Accepting personal challenges and expanding horizons comes naturally
Sharon is a Partner in Lusheng Law Firm, Rouse’s associated law firm in China, and recognised as one of China’s leading IP litigators.
On first meeting, Sharon is delightfully and disarmingly unassuming. But it doesn’t take long to see that she has followed an individual and challenging path to get where she is today - and that her achievements are impressive.
She grew up in a middle-class family in Sichuan Province, southwest China. Even though she was, she says, perhaps more rebellious than other children, her parents managed to provide a free and flexible home environment, something for which she’s always been grateful. She did well at school, but at that time only about 5% of high school graduates were being admitted to the university. At 16, Sharon was one of the youngest to pass the State entrance exam.
Her decision to study Law was not part of a carefully thought-out plan. Far from it, in fact! It was entirely a matter of chance. She had to choose a course before she had received her entrance exam score so decided to play it safe by opting for a course that wasn’t too popular. Law seemed to fill the bill. At that time, in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, people were afraid of any political involvement and because Law was seen as being linked to politics, students were tending to steer clear of the Law course. Sharon didn’t dream, at that stage, that Law would be her life career; however, as soon as she embarked on the Law course she knew she had found her calling.
While she was a student, she also discovered a love of travel, particularly to remote and exotic places. One of her first trips was with friends to the mountainous Sichuan Tibetan Area. At the time, it took two or three days to get there – there was no highway, constant fear of landslides, and buses crawled along at speeds of less than 20km an hour. But despite the hardship, Sharon was in her element, and over the next few years would make several return trips alone – just she and her trusty backpack.
On one of these trips, in a particularly remote and isolated area, she met two English nurses who didn’t speak any Chinese. She admired them and remembers being particularly struck by the fact that they had decided to spend time traveling to a place like China after losing their jobs. That was certainly not the Chinese attitude! There was a quite different approach to life. Sharon says she realised that traveling by herself was enabling her to have experiences of this sort and that her horizons were widening. She loved it.
With hindsight, the decision to focus on IP was really a reflection of Sharon’s developing personality. At the time, it was an entirely new, pioneering subject in China: interesting and challenging, but also considered important for the country’s future economic development. And it had an international focus – China was going to have to learn from other countries. All round, it seemed ideal.
On graduation, Sharon taught Civil Law and Economic Law, first at Sichuan University for two years and then, for three years, at Beijing Information Science and Technology University, before obtaining a scholarship to the Max Planck Institute in Munich. There she studied German and obtained a Certificate of German Law, followed by a Ph.D. in IP. Studying at that level in a foreign language had its challenges, but they were challenges that Sharon was happy to accept. She says that studying in a foreign language opens another world – you get to understand another culture, a different history, different mentality, and different habits.
During her Ph.D. study, she worked as a Fellow at the Institute, and for some time with a private German law firm. Then, after obtaining her Ph.D., and having spent more than six years in Germany, it was time to make a decision: should she stay there or return to China? It wasn’t an easy decision, but in the end, she chose to return to China and worked for two large law firms in Beijing before joining Rouse in 2004 in order to focus on IP.
These days Law takes up most of Sharon’s time, but when not working she loves to spend time reading – and she still makes sure she travels somewhere interesting each year. She has, over the years, visited almost the whole of China as well as most European countries, and last year she went to America with her eight-year-old son, Harrison, who is clearly the light of her life. He is currently learning English and sometimes says he plans to be a lawyer when he grows up. Sharon is well aware that not everyone has the same opportunity and says that if she had more time, and the opportunity existed, she would like to go to poor and remote regions to teach young children, open them up to the possibilities that exist, and help improve their life.
Not surprisingly, since she spent close to seven years there, Germany is Sharon’s favorite country outside China - she says she has been both impressed and changed by the German approach to life and way of thinking. But at the top of her current ‘must go to’ travel list is South Africa, which she describes as “a wonderfully exotic place” and one she plans to visit in the near future.