Yun-chien Chang, Associate Research Professor, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

On Thursday, October 17, Professor Jerome Cohen sat down with Professor Linda (Lingyun) Gao, Associate Professor of Law at the Fudan University School of Law in Shanghai, China, to discuss her career and legal education in China.

Since training at East University of Politics and Science in Shanghai in the late 1980s, Professor Gao has had a successful career as a scholar of comparative civil and commercial law, and has recently begun to focus on China’s burgeoning trust law system. During her conversation with Professor Cohen, Professor Gao discussed her current research on the regulation and development of commercial and private trusts, noting that legal education has developed substantially over the past two decades. As a student, she was taught that there were three legal systems in the world: civil law, common law and Chinese law. As time has gone on, however, it has become widely understood that Chinese law, by way of the Soviet Union, derives from European continental law.

In terms of current developments, Professor Gao explained that the Chinese legal system has begun to adopt attributes of common and U.S. law, but has had difficulty transitioning out of the continental system, which has led to certain contradictory aspects of China’s legal landscape. One example of this is the dual existence of independent director systems, a feature of common law, and supervisory boards, which belong to the continental law system.

Toward the end of the event, Professor Gao cautioned students that the legal market in China is less than ideal. “The highest unemployment is experienced by law school graduates, ” she said. However, for those on the teaching track, politics shouldn’t factor too largely into the equation. Professor Gao stated that at Fudan she can speak freely on legal topics, to which Professor Cohen quipped, “What is the Party line on commercial trusts?”

Professor Gao is also a member of American Bar Association (admitted in Oregon and New York State) and China Law Society (Shanghai Chapter). She can be reached via email at