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#HerCareers Interview with Yi Song

Yi Song is the Executive Director of Graduate and International Programs and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University Law Center. She teaches Foundations for American Law and U.S. Legal Research, Analysis and Writing to internationally trained lawyers from around the world. She has practiced law in Beijing, New York City, and Seattle, and has clerked at the Supreme Court of the People's Republic of China. She serves as General Counsel of a real estate development company publicly listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, managing risks for its U.S. subsidiaries and projects. In her early career, she worked in private practice in New York City, assisting high-net-worth individuals on immigration and legacy planning matters and helping U.S.-based issuers raise capital from overseas investors. She lives outside Washington, D.C. with her husband and their son.

 

1. Prior to joining academics, you had an illustrious career as a lawyer with a firm and then in-house. What sparked your decision to join academia?


Arthur Brooks, the Harvard Professor and social scientist, argued in the Only Career Advice You’ll Ever Need: “Ask yourself instead how you can go about doing with love and excellence whatever work comes your way. Take each opportunity as it arises.” Teaching happened for me in similar manner. The opportunity presented itself and I seized it. I moved back to Washington, D.C. with my family after a decade away. I knew that I enjoyed reading and writing so I contacted my professors at Georgetown Law to see if there’s any research opportunity now that I was back in town. A few months later, the world shut down because of Covid. I didn’t hear from anyone from Georgetown until about a year later. One day, my legal writing professor @Craig Hoffman reached out to me to co-teach a class online because the students were overseas and the travel restrictions were still in place. The teaching was conducted exclusively online. After I taught my first class, I was rejoiced to discover my new calling. I loved it. I couldn’t wait to do it again. I would do it for free. I was invited back to teach my own legal research and writing class that summer. The rest is history.


2. Was this move challenging and how did you adapt your skill sets for your role in academia? Do you think your prior training helps you as a professor?


Teaching involves a form of public speaking. By the time I transitioned to teaching, I have been practicing law in the U.S. for a decade. It is helpful to have the training of communicate complex ideas effectively in a second language. The content may be different but the form in terms of speaking and communicating is very similar. My audience are internationally trained lawyers. One challenge I face is how to make materials from U.S. law relevant and interesting to an international audience. It is incredibly fun to talk with brilliant international lawyers about the emerging legal issues and about our experience practicing law in the era of social media.


3. You run the Master of Laws Interviews Project, which is in addition to your full time work. What motivated you to initiate this project and what motivates you to work on it after a long day of work?


It all began with my personal experience as an internationally trained lawyer working in the U.S.. I found myself in many client meetings, where they would be like: “So you are from China? But you are a lawyer here? Tell us about your background.” At the same time, our CFO or finance director who shared a similar background with me, born and raised in China, trained and licensed in the U.S. never faced similar inquiries, because they are just “the numbers guys.” That experience planted a seed in me trying to make more people aware of our collective experiences. Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of working with so many fabulous internationally trained lawyers. I thought how come few people know about this cohort. We are multilingual. We practice law across languages, cultures and jurisdictions. Everyone should hear our stories!


As for the motivation, I love storytelling. I live for the stories. Liz Glazer, the law professor turned standup comedian said her happy place is speaking to a crowd in lime light. My happy place is having in-depth one-on-one conversations about interesting topics. Master of Laws Interviews Project has been well received since its launch in March 2023. So many reached out to tell me that the Project gives our cohort a voice, and more reach out wanting to share their stories too. Season 2 is set to premiere in the fall. So, stay tuned!


4. As the world becomes more and more globalised, the number of lawyers choosing to pursue an LLM is increasing. However, there is a long standing debate on how the LLM contributes to your career growth. Holding the position you hold, having an LLM yourself, having had and having currently a successful career, what are your thoughts on the LLM and it's cost-benefit? What advice would you have to LLM aspirants who dream of pursuing an LLM at Georgetown?


The LLM is a worthy investment in yourself. It is the best decision I have made. It has opened so many doors for me and it changed my life. If you are thinking about pursuing a LLM degree, I’d say go for it. You won’t regret it.






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