Volunteer Review: Joseph Bamford - Law in China
In June 2011 I went to China for a one month Law placement in Shanghai. I am interested in a career in commercial law and the prospect to do this in one of the largest finance centers in the world was a unique opportunity. The law job market is becoming harder and harder to get in to and the ability to add this interesting and different placement to my CV has helped to improve my employment prospects. A further benefit of the placement was the possibility of learning how business and legal systems functions in a radically different culture.
My Law Placement
My internship took place with V&T Law Firm, a large domestic Chinese law firm based on the 15th floor of one of the many skyscrapers in the finance district of Pudong, Shanghai. I am currently between my 2nd and 3rd years studying Law at Bristol University and in the process of applying for training contracts in commercial law.
My placement revolved around trying to understand the Chinese legal system, something which is vastly different to the UK, as a civil law system. My supervisor and team that I worked with were incredibly friendly and welcoming and helped my understanding by giving presentations about the Chinese legal system and commercial law in China. Furthermore I was constantly given work to research, such as Chinese company law along with a larger task of completing a presentation for my team.
The firm was planning on developing internationally and so to help with this I gave a presentation on the UK legal system, company law and the regulations and pros and cons of floating a company on the UK stock market. This helped to further their knowledge and I was able to discuss with my team how this compared to China, this was both interesting to me in respect of my academic pursuits and also in seeing how commercial law operates in developing markets such as China.
The team I worked with were incredibly friendly and invited me out for lunch with them every day, along with invitations of tours around Shanghai at the weekend and attending BBQ’s with them over the weekend. Fortunately the language barrier was not a big problem and they tried to teach me some Mandarin during my month stay. The placement was incredibly rewarding in learning more about the commercial world outside of the West and also in experiencing different business cultures.
My Volunteer Accommodation
I stayed in one of the flats in the Pudong area of Shanghai with four other volunteers. Fortunately my flat was only a minute walk away from the local metro and so I could get from the flat to work in less than 30 minutes.
I shared a room in my flat with another person but this was fine as all the people I shared with were really friendly and aware of making sure to keep the room clean and nice for each other. I was lucky to stay with two other lawyers and so at the beginning it was reassuring to be aware of how I needed to conduct myself at my placement and how to approach people to ask for work.
Kay from Projects Abroad was great in organizing meals and activities each week for volunteers to meet up together and experience different restaurants and things to do in Shanghai. One of my favorite nights out involved going to KTV and experiencing karaoke China style! Along with this the variety in placements for all the volunteers made a really interesting mix of people, everyone was outgoing and so we often met up to go to dinner together and drinks after to try to see and enjoy as much as Shanghai as possible. Meeting other volunteers also enabled me to find traveling partners for seeing China outside of Shanghai during the weekends!
Shanghai really is where the West meets the East, the skyscrapers in the Pudong district show the new modern side of Shanghai. In contrast Puchi has the old town and niche and cultured areas, such as Tianzifang, which offer a view of more traditional Chinese culture.
The French Concession part of Shanghai offers a mixture of old and new China with small family restaurants placed next to trendy fashion shops. I was surprised by the large Shanghai nightlife, which offered the opportunity to relax after a hard week at work, by having a drink at some of the bars on the famous strip and take in the amazing views of the Pudong skyline.
Everyone at Projects Abroad was great at making sure that you were having a great time in regards to work, accommodation and the social side of the trip and were always on hand to help with any queries.
Traveling Around China
Even though I was only on my placement for a month I wanted to try to get out and see as much of China as possible. Luckily other volunteers I met had the same ideas and my work placement allowed me to take a day off for traveling far away to places like Beijing.
During my month stay I managed to visit the amazing West Lake at Hangzhou with its traditional temples and spectacular natural beauty, the Yellow Mountains near Huanghan with breath-taking views and the ability to see more of traditional China being out in the countryside.
On my final weekend I was able to travel to Beijing and visit the Great Wall of China, Olympic Park, Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen Square as well as see some pandas at the Beijing Zoo. These opportunities allowed me to see how varied China can be from province to province, as well as managing to see some of the most famous sights in the world.
I would recommend Projects Abroad to anyone that enjoys traveling and finding out more about different cultures. This experience has also helped to improve my employment prospects, but along with this I was able to experience an amazing culture and make loads of great friends from all over the world.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.