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Un-Common Lawyers
In 1995, Penn Law School pioneered a summer program for international students. Dubbed "comparative law in reverse" by one professor, the course served as an academic and social icebreaker for the incoming LLMs. And so last July, a covey of students came to Penn Law School to put an American patina on their legal credentials. They represented 45 countries, from Argentina to Uzbekistan. Almost 1200 applied, but only 96 made the cut – including Humira Noorestani and Yanqing (May) Liang.

May Liang Embarks on New Journey at Penn Law School
By Nancy Rasmussen

May Liang  

Over the last few years, while traveling throughout Asia, May (Yanqing) Liang had a career awakening. In 2007 and 2010, sometimes alone and sometimes with two or three companions, she backpacked in Nepal, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia. She had only one rule: not to treat herself as a tourist.

And she didn't. She stayed in local peoples' homes or shared lodging and food with her fellow travelers. At the world's largest Tibetan-Buddhist Institute in Sichuan Province, 3,700 meters (12,139 feet) above sea level, she talked with the nuns and watched them chant their sacred texts. Another time, on a horse trek on an ice mountain for four days, she came down with a 39C temperature (102 degrees) alone and with no medicines.

Taking a traditional herb offered by a local, she recovered. During her travels, she had met and been inspired by people from all over the world including two young men who had just left Google to start their own business, a Spanish lawyer and a trader in a Taiwan stock exchange. These experiences and meetings "widely spiced up my thoughts." She says, "This journey is not a trip, not a vacation; it's a journey that brings us face to face with ourselves. It shows not only the world, but how we fit in it."

She realized it was time to "switch the channel and think like a leader." She left her job in Shanghai as an investment associate at CSV Capital Partners (although she continues as a senior consultant), her stint as co-founder and editor of the legal website CNBlawg.com and her association with the NGO Young Venture Capitalist Club (YVCC), coming to Penn Law (and her first visit to the U.S.). She was motivated to follow her fascination with the interworking of law, business and capital markets. She says, "My inner desire is to seek the business rationale behind the legal language. I need to know the rules and regulations, and thus the legal system, especially in a country like the U.S.

You can't separate economics and law." She's also pursuing a Wharton Business and the Law certificate.

A 2005 graduate of East China University of Politics and Law, Liang practiced as an associate at Jun He Law Offices, serving clients of Fortune 500 companies, and as an analyst at Pu Xin Capital, a RMB hedge fund investing in China's secondary securities market, before joining CSV, a China-focused venture capital firm, in 2008. There Liang was responsible for the identification, analysis, and management of investments and worked with their portfolio companies to evaluate and overcome legal problems. In addition to doing high-intensity, highly complex transaction work, she also evaluated the possible legal implications of their investments given the potential of policy changes in China, each time predicting what could (and did) happen and thus steering clear of potential problems.

As the only female and lawyer of the organizing committee of YVCC, Liang initiated and organized cross-functional law-related lectures and events for 300 young professionals in Shanghai and Beijing. The group provides a platform for information sharing, networking and professional training. It's "run like a company" and sponsored by organizations such as Ernst & Young, Morrison Forester, Russell Reynolds and Booz & Company.

Liang says the venture capital industry has been booming in China in the last five years. Due to the U.S. financial crisis, she adds, the "game is becoming white hot as people are pressed to make fast money."

Still involved with CNBlawg.com, Liang says its longterm objective is to develop into a profitable online global consulting service providing information on Chinese legal matters to foreigners.

A cyclist, amateur photographer (who will be a student photographer for Penn) and trekker, Liang is also a big fan of Woody Allen movies, Scientific American, biology, psychology, economics and Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi's music. So far, she says, "Life here is easy (though Penn is not). People here are a little bit laid-back, compared with my hometown, which has a much quicker city beat."

Overall, May says, "I want to figure out what the future Chinese legal framework will likely be and how I can actively influence the way it will develop. Part of the answer, I believe, is to pursue an LLM education."

She sees her time at Penn Law as "a period to think and reflect, to dig out more potential, try various angles and more possibilities."

In other words, scale new heights, like she did on her backpacking trips.

Nancy Rasmussen is associate director of Alumni Relations.