Wan Minxiu is currently working at King & Wood Mallesons as a lawyer. She graduated from the China-EU School of Law (CESL) in 2014, with a masters degree from the China University of Political Science and Law and a masters degree in European and International Law from the University of Hamburg. King & Wood Mallesons is a comprehensive law firm that is domestically categorised as a red circle law firm. In this article, she shares her job-hunting and working experience with her juniors.
1. Did you have any internship experience when you were taking postgraduate programme? Do you think an internship is important for students who want to enter law firms in the future?
I had quite a different experience to others because I rarely undertook internships when I was studying for my masters degree. The campus of CESL for freshman and sophomore graduate students is located in Changping where it is rather hard to find internships, so I stayed at the school during these two years and only concentrated on my academic work. I didn’t have a clear carrer aim when I was a student. The first internship I had was in my third-year of my postgraduate programme and was not at a law firm. At that time, I was interested in financial institutions like funds and securities firms and wanted to know how these institutions worked, thus I went to one security firm and one fund firm, each for a one-month internship. What I want to emphasise to you is that the first job you get is very important and job-hopping is not recommended, therefore internships during college years is a good opportunity for you to experience different workplaces. My first internship in a law firm started quite late on and I hadn’t submitted myrésuméuntil January of the graduate year. I went to King & Wood Mallesons and they prefer long-term interns but gave me an offer nevertheless so I was very lucky.
I don’t have a lot of internship experience- all I have was this one at King & Wood Mallesons. Thus I have two points of suggestion for you. The first of which is to carefully think about how to seize the opportunity and make yourself outstanding in your internship. Having multiple internship experiences is also important but the quality of your internship, namely the skills you’ve learned or approval from the team you will be working with, weighs much more. The second take-home point would be to truly invest in your internship. I suggest you take long-term (half year is better) and fixed internships because only with a long-term internship can you avail of opportunities to take part in substantial programmes which can showcase your talents and help you integrate into the team. Otherwise, you are left busy doing some monotonous and simple tasks.
2. What kind of interns do you think lawyers prefer?
I think a good intern should be equipped with the following characteristics.
Firstly, a good intern must be practical, reliable and careful. Those characters are especially important for many interns who have ambitious aims but relatively little experience. Interns must start with some simple tasks, such as making a consulting call, typing some easy files and even printing and copying. Even here, much can be said for different people doing the same simple tasks. Some interns do a good job in both form (including a pleasant format and layout) and content while other interns make numerous mistakes. For the latter, lawyers will think that if you can’t even do something as simple as that, you won’t be able to do more important things and consequently they will find someone else the next time. Gradually, you will have nothing to do in the team and become marginalised. Ultimately you will be forced to leave. Therefore, what it takes to integrate into a team is not intelligence or capability but a good attitude, namely, you must be practical and reliable.
Being careful is also extremely important. Many interns make many errors (including making spelling mistakes) when they check and draft documents. Lawyers in fact don’t have high expectation for interns and they won’t ask you to perform a difficult task perfectly. All you need to do is to finish what you can do as well as possible. Only then, will lawyers be willing to let you do more work, whereby then you can truly integrate into the team.
Secondly, a good intern should be good at learning and observing.King & Wood Mallesons has a good atmosphere of integration and there are lots of projects which are helpful for the development of young lawyers. Many junior lawyers, or even interns, have access to a lot of projects and on-going work. In the process, you can learn from senior lawyers who demonstrate what an excellent lawyer should be. You can observe how they think and solve problems and deal with clients. As far as I am concerned, self-learning and active learning are of great importance and are the the key competencies of all lawyers- be it senior lawyers, junior lawyers or interns. When faced with changing laws, regulatory environmental law and the new market, we especially need to be able to study and solve new problems. If you show such qualities in front of lawyers and partners, I believe you will become a popular intern in the team and get the opportunity for in-depth participation in any project. In addition, interns should try to be reliable by summarising their shortcomings in due time and avoiding mistakes that have been made before.
Thirdly, a good intern should have an ability for good communication and teamwork. You need to cooperate with others and improve your efficiency through effective communication. For example, if you fail to understand a task a senior lawyer has assigned to you or come up against problems when undertaking it, you should ask the senior lawyer promptly through phone call or Wechat and never carry out work based solely on your own understanding of the given task. If you are reluctant to ask questions or don’t communicate your confusion in time, what you submit may not be exactly what the lawyer wanted. If the project is close to a deadline and you need to redo your work then the entire project will be in a precarious state and the lawyer will have a bad impression of you. Even a fulltime lawyer needs to communicate with clients to know their wishes exactly.
