Soochow University, founded in China by Methodists in 1900, moved to Shanghai fifteen years later and established the Law School. It ceased operations in 1949 as the Communists swept through mainland China and then reopened in Taipei, Taiwan two years later.
Along with many other Asian-Pacific nations, Taiwan has recently been encouraging its law schools to aggressively develop new approaches to teaching law. While many of the graduates from Taiwan law schools will engage in a domestic practice in Taipei and the surrounding areas, the globalization of the practice of law has led competitive Taiwan law schools to increase the exposure of students taking classes within Taiwan to comparative law.
While law schools in the United States often have a history of not offering evening classes, Soochow aggressively recruits evening students who are often already in full-time high level employment. It is very common for an evening class to include doctors, accountants, inventors, business leaders and government officials. The average age of evening class students might be 15 or more years older than the daytime students. To encourage Teaching Excellence for such students, the Taiwan government provides funding to law schools to invite professors from the United States and China.
Clinical Associate Professor Ken Streit was fortunate to be invited by Jimmy Yu to teach for a week on the subject of legal ethics to a day long Sunday seminar and four different evening classes. The Sunday seminar evolved as part of a project to write a law text book on Legal Ethics and included many of the authors who were presenting drafts of their chapters. While they were kind enough to allow Prof. Streit to present the keynote address in English, the rest of the seminar was all in Chinese. Prof. Streit relied on a terrific Cliffs Notes translator to keep him informed of the presentation so that he could respond later if asked.
Most of the evening classes included students interested in legal issues involving the high-tech industry that is a major component of Taiwan's international business. Following the two-hour class sessions, every evening a half-dozen students would continue the discussion at a terrific restaurant. [Caveat: Prof. Streit speaks absolutely no form of Chinese and therefore was incredibly grateful to the students who had been communicating in English since elementary school.]
Soochow was interested in learning more about the process and substance of the American Bar Association's Ethics 2000 Committee which led to recent revisions of the Legal Ethics codes of many states - including Wisconsin. While there are some aspects of the Taiwan legal system that resemble the U.S. common law and statutory systems, there are other aspects that are more remote. While teachers in the United States have little need to question what role the adversary model plays in the professions= ethics rules, teaching in other nations (Prof. Streit had also taught in Japan) which are not as based on a common law adversary system requires an examination of the foundations of the U.S. system before being able to respond to a Taiwan lawyer's question about why Wisconsin chose one option over another.
A teaching trip also provides other opportunities to learn. While Prof. Streit could not imagine having the opportunity to enter the room where the U.S. Supreme Court meets to discuss cases, a Soochow alumnus at the Sunday conference offered to take him on a tour of Taiwan=s court system and, in a single day, Prof. Streit observed everything from status conferences of civil cases, high-profile corruption criminal trial of a government official, interrogation rooms at the criminal courts and the high-tech conference room of the 15 member Supreme Court. The new courthouse is filled with high and low-tech equipment that makes the building far more user friendly than what would have been observed in the United States. An assortment of reading glasses is available in each courtroom in case somebody forgot their glasses. Flat screen monitors in the halls and waiting lounges allow attorneys and clients to keep track of what is happening in the courtroom while waiting for the cases to be called.