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From China to UC Law, Yinan Zhang '13 enjoys summer fellowship in New York

The path to working at The Continuum Company was far different for Yinan Zhang, ’13, than fellow classmate and TCC intern Matt Mikhail ‘13. While the actual process in applying for and being accepted as an Eichner Family Foundation Entrepreneurship Fellow this summer was the same, she has a unique story as to how and why she ended up at the College of Law.

Zhang is a native of Beijing, where she graduated from a law school there with a lawyer’s certificate to practice in mainland China. “I think in this era of globalization, lawyers who are familiar with legal systems in more than one countr(y) can serve their clients better and create more value, so I came to the U.S. for my second law degree,” she said.

With global businesses such as Procter & Gamble and GE Aviation, plus a small number of foreign legal professionals in the area, Cincinnati seemed like a good fit. “Thinking the market might be underserved and I can get more exposure to U.S. culture, I chose to stay in Cincinnati,” she said.

Zhang said “life here is great,” noting that Cincinnati is cleaner and quieter than the area from which she hails. She also noted people here are very friendly and “always willing to help.” The 3L student has had a positive experience at the College of Law, where she is pursuing her interest in business law in and out of the classroom.

“I interned in the legal profession in both China and the U.S., especially as it relates to business law,” said Zhang, who noted the two legal systems are very different. “I want to help in (building a) mutual understanding between business people, and building a better international business relationship between these two countries.”

Zhang previously interned in the corporate group of Junhe law offices, which she said is the second largest firm in China. She also worked with Herbert Smith’s Beijing office. After her 1L year, Zhang spent the summer working in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She has also gained experiencing locally, working part time at Clark Schaefer Hackett & Co., preparing individual tax returns, while also presently externing in the Fifth Third Bank legal department this semester.

This summer, Zhang gained experience in real estate development while working with College of Law alumnus Ian Bruce Eichner, CEO of the aforementioned TCC. “In designing this fellowship, Mr. Eichner meant to teach us his entrepreneurial spirit, and let us know our career choices outside traditional positions, like law firms and courts,” Zhang said. “I think, to some extent, entrepreneurial spirit best represents U.S. culture. That is something I should learn more, as I am from a conservative culture.”

Zhang also approached the summer experience (and still today) looking to learn more about the corporate environment here in the United States. Plus, real estate has always interested her and she is aware of how “hot” the real estate market is in her native country of China.

“This summer actually, I found that a large number of Chinese businessmen are investing in (the) U.S. real estate market,” she said, noting that she believed the knowledge she would receive through the fellowship would be useful and, thus, it was essentially a no-brainer to apply last summer.   

Zhang had been to New York City just once before, for but two days during the spring break of her 1L year. She does have friends from Beijing there and she greatly enjoyed her time in Manhattan this summer.

“Living in N.Y.C. is amazing; after all it is the city that never sleeps,” Zhang said. “I visited some museums there, and I took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. In addition, I met with some Chinese lawyers and Chinese business people, and got excited about the international business market.”

While at the TCC, she spent the first five weeks on the legal side, while the latter part of the summer was on the business development side. Zhang’s work included reviewing and editing letters of intent, discussing bankruptcy and construction litigation with the general counsel, attending meetings with architects, learning basic real estate finance concepts and the basics of obtaining a zoning permit, and also checking out a development site with Mr. Eichner and hearing his ideas concerning the development, she said
Zhang said it is difficult to know, right now, how her summer experience will directly impact her future career. But she said it was an “eye-opening experience,” and it will impact her in whatever line of work she ends up doing.  She added that she knows her future is not limited to “traditional” legal positions, and she is now more willing to explore new areas.

Outside of school and work, Zhang has enjoyed cooking Chinese food ever since coming to the United States. She also enjoys shopping with her friends, swimming and playing badminton.

One achievement Zhang is especially proud of is getting her first English article published in Tax Notes International this summer. “I compared R&D tax benefits between the U.S. rule and Chinese rule, and advise international companies as to where to conduct research activities based on tax benefits,” she said.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13