Asia’s top universities and intellectual property lawyers,” Merges said. “There’s nothing like face-to-face meetings to advance those goals.”
Powering tech connections
A Berkeley Law faculty member since 1995, Merges has built an extensive professional network in Asia that continues to generate key collaborations for BCLT—many of which involve the school’s alumni.
“Professor Merges was received with rapturous enthusiasm by legions of former students,” Choudhry said. “His international reputation as a scholar of intellectual property was inspiring for me to see in action.”
Dempsey, who became BCLT’s executive director in January, joined the trip in China. His involvement strengthened ties with some of the nation’s leading universities.
“The potential for collaborations there is huge,” Dempsey said. “On intellectual property, consumer privacy, net neutrality, and other issues, there is enormous interest in China about legal developments in the U.S., just as there is interest here in trends in Chinese law.”
BCLT is planning a joint conference on intellectual property with Renmin University in Beijing, to be held in Berkeley in October. Dempsey noted that the center is also “pursuing some exciting ideas with Peking University about joint activities around consumer privacy law.”
Another major focus of the trip: promoting the school to top international students. The LL.M. Program’s growth in recent years has helped the school expand its global footprint—and opportunities for international engagement.
More than 1,100 Berkeley Law alumni live in the countries the group visited, and more than 13 percent of its graduates live outside the United States. The school’s Asian alumni community is also growing by nearly 15 percent each year.
“In speaking with alums in the U.S., I’ve been struck by how many of them work on legal issues that cross international borders, requiring that they work with foreign attorneys and engage with foreign legal systems,” Choudhry said. “These trends are growing. We need to think carefully about what this means for our J.D. students, and how we can equip them to thrive in the emerging multipolar world.”
Most alumni who live outside the U.S. graduated from Berkeley Law’s LL.M. and J.S.D. programs, and many more remain connected to the school as former visiting scholars. “Many of them told us that the year they spent in Berkeley was the best year of their lives, and for many that it changed their lives,” Choudhry said.
Next year, Professors Laurel Fletcher and Kevin Quinn will co-chair the school’s new Global Task Force to help chart its international agenda. That effort will include seeking global initiatives that bundle alumni engagement, educational opportunities for students, and research collaborations.
Many Berkeley Law graduates are leading technology lawyers in Asia, and Choudhry happily found the majority of them “deeply interested in participating in BCLT’s projects there, which will only make those projects more successful. They’re also very keen on supporting our efforts at developing research and educational collaborations, through their direct participation or extensive professional networks.”
For more photos of Dean Choudhry’s trip to Asia, please click here.