Discover International Commercial Law with Professor Ming Du
In an interview with Professor Ming Du we unearth the substantial and widespread impact of commercial law, learn what you can do with a Masters degree in this area, and gain an in-depth insight into our new LLM in International Commercial Law from its very own Programme Leader.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I have a really international background. I studied Law at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China and also studied at the University of Oxford here in the UK and at Harvard in the US. Following this I was a practising lawyer in both China and the US. I practised in New York at one of their largest international commercial law firms for a number of years. Various aspects of international commercial law are also the subject of much of my research.
Having a practical background myself, I really wanted to teach students something relevant to the commercial transactions in the real world.
What is international commercial law?
International commercial law, often referred to as international business and corporate law, concerns itself with how companies conduct both domestic and cross-border business transactions. It covers both the internal operation of a company as well as a wide range of commercial activities that a company will likely engage, such as contracts, franchising, transfer of technology, international sales of goods and services, foreign investment, taking a loan from a bank, corporate acquisitions, protection of your intellectual property rights and more. It also covers the regulatory framework that may be applicable to various international business transactions.
Commercial law is the core practice of almost any business, and it underlies most actions a company will take.
What does studying LLM International Commercial Law involve?
This really relates to the modules we offer. When creating this programme we carefully considered which modules would give students the best experience and knowledge to go out in the real world and confidently practice commercial law internationally.
Students take eight modules plus a dissertation. These eight modules cover the core international transactions a company is likely to engage with, including areas such as international trade, investment, mergers and acquisitions, financing transactions, and protection of intellectual property rights. Modules include:
- Corporate Governance
- Corporate Law
- International Carriage of Goods by Sea
- International Trade Law
- Law of the World Trade Organisation
- Intellectual Property
- International Investment Protection
- Banking Law
To give more insight into one of these modules - in Corporate Law we cover how a company is set-up, how it is run, and legal relations among shareholders, directors and creditors. This includes obligations and rights of different actors, the regulatory framework, as well as how to deal with conflicts between the actors when they arise.
How does the programme relate to contemporary law? Does it have real-world relevance?
This degree is extremely real-world relevant. Commercial law is the core practice of almost any business, and it underlies most actions a company will take. It is the ‘bread and butter’ of any commercial firm. International trade is constantly taking place. This degree covers an area of law that is closest to the real world in its application and significance to every-day business and commerce.
What skills can a student of this programme hope to gain or further develop?
When we designed this programme we focused on providing students with skills that have real-world application when practicing commercial law. On this programme we focus on developing the skills an individual will need to be successful in their future career.
I believe that to successfully complete this course, and get the most out of it, you will need to read the assigned case, articles and books, and participate in class discussions. This sort of intensive reading and ‘think on your feet’ debate in the class helps develop critical thinking skills and gives you the breadth of knowledge necessary to either successfully argue your case with validity and conviction, or draft a crucial legal document. We teach not only legal rules and their interpretations, but also a set of legal skills and techniques which train you to 'think like a lawyer’. It is important that students who study commercial law are provided with this set of legal skills and methods to put what they learn into practice.
Having a practical background myself, I really wanted to teach students something relevant to the commercial transactions in the real world. Although we will explore grand ideas and theories of law to an extent, what we will really focus on is the ‘nuts and bolts’ of commercial law and how to think like a lawyer.
What kind of student is suited to this course?
Any student interested in and/or wanting to practice commercial law! It is particularly suited to students who want to learn, or further develop their knowledge, in this specific area. Students can apply with an LLB or another appropriate bachelor’s degree (such as business or political science), as long as they have an interest in the subject. We also welcome practicing lawyers, particularly from overseas, who want to develop their existing skills and further their career and add an international element to their practice.
Students should apply to this programme if they want to practice commercial law and have a career in international business law. Students who have studied an undergraduate law degree will have most likely only studied one or two modules on commercial law during their time at University, thus will only have a basic understanding of commercial law. This LLM allows them to specialise and hone their knowledge in this area of law. This degree opens the door to business law.
What does the future hold for graduates of the LLM International Commercial Law?
Students will come to this degree wanting a job. This is an area of law with a lot of opportunities for work, and knowledgeable commercial lawyers with an international outlook will always be in high demand in the working world.
Graduates of this degree will be well-equipped to become practising lawyers in commercial law, not only in law firms but also in legal departments of large companies. This is due to the programme’s focus on practical skills. The skills learnt on this programme are also transferable to other branches of law or business. This means if a student decides to pursue another area of interest they will have a good base by which to do so.
Students who also want to pursue further study, such as a law PhD, will also be able to do so and be confident in their knowledge base.
On this programme we focus on developing the skills an individual will need to be successful in their future career
Why study this programme here, at the University of Surrey?
I believe there are seven main reasons to study this programme here at Surrey:
The first is that we are close to London, which is beneficial as the capital is home to many big law firms and head offices for large companies. This makes it easy for our students to immerse themselves in commercial law and graduates are in close proximity to where most of the work will be. Surrey gives the best of both worlds in this sense - a beautiful campus university with close links to London.
2. Teaching staff
The second reason is the strength of our staff. Many of my colleagues at Surrey School of Law have not only illustrious academic pedigrees from world-leading universities, but also have years of experience in practising law, which is extremely relevant to this programme. We have both the academic knowledge and the practical experience to support and contextualise what we are teaching. On this programme you will be taught by academics, including myself, with a truly international background in both education and work, and with extensive connections to law professionals across the globe.
3. Focused modules
Another aspect of this programme that makes our delivery of it so strong is that the modules have been very carefully selected. All modules have real-world relevance and teach not only theoretical, but also practical skills, and can all be applied in the future careers of lawyers who practice international commercial law. The modules 100 per cent focus on areas of international commercial law and there are no modules that drift away from this. This means students are provided with a truly focused international commercial law education that covers all major practice areas.
4. Staff to student ratio
As we are keen to offer the best training to our students, students can also expect to enjoy small class sizes and a great staff to student ratio. This means that students will be well looked after and be given the individual attention they need to achieve and succeed. Similar postgraduate degrees offered at many other universities will have far greater class sizes, in some cases in the hundreds, which means the support and attention that you receive at Surrey will undoubtedly be greater.
We also have a scholarship scheme. Applicants to this programme, starting in September 2017, will be able to apply for The Surrey International Scholarship for Excellence. If you hold a 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) or above, you will have the opportunity to be awarded a scholarship of between £2,000 and £4,000 through the Scheme.
6. PhD programme
Our LLM International Commercial Law students are also warmly welcomed to apply for our very competitive PhD programme. Students interested in pursuing the PhD route will be carefully mentored and guided in their LLM studies by the law school staff so that they will be better prepared for their PhD applications.
7. Pastoral care
LLM students are an important part of our student body and we are keen to integrate all LLM students to our Law School community. Each LLM student will be allocated a staff mentor who will provide valuable advice on study, work and life in general in the UK. We will also facilitate the organisation of social activities so that our LLM students will not only learn international commercial law at Surrey, but also make new friends and have a deep appreciation of UK culture and society. We recognise the importance of building up a vibrant LLM community and will do our best to support our LLM students.