At the start of his 2L year, Shen Zhang made a courageous choice: He entered Vanderbilt’s Moot Court competition.
The competition required Zhang, a Chinese national, to address the aspect of American legal practice he finds most difficult: oral argument. “Delivering the oral argument was challenging, but I also found it quite exciting,” he said. “Responding to the judges’ tough questions required a lot of work.”
Zhang became interested in earning a J.D. in the United States while working as an associate at Hogan Lovells in Beijing, a job he landed after earning both a bachelor of law at Peking University in China and a master’s degree in international trade law at Kyushu University in Japan. His supervisor was a U.S. law graduate, and Zhang became intrigued by the idea of studying law in the U.S. because “the legal system here is well-developed and influential.” He chose to apply to J.D. rather than LL.M. programs because “the U.S. has a very comprehensive legal regime, and I wanted to spend more than one year studying it.”
Another Hogan Lovells associate, Sarah Zhang, earned her LL.M. at Vanderbilt in 2010. When she returned to the firm, she encouraged Zhang to apply to Vanderbilt and recommended him for the J.D. program. “My colleague had a very good experience at Vanderbilt and then passed the New York Bar exam,” he said. “The professors here are very kind and supportive to international students, and Vanderbilt has a solid reputation and a collegial environment. Here, you study hard, but at the same time, you feel like you’re at home.”
As a first-year student, Zhang recalls being familiar with the legal concepts in his courses, but he struggled with English pronunciation when called on in class. “It was difficult for me to pronounce precisely at first,” he said. “In my Contracts class, Professor [Tracey] George always helped me and encouraged me to talk, and she offered the exact legal words to help me express my ideas more fluently. She also took every classmate for coffee and casual conversation and asked me about my future career plans.” Professor George not only helped Zhang select his second- and third-year courses—including the Evidence course she teaches—but also supervised his summer internship with the Nielsen Company in New York during summer 2011. "I think the courses she suggested have prepared me well to be a transactional lawyer," Zhang said, "and I learned how to draft court memos and work with law clerks as an intern with Judge John Nixon of the U.S. District Court for the Middle Tennessee of Tennessee."
Written English has proved less challenging for Zhang. He joined the editorial staff of the Journal of Transnational Law as a 2L and served as the journal's Executive Article Selection Editor in 2012-13. “I highly recommend the journal experience--I've found the work quite interesting and rewarding,” he said. “U.S. law school requires much reading and independent analysis of cases, and working on the editorial staff of a journal really promotes those skills."
Zhang is interested in corporate and securities law, and he has enjoyed classes in the Law and Business curriculum. “Professor Randall Thomas’s Mergers and Acquisitions is fantastic,” he said. “You can imagine how a great scholar who is also an experienced practitioner could make the class interesting.”
Zhang plans to join Squire Sanders in San Francisco after graduating in May 2013, having served as a summer associate there in 2012. "The Career Services office helped me a lot," he said. "Lisa Doster helped me find accomodations in New York when I interned with Nielsen, and she also offered me helpful advice about how to perform better as a summer associate."
Shen Zhang, Class of 2013
- Prior degrees: Bachelor of Law, Peking University; Master of International Trade Law, Kyushu University
- Associate, Hogan Lovells, Beijing, China, 2008-10
- Hometown: Yingkou, Liaoning Province, China
- Summer 2011: Legal Intern, The Neilsen Company, New York
- Summer 2012: Summer Associate, Squire Sanders, San Francisco
- Fall 2013: Intern, Judge John T. Nixon, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
- After graduation in May 2013: Associate, Squire Sanders, San Francisco