PUBLISHED:March 25, 2013

5 Questions for Kailun Li LLM '13

Kailun Li '13

Li chose Duke Law for the environmental law program, to study with people from around the world, and to fulfill his dream of protecting the rights and traditions of minorities.


1. Where is home?  What is it famous for?

My hometown is in Inner Mongolia, a beautiful place where a variety of ethnic groups interact and share their different culture.

Inner Mongolia is located in Northern China. It has world-renowned deserts and grasslands. Its desert control project has become a classic model for the world. Moreover, the cashmere production in Inner Mongolia is also very famous. It has been listed as a China geographical indications protection product and has been sold around the world.

2. Why did you choose Duke for your LLM?

The tension between environmental deterioration and the need for energy has become a serious dilemma for developing countries. My hometown faces the same tension, including mineral exploration and exploitation, air pollution, and grassland degradation. In the near future, China will need legal professionals with an international background in environmental law and energy law. I hope to be one of them and to find an efficient way to balance environmental protection and economic development in China.

Duke Law is strong in environmental law. Lectures, seminars, and clinics about environmental law and energy law provided me with a comprehensive training in this field. Duke Law trains LLM students in legal practice and theoretical research, and it also provides students with an active international platform. This was exactly what I needed. Moreover, Duke Law offers the Environmental Law Certificate Project to LLM students. We could participate in special workshops in the fields of environmental law and energy law with professors at both Duke Law and Nicholas School of the Environment. After nearly two semesters of studying, I believe I made a wise choice in attending Duke Law’s LLM Program.

3. What do you like most about Duke so far?

The environmental law and policy clinic impress me greatly. The Duke Law Clinic has a prolific history, and it is the first formal legal clinic project in the U.S. In the environmental law and policy clinic and related pro bono projects, I have had the opportunities to analyze cases and design strategies with professors and lawyers in the U.S. Each student can receive professional and meticulous guidance on their work, from legal writing to interviewing clients. Our law clinic has a good cooperative relationship with Nicholas School of the Environment, such that we work with students from the Nicholas School who have backgrounds in engineering, environmental management, and environmental science. What I learned in the clinic will definitely benefit me in my future career.

4. What is your plan after graduation? How do you think the LLM will help with your career?

I will take the New York bar exam and return to China to work as a lawyer. China is in a new era of energy development, and the Chinese legal market needs legal professionals in this field now. I received a scholarship from Duke Law, and hope I can return to my hometown and bring with me the knowledge that I learned at Duke Law. With the advent of globalization, the legal market has new requirements for lawyers. Duke Law provides targeted training to assist the LLM students in fulfilling these new requirements. On the one hand, the LLM project has given me superior legal training. Duke Law has various seminars and academic activities discussing in depth countless legal topics. We have numerous opportunities to listen to the lectures provided by famous professors from other universities and other fields. On the other hand, Duke Law provides me with an international viewpoint. I have participated in many student activities that are invaluable for LLM students’ career development.  Duke Law students around the world will be outstanding alumni in the near future. At Duke Law, one can receive valuable knowledge and practical experiences in and out of the classroom.

5. Your ethnic heritage has impacted your life experience and appears to have sparked your legal passion as well.  How has the LLM program at Duke affected that passion?

I am a Manchu and I studied with many minority students while pursuing my bachelor degree. Economic development, protection of traditional culture, and environmental justice have become hot topics around the world. As a minority, I feel that I have an obligation to use what I learned to protect the rights and traditions of minorities. In the Duke Law clinic, we studied about environmental justice. Duke Law provides me with efficient legal measures to protect minorities’ rights in practice. Meanwhile, the international community at Duke Law gives me more chances to study from and to listen to more people around the world. I enjoy helping to clarify people’s misunderstandings about minorities’ rights and to fight for minorities’ rights together.

I believe fairness, justice, and happiness are common goals for all people. As a lawyer, we should fight for people’s rights to pursue their happiness and protect their rights, irrespective of where they come from, who they are, and what way of living they would like to have. Duke Law teaches me how to fight for them and how to make my dreams come true in my career.