An Interview with Chiann Bao

Portrait of Chiann Bao

"There is no one right way to do law school - do it as you find works for you and create your own experience."

Q. How did you choose Wisconsin for law school?
It was the friendliness of the students when I came to visit; Madison, the city; and the idea of learning law from a "law-in-action" perspective.

There are so many student groups and activities. What advice do you have for an entering student in terms of choosing activities?
Wisconsin offers a lot of extracurricular activities – participate in ones that you are curious about during the first year in order to expand your options as to areas of law that might interest you. Thereafter, choose activities purposefully and with the intent to focus your energies on a select few. And if there isn't one that fits your express interests, start one – there are plenty of "untapped" resources both within the faculty and among the students.

How did you start the UW's Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court team?
I didn't start anything per se – it was really a collective law school and community-wide effort. I had participated in the Moot Competition in Vienna for two years during my master's studies. This experience had a really profound effect on my decision to pursue law in that I found that this was an area of law that really attracted interesting and entrepreneurial lawyers. I also thought that the issues arising in this area of law were particularly fascinating. I really wanted to share this experience with other people, and some of my professors and several of my classmates took an interest in the idea and were willing to invest their time and energies into practicing for the competition. The East Asian Legal Studies Center provided significant financial support for the program, and lawyers from the Madison community with experience in arbitration became involved.

In the second year of the program, one of the other team members from the first year, Melissa Caulum, and I co-coached a team; half of the members participated in the Hong Kong Moot competition and the other half went back to Vienna. Through tremendous team effort and hard work, our teams placed in the semi-finals in Hong Kong and advanced to the elimination round of 32 out of 178 law schools from around the world in Vienna.

What did you do during the summers of your first and second years of law school? How did you get those jobs?
After my first year of law school, I worked at the International Court of Arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris. As this internship was for only two months, I looked to find another job for one month and, through a friend, found a position as a stagiere (intern) with Shearman & Sterling in Paris. These two experiences gave me tremendous insight into both the private and public sides of international commercial arbitration.

During the summer following my second year, I was a summer associate with DLA Piper, the firm for which I now work. I got that position by contacting UW alums and people I had met prior to law school who were involved in international commercial arbitration.

What was your favorite law school class or professor? Why?
Hard question – I have several favorite professors but for different reasons. Professor Mary Prosser for her heart and passion for her work in criminal law; Professor Allison Christians for her boundless energy and enthusiasm for tax law and teaching in general; and Professor Ralph Cagle for his unwavering support and openness to students.

Was there a law school experience that was particularly important or meaningful for you?
Two things – making good friends and sharing the Vienna and Hong Kong international commercial arbitration moot court experience with my classmates.

You've had the experience of living in many places. What was your reaction to living in Madison?
The extent to which I enjoyed living in Madison was pleasantly surprising. I had never been to the Midwest until I came to visit the law school, so I had no idea what to expect. But, after driving past what seemed an eternity of farmland, I entered Madison on John Nolen Drive at night and discovered a gem of a city! From the famous farmer's market, the infinite bike paths and running trails, and the amazing lakes to the cosmopolitan outlets such as restaurants and theatre, Madison provided a perfect balance of lifestyle and quality of life.

You are back in Hong Kong now, working as Secretary-General for the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre.  How did this opportunity present itself, and how did you decide to return to Hong Kong?
This opportunity was presented to me in January 2010.  My husband and I had thought about moving abroad again at some point, and I had always wanted to come back to this region, but I never thought it would be so soon or in this capacity.  When it came down to making a decision, it was not a hard one though.  I arrived in Hong Kong about one month after receiving the offer, and my husband will join me this summer.

What advice do you have for someone just starting to consider law school?
There is no one right way to do law school – do it as you find it works for you and create your own experience.

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