Xu Yi is a Principal of Chinese IP law firm, Lusheng Lawyers, a member of the Rouse network. She is a member of Lusheng’s highly regarded Dispute Resolution team.
Very early on, while still at law school, Xu Yi was aware of the gap that existed between legal theory and practice. Her subsequent journey in the law, working for seven years as a Judge in the IP Tribunal of a Shanghai court before joining Lusheng’s Dispute Resolution team, served to sharpen that awareness, and encouraged her to find a way of achieving an appropriate balance between the two.
She began her legal studies at Peking University, one of China’s oldest universities, and consistently ranked one of its best. The Intellectual Property class there was taught by an inspirational Professor who sparked Xu Yi’s interest in Intellectual Property and started her thinking more profoundly about the law in general. He would discuss cases, ask endless questions, challenge everything, and encourage his students to think about the law more philosophically, as a system that aims to strike a balance between public and private interests.
Another particularly important and formative experience from her student days was working with an association the Law School had established to give students some practical experience while at the same time providing assistance to people who would not otherwise have access to the legal system. The students involved would talk with the people who came to them, then advise as to possible courses of action. For Xu Yi it was both stimulating and satisfying: in fact, she was in her element. As part of the group, she travelled to a village in northern China to meet with the people there. The problems they presented were wide-ranging - from family and contractual disputes to disputes between farmers and factories in relation to environmental and pollution issues. Looking back, she says the advice she and her team members provided may at times have been overly theoretical, but they were being introduced to, and dealing with, some of the complexities and subtleties of the law in practice.
Although she attended Peking University, Xu Yi grew up in Shanghai and attended one of the city’s top high schools there, boarding during the week and returning home to her parents at the weekend. It is not at all uncommon for public schools in China to provide low-cost weekly accommodation of this sort and, while it might have been difficult for some, for Xu Yi it was, overall, a very positive experience, teaching her a range of valuable life-skills; in particular, independence and self-reliance. As it was one of the leading schools, the focus was academic and it was assumed that students would go on to further education – as Xu Yi and all her friends subsequently did.
When it came time to choose where and what to study, Xu Yi’s parents had been hoping she might choose a University close to home. They were ambitious for her, but their ambition had its limits. She, on the other hand, was already looking to experience a larger world, beyond Shanghai. At the time she considered Peking University to be one of the most attractive universities in China, so naturally she wanted to study there.
She did well at University, completing a Masters degree, and then decided to train as a Judge – she liked the idea of the legal focus that would involve and the fact that judges seemed able to live a relatively balanced life. She quickly realised, however, that studying the law and applying it as a Judge were worlds apart: initially, the gap between theory and practice seemed enormous, like learning about the sea and then actually jumping in and swimming.
It wasn’t too long before she was swimming comfortably, and now she regards her time on the Bench as a particularly precious part of her career. It allowed her to hone her technical legal skills on a wide range of interesting cases, and at the same time gave her an inside view of how the judicial process operates – something she could not have acquired elsewhere. Nevertheless, after several years she began to feel the need for something more. The judicial system was still developing and there were limits on what an individual judge could do – also the Court was rather a closed world and Xu Yi decided she didn’t want to be there for the next 10 or 20 years.
That is when she joined Lusheng – and found the move from the Court to private practice every bit as daunting as the move from University to the Court had been. She considers herself lucky to have had the understanding and generosity of her Lusheng colleagues to help her make the transition. She clearly remembers her first litigation case as a practitioner. The case had been well-prepared, but still she was feeling anxious, and barely slept the night before the hearing. Then, next day in Court, as her team delivered winning arguments, she felt a strange mixture of excitement, satisfaction, and involvement. It was something she had never experienced as a Judge. The role of a judge is not active in the same way: it is to hear both parties and be impartial.
These days the law obviously takes up a large part of her life, but certainly not all. She still manages to find some time to read, watch films and practise yoga - but, above all, she enjoys just spending time with her family.