If an intern possesses the above-mentioned qualities, I think he is a very promising candidate and I would be glad to have him help on future projects. I believe other lawyers would do the same. In this way, the intern will integrate into the team and get more practice, more projects, and, of course increased job opportunities.
3. What are the requirements of King & Wood Mallesons on recruitment? Can you share your job-hunting experience with us?
As I am working in non-litigation practice, let’s start with the requirements of non-litigation practice for trainees. Compared with other big law offices, King & Wood Mallesons has more requirements for trainees but they are likely to recruit trainees at any time of the year and a higher total of internship opportunities can be gained here.
There are three channels through which to acquire information; job platform, senior schoolmates or sending your résumé to a law officer partner or Human Resources.
The following points are supposed to bring to the forefront what is important when it comes to a résumé . At the very beginning, for a fresh graduate who often has no previous working experience the résumé should be simple, elegant and summarised to one page. In addition, for those who have some internship experiences in law offices, especially in the same field as the job you are applying for, such internship experience should be highlighted and be specific. However, it should be noted that the résumé should not be exaggerated. Any information listed here may be the basis of questions during the interview for which prospective interns must be well prepared. I don’t recommend writing something unverified on your résumé either. Besides, for students, the essence of the résumé is focused on educational background, including undergraduate school, graduate school, majors and school rankings. Some law offices will take ranking into consideration. For instance, the top 5% law schools will be appealing for job seekers. Your most important certificates should be listed on your résumé, for example, passing the judicial examination would be an appealing aspect to a résumé. Lastly, if you choose to submit your résumé to a law officer partner or to HR directly, there will be a high standard set for the quality of your résumé. I suggest that you also make good preparations for your cover letter. It should be brief, include your understanding of and desire for the job, your future career plans, your educational background and any relevant basic information. It will also stand as a bonus and offer employment opportunities down the line if the content is attractive enough.
In summary, the résumé should include only core information and you need not include too many details regarding hobbies and school activities. A brief introduction thereof would be better.
4. Many law offices will take the undergraduate school into consideration during the recruitment process. So, what are your suggestions for students who graduated from those with poor background?
A poor undergraduate school is seen as vulnerable in the recruitment to some extent but is not a fundamental obstacle for you and will now ultimately dictate your employment opportunities. Every year new employees of King & Wood Mallesons do not always necessarily come from famous schools or in fact major in law during their undergraduate studies. The final evaluation will be based on your practical performance. If you have an excellent working performance, you will not lose the job opportunity based on your undergraduate school background. The person left is not always likely to be the person with the best educational background. A good educational background only decreases the twists and turns in the job-hunting process. But you don’t have to worry too much about educational background. All that you need to do is to make preparations and seize the opportunities.
5. Wouldyou please describe the selection procedure and acceptance rate of the “Gold-cast Plan” of King & Wood Mallesons,Beijing to us? What’s your suggestion forthe students who want to participate in the plan?
My suggestion is that if time permits, students should start internships before the annual recruitment of the “Gold-cast Plan”. There are two reasons for this. Firstly,King & Wood Mallesons,Beijing prefers long-term internships but it is only half a year from the time when the students pass the formal selection to the time when the law firm provides the offers. Actually, many student interns who receive offers work much longer. Secondly, the students who start internships earlier can then also apply for the “Gold-cast Plan”. Plus it is easier for them to be recruited if they perform well and are recommended by fulltime lawyers.
So, I suggest that students start internships as early as possible so as to take it easy and adapt themselves to the working environment.
6. What is your field of work and your job duties? Please share your work experience with us.
I engage in fund business (including fund establishment, raising and private equity investment, etc.) and business related to capital market, such as A-share IPO, corporate merger and acquisition and more.
Firstly, I am lucky. The partners and lawyers in my team are all very professional and willing to give chances to young lawyers. They are my role models and I grow quickly under their leadership.
Secondly, I think the working environment atKing & Wood Mallesons,Beijing is very good. The volume of business here is intense but its workload allocation and coordination mechanisms are great, so young lawyers can continually learn and gain more practice. As for a fulltime lawyer, the more projects you have handled, the more adept you will be.
