The University of Tennessee College of Law’s Business Law and Trademark Clinic is serving as a teaching model for a professor from China who’s striving to develop a similar clinical operation at Renmin University.
Jiang Dong, an associate professor at Renmin University of China Law School, visited Knoxville throughout the months of August and September working with UT Legal Clinic faculty, talking with students about their clinical education, and teaching a course in Chinese law, politics, and culture.
“We are now opening to the whole world, and we should know more about how to handle business law in the United States,” Dong said. “Sometimes law schools do not train students in those transactional skills. And that’s very important for the day to day work of a lawyer. So we need to provide that training through the clinical programs.”
The UT College of Law’s Business Clinic serves a variety of clients. Some of those clients are university professors and students who need assistance commercializing the intellectual property they’ve developed on campus. Small business owners also turn to the clinic for help with entity formation and drafting contracts.
Finding those similar sorts of clients in China to offer students that experiential training has been an obstacle for Dong, he said. So he will be returning to Beijing with sample course materials and simulations from UT that his students can use as practice models.
“Even though there are differences between our civil and criminal laws in China and the United States, doing business is very much the same,” he said. “Transactional law has more similarities.”
Professor Brian Krumm, who hosted Dong throughout his visit, reached out to Renmin University four years ago to talk with faculty about how the two institutions might build a partnership beyond the summer study program that was already in place for students.
Since that time, Krumm has taught a course – that has paired American and Chinese students via teleconference – posing hypothetical transactions that include an asset purchase, stock purchase and investment in new ventures.
Krumm has also visited China to learn about cultural barriers related to transactional law and to explore possibilities for Chinese students to study at the University of Tennessee.
By sitting in on some of Dong’s classes throughout his month-long course, Krumm said he expanded his understanding of Chinese history and culture and how it has impacted the country’s legal system.
“I think it’s important for our students to have a better understanding of China’s economy – particularly when it comes to transactionsal law,” Krumm said. “Bridging that divide helps us understand how we can work better together to get to the outcomes we want to reach.”
Dong said he is already making plans for his next visit to the College of Law. During his next trip, he wants to continue learning about business-based clinical education, explore the possibility of creating a business incubator in China, and work more directly with American students
“I want to continue to refine my teaching,” he said. “There are still many things for me to learn from the College of Law Legal Clinic in Tennessee.”