Baao Zhao - Class of 2016
Legal Assistant, Hogan Lovells international law firm
Tell me a little bit about your educational and personal background—what led you to the LL.M. program at Penn State Law?
On June 1, 2015, on the eve of my graduation from Shandong University, I saw a notification on the college’s website that Mr. Stephen Barnes, the assistant dean of graduate and international programs at Penn State Law, was inviting graduates of my school to apply to Penn State Law. That was the first time I was seriously considering studying in the United States.
I finally made my decision to apply. Stephen gave me an offer shortly after a wonderful interview—we talked about my academic interests, my ambition and my career plan. This offer was just like the first ray of sunlight after a long night. I regained the feeling of being recognized. At that moment, I made up my mind—I must take this opportunity and prove myself at Penn State.
Penn State is so important to me. It is more than a law school; it was a turning point in my life. What Penn State has given me is more than knowledge and a degree, it gave me what I needed at that time—hope and a new beginning.
Tell me about your current position—what kind of work are you doing?
I am currently studying for a Master of Philosophy in Law (MPhil) degree at the University of Oxford, which specializes in intellectual property. After passing the oral defense, I will start working for two years before going on to a doctoral program. I will work in the IP department of Hogan Lovells—an international law firm based in London.
Intellectual property is one of the most practical areas of law. Without practical experiences, it was very difficult for me to find a topic of research, which is why I decided to work before starting a doctoral program.
What made you interested in your current position or career field?
I chose intellectual property as my career field due to its growing importance to the Chinese economy—intellectual property rights has become the most valuable asset in technology and entertainment industries. In addition, IP law is very technology- and fashion-sensitive, which means that people working on IP law must constantly update their knowledge and maintain their enthusiasm for learning new technology and new fashion. In fact, I used to be a person resisting learning new things and I knew I needed to change. I chose IP law because I thought its technology-sensitive nature would press me to change.
How did the LL.M. program help you achieve/pursue your long-term career goals?
Penn State Law is the cornerstone of my career. Before studying at Penn State Law, I had never touched common law and never considered working at an international law firm. Penn State Law not only enriched my legal knowledge, but more importantly, it completely changed the way I approach legal issues—it taught me how to write legal memos, how to think as a professional attorney, and how to discuss legal issues with my colleagues.
Case briefs are the best example on this point. I was trained to do case briefs during the first week of orientation at Penn State Law, which has proved to be extremely important to my career. When I was studying at Oxford, I was shocked by the large reading workload. Fortunately, with the ability to do case briefs, I was able to summarize each case and extract the key content while not spending too much time.
Also, Penn State Law helped me improve my time management skills. During my LL.M. program I had a highly efficient schedule, according to each day’s reading workload, and carried it out strictly. I developed this ability at Penn State Law, and I believe it will continue to benefit me throughout my career.
What was the most challenging aspect of your time in the LL.M. program?
The most challenging aspect of my time at Penn State was improving my listening ability in English. In the first few months, I had a hard time understanding class content due to my poor listening ability. I could only comprehend 50 percent or even less. In order to improve, I watched the class recordings after each class. In the beginning, I could only listen sentence-by-sentence. But shortly, I grew accustomed to the English-speaking environment and after about two months I was finally able to fully understand the content of each class. It was a difficult process, but necessary to improve.
Is there anything else you want to add?
The one-year experience at Penn State Law was a turning point in my life. It changed me to an unprecedented extent. I regained my confidence and optimism at Penn State; I improved my linguistic ability at Penn State; I attained a professional mindset at Penn State; I had a peaceful and productive time at Penn State.
I will never forget the campus life. I really enjoyed its natural environment and campus facilities, especially sports and transportation facilities. In a word, Penn State satisfies all my expectations and fantasies of campus life.
I have always wanted to contribute to the Penn State community and I sincerely hope my comments will be helpful to new and prospective Penn Staters.