University Park, Pa. -- Penn State Law student Adam Shapiro knew he wanted to work overseas; after all he has spent the past year polishing his Mandarin language skills. He initially set his sights on big firms. But Professor Catherine Rogers suggested a different path. "She mentioned International Arbitration Institutions as a possibility and I explored a range of options around China," explained Shapiro. After months of researching organizations and sending out resumes, he began corresponding with the Arbitration Association of the Republic of China. Though the Association had never hosted an intern previously, Shapiro’s persistence paid off and he landed in Taiwan in late May.
"I feel I’ve been making a difference," Shapiro said. The Secretary General asked him to draft a translation of Taiwan's arbitration, mediation and Dispute Review Board legal and ethics codes from Chinese into English. "I thought, no way could I do that," he explained. "But as I continued working on the project, I gained confidence, and was happy with the result. Now there is a translation available for anyone conducting an arbitration in English, and I learned a lot working on it as well.”
Shapiro explained that unless both parties in a proceeding are using Chinese, English becomes the default language so probably about 30 cases per year would be using the rules he helped to translate.
Wide range of legal experiences
In addition to translations, Shapiro has put in 10-hour days gaining invaluable experience.
"I was able to assist in processing and regulating both Chinese and English arbitration proceedings. Seeing what an arbitration looks like from inside an institution is a very rare viewpoint. I also assisted in the execution of cooperation agreements between the association and the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board, and the Arbitration Association of Brunei Darussalam, and have published articles in the Association's newsletter, and the Asia Pacific Regional Arbitration Group Newsletter," he said.
He also has observed many proceedings and has been able to help identify procedural or ethical issues that helped the institution in its administration of proceedings. “But sometimes it’s a language issue. There are times when the lawyers -- who have received their J.D.s from some of the top law schools in the U.S. -- should probably not be practicing in English because they they are stronger in their native Chinese."
Shapiro said he walked into the position "understanding all of the concepts and terms because of my classes in international arbitration, professional responsibility and the cross border legal practice seminar." But he added that the experience has given him insights he could never have gotten from a classroom. "My experience, watching both good and not so good examples, made me realize that good arbitrators are very important and will always be in high demand."
Although being part of international arbitrations has been a great experience, Shapiro said he continues to have a desire to ultimately be a corporate litigator. "There's something about massive battles between corporate giants with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake that is very compelling to me," Shapiro said. He believes his language skills, his international arbitration experience and his demonstrated willingness to take risks and try new experiences will make him a strong candidate.
Timeout in Taiwan
Despite the long work days, Shapiro has been able to travel on the weekends away from his office in Taipei to see the country. He has been to the mountains, the forests and the beaches in this tiny but densely populated island nation. In spite of his study and that he lived in Japan, he still experienced culture shock. "I'd say that's the biggest issue anyone would face, in spite of how well you prepare yourself. It's just so different. The people in my office love to give me the weirdest food to see my reaction."
The Association's Secretary General paid the greatest tribute to Shapiro when the Secretary determined that he would like to continue the internship program. That made Shapiro feel that he has given back something to the Law School. "It hasn't been an easy summer. I have had to work 10-hour, very intense days and eat snake. But it has truly been a tremendous experience."