Thirdly, and as for my own reasons, I think I am practical and honest at work and good at active learning and summarising. In my opinion you cannot be taught but can learn to be a good lawyer.
7. Why do you choose non-litigation business instead of litigation business? How do you feel about “the bottleneck of non-litigation business”?
We cannot define litigation or non-litigation business as good or bad because no matter which one you choose for your career, you can become an excellent lawyer all the same. If we look at this from a personal development perspective, what junior lawyers should do is deal with cases one by one to improve their professional ability, because their value as juniors depends on their professional ability, while middle-level and senior lawyers will have a chance to choose their career direction over and may possibly change profession altogether. Although different persons have different answers to this question, my experience is that never stop working on yourself for the better.
8. As a leading figure in the law industry, willKing & Wood Mallesons,Beijing adopt AI? As it develops, will AI have an effect on the law industry?
At present, the law industry is relatively conservative and we still work in relatively conservative ways. LawGeex fired many senior lawyers some time ago and I think the era of plus AI will come sooner or later in the law industry and that black technology will become more commonplace in the law industry. In fact, since 2014 more and more domestic entrepreneurial enterprises have entered the field of AI+Law and a great number of products have been applied in litigation and non-litigation business. Such examples include icourt which can optimise the working process of lawyers, Jianwei and Qixinbao which can help lawyers search announcements, Fatianshi which can help lawyers draft contracts, Niufa which can provide litigation robots various service platforms and software like Didi Dache which can help find lawyers and also software which can help write judgments. It all means that the capital market will begin to pay attention to the potential of the law service market and with that the comparably lower efficiency of traditional human lawyers. Also, more and more enterprises, with the exception of the newly-established, are investing heavily in the research and development of AI+Law, such as Tiantong Law Firm’s “no litigation” and King & Wood Mallesons, Beijing’s “legal miner”, as they are competing in the market of AI+Law. In this context, demands on lawyers are multiplied, as AI poses to replace manual work.
I think lawyers should try the following ways so as not to be replaced by AI: (1) Become the lawyers providing comprehensive services for complex transactions, such as lawyers with rich experience in fund restructuring, legal counsels of domestic listed companies providing legal services for cross-border mergers and acquisitions. As the “computational” process of legal services from the front end (PE / VC) to the back end (Restructuring / IPO) is extremely complicated (for example, the computation of registration of fund managers is simple however that of cross-border fund merger and acquisition is complicated) it will not be possible for AI to replace such comprehensive services. (2) Become the lawyers who can accumulate the most “high-quality customers” within the shortest time period. For instance, the lawyers who rank top in the annual transactions of commercial law and come into the list of ALB or chambers very soon obtain more and more cases. Besides, robots cannot create interpersonal relationships like human lawyers can.
9. What’s your advice to junior fellow students in study, life, internship and employment?
First of all, I advise to strike a balance between the internship and study, do not focus on one too much. The internship is really very important but the accumulation of theoretical knowledge too is vital. When we studied at school, everyone studied very hard, attended every class and wrote the dissertation with great care. At that time, rarely anyone would go out to practice in her/his first or second year of graduate school. Many of us spent most of the time studying. As far as I know, after me, junior fellow graduate students would not stay at school while she/he is a freshman graduate. When I first entered the law firm, I felt that the students from law school were just like a blank page. Now after working as a lawyer for several years, when I look back, I understand that the core competence of a lawyer is the legal logic and thinking taught by teachers in law schools. In the long run, the accumulation of knowledge and theory in law schools is quite necessary in your career development. If you ignore the study in law school, it really is a great loss.
Secondly, I advise you to make a career plan, not be too utilitarian and shortsighted, and focus too much on the salary or workload, etc. More attention should be paid to the future career potential. In the beginning, do not take the immediate and short-term interests too seriously. Make a long-term plan with a high aim.
In terms of my third piece of advice, I expect everyone to be a modest person, be a hard-working and honest person and successfully complete each urgent task when it comes to it. As students, our visions are limited and it is actually difficult to judge things in the long term from this limited perspective. Therefore, the most important thing is to be a hard-working person. Don’t play pretty tricks and don’t be too utilitarian.
My last suggestion is to communicate with others as often as possible, for example, talk with your senior schoolmates because it is far more useful to go on their experience than your own imagination.
Writers: Liu Yaojun (Double Master Student of CESL 2017)
Pic: Wan Minxiu (CESL 2012 graduate)