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Lee helps Wisconsin bridge gap to China

Zhu “Julie” Lee

Zhu “Julie” Lee

In the last decade, the amount of business done with China by Wisconsin companies and government agencies has more than doubled.

That has kept Foley & Lardner attorney Zhu “Julie” Lee extremely busy doing everything from advising U.S. clients on the tax consequences of employing foreign individuals to being involved with the contract negotiations of former Milwaukee Bucks draft pick Yi Jianlian.

Last year, she was appointed to the Wisconsin International Trade Council, which advises the governor and other state departments on international trade strategies with foreign countries.

Beyond her international tax practice at Foley, which has offices in Shanghai and Tokyo, Lee also counsels clients on mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and commercial transactions such as licensing agreements and cross-border technology transfers.

Fluent in both English and Mandarin Chinese, the 1998 Northwestern University School of Law graduate made sure nothing was lost in translation in this week’s Asked & Answered.

Wisconsin Law Journal: If you could develop one CLE course for credit, what would it be about?

Zhu “Julie” Lee: What every lawyer should know about international business transactions. As the world becomes more flat, many companies are expanding their businesses into foreign countries. There are unique considerations, both legal and practical, to be taken into account when advising clients regarding doing business in a foreign country and helping a client negotiate with foreign business partners.

WLJ: What can you spend hours doing that isn’t law-related?

Lee: Spend time with my kids.

WLJ: What is your favorite website and why?

Lee: Online.wsj.com. I converted to the online edition a couple of years ago and continue my habit of reading the Wall Street Journal in the morning. Reading the paper helps me stand in my clients’ shoes.

WLJ: Which actor would play you in a movie and why?

Lee: Given the level of influence that actors have over the younger generation and the lack of discretion exhibited by some actors, I would like to be played by someone who conducts herself in a mature and responsible manner.

WLJ: What is one thing attorneys should know that they won’t learn in law school?

Lee: The thing that an attorney won’t learn in law school is the importance of explaining, not the law, but the practical implication of law to a client in the context of the client’s business and assisting the client to develop creative solutions to achieve their business goal.

WLJ: What is the first concert you went to?

Lee: A piano concert by Richard Clayderman in Beijing in 1988, while I attended Beijing University. I went to the concert with a few college friends. We had a 30-minute bicycle ride to the Capital Gymnasium, where the concert was held. The music was beautiful.

WLJ: If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be and why?

Lee: The U.S. ambassador to China. I have seen first-hand how companies struggle with difficult issues of doing business in China and working through the maze of a foreign legal system, culture and language. It would be interesting to be an ambassador for a day to work on similar issues at the governmental level.

WLJ: What is the hardest thing to tell a client?

Lee: When a client plans to embark on an exciting opportunity, it is difficult to tell the client to slow down because of potential legal risks.

WLJ: What is the one luxury item you cannot live without?

Lee: My BlackBerry, if that counts as a luxury item. I travel to many Asian countries, and it’s helpful, after a 14-hour trip, to turn on my BlackBerry at the airport and immediately connect with clients half a globe away.

WLJ: If you were State Bar President for a day and could make one permanent change to the profession, what would it be?

Lee: The State Bar has done a good job in this regard, but it would be helpful to have a more systematic approach to encourage attorneys to spend a certain number of hours each year on pro bono matters.

Jack Zemlicka can be reached at jack.zemlicka@wislawjournal.com.

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