When I first moved from China to the United States, my goal was to be a bilingual international business lawyer. I was confident that the combination of a U.S. law degree and my Chinese background would put me in an ideal position especially because international practice seemed to be a very popular topic.
As soon as I entered law school, I quickly discovered that the reality was not quite so promising. Most potential employers did not have a substantial international practice, and those that did do some China-focused work were doing so on a token basis.
It also appeared that only the largest firms had the luxury of having an international practice component. During law school, I served as a clerk with a federal agency. That clerkship was invaluable, but did not take advantage of my Chinese background.
One of my most-respected law professors, who knew about my dream to become an international business lawyer, suggested that I would probably be better off being a U.S. lawyer who happens to speak Chinese. My mentor at the federal agency said that firms were more likely to use me as a translator if I tried to sell my Chinese background.
Discouraged, yet not willing to give up, I decided to hold fast to my original dream. Knowing how challenging it might be, I was open to any opportunity that could potentially make good use of my international background.
My Chinese language skills got me my first job with an immigration law firm, thanks to the rapidly increasing Chinese immigration, particularly the incredible popularity of the investment immigration (EB-5) program. My up-to-date Chinese knowledge and personal connections proved to be desirable and very helpful.
My first job provided me with solid legal training in immigration law and helped me realize the value of my Chinese background. At the same time, I recognized that immigration law helped connect me with the international community and functioned as a gateway to international business.
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