An Ode to EBLA

(pronounced: eb-lah)

By Maddy Pittle

It feels a bit cruel to be writing a recap of my whirlwind overseas study experience in the midst of The Great Coronavirus Chaos™ of 2020, but alas as a favour to our darling Purely Dicta Editors I’ve found myself here.1 

In a few hundred words I’ll do my best to transport you back to a time pre-COVID-19, and recap the absolute pleasure and privilege it was to take part in Economics and Business Law in Asia; a truly underrated JD elective and overseas study opportunity.

EBLA is a two-week subject (usually) taught in Shanghai and Hong Kong in November and December.2 The course involves comparative legal studies in economics and commercial law, wading through the fascinating legal systems of China, Vietnam and Hong Kong. 

But what EBLA actually is, is a unique opportunity to make friends, travel to the Middle Kingdom and immerse yourself in a completely remarkable jurisdiction.

The 2019 cohort completed the entire course at KoGuan Law School at Jiaotong University 交通大学 in Shanghai. We had daily lectures from KoGuan faculty, visits to commercial firms such as Zhong Lun 中倫 in Pudong, and a tour of the Minhang District Court. 

In terms of highlights from the trip, studying alongside JD students from other year levels is bloody delightful, and our cohort got on like a house on fire. KTV and Yang’s Dumplings trips aside, we also developed a great appreciation for the subject coordinators, Hop Dang and Andrew Godwin. Both Hop and Andrew are absolute gems of the MLS faculty and have had fascinating legal careers in Vietnam and China, respectively, as well as Australia.

The course is intense but incredibly engaging and forced us to apply knowledge to practice in simulated negotiation and arbitration over a hypothetical cross-border investment deal. It also dipped into the juicy historical developments of the legal systems in mainland China, Hong Kong and Vietnam, and explored some of the highlights and challenges of practising as a foreign lawyer in Asia.

Having studied Mandarin for half of my life I’ll admit that I had already drank the Kool-Aid on China years ago, but you needn’t be a Sinophile to make the most of EBLA. 

The subject requires no background in Chinese language, law or commerce. What you do need is an interest in international commercial law and a curiosity for the legal systems of Asia. And quite frankly, if you ever want to work in the international commercial law space you should probably have those two things under your belt already. 

It’s very tempting to glorify other western jurisdictions such as the US and UK as absolute meccas of international commercial practice, but – and here folks is the hill I will die on – expecting to fully understand and operate in the international legal sphere without an inkling of knowledge about China and its influence is a fool’s errand. 

Australian commercial lawyers need to be more Asia literate, and it needed to have happened yesterday. So, do yourself a favour and apply for EBLA. I’ll hit you up with a list of the best dumpling spots in Shanghai!

1 That’s a complete lie, I volunteered to do this. I ❤ EBLA.

2 Protests and pandemics permitting.