PUBLISHED:May 06, 2009

Yen-Chia Chen LLM '09

Standing in the front of a room filled with his classmates and professors, Yen-Chia Chen, an LLM candidate from Taiwan, introduces himself: “I am Yen-Chia Chen. People call me either ‘Yen,’ or ‘Pal,’ which stand for ‘passion’ and ‘love.’”

As the LLM representative to the Duke Bar Association (DBA), Chen is presenting an award to a student organization, but this brief statement is more than an inside joke or a reference to a quirky preferred name. It is his declaration of purpose.

“[Passion and love] is one of my nicknames, but it is also a value that I cherish a lot,” he says later in an interview.

“I think that law itself is not just about discipline or the statutes or the rules, I think that law is all about people: how people get along with each other, how we are going to resolve issues between individuals,” he says. “We need to not only be familiar with the statutes, rules, and skills, but we should never lose our passion and love toward people. This is very important.”

This belief drives Chen’s interactions with his classmates — both LLMs and JDs — and has led his involvement in a number of extracurricular activities. During his year at Duke Law he has served as the LLM representative for both the DBA and International Law Society, a staff editor for the Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law, a member of the Class Gift Committee, and traveled to New Orleans as a participant in the Southern Justice Spring Break Mission Trip. He also received this year's LLM Award for Leadership and Community Participation.

“I am very appreciative of the opportunity I have had to serve people,” Chen says, explaining that the leadership experiences have allowed him to develop interpersonal skills which will aid him in his legal career. “I want to become a lawyer that people trust and rely on,” he says.

Originally from Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, Chen devoted the last two years of his law school studies at National Chengchi University in Taipei to pro bono activities and cofounded the Legal Aid Society there. “Doing pro bono [work] and devoting myself to the people is one of the reasons I decided to study law,” he says. “That will never change.”

Chen also received an LLM degree in mainland China’s financial and economic law from National Dong Hwa University in Hualien, Taiwan, and an LLM degree from Indiana University Maurer School of Law before arriving at Duke Law. While at Indiana, he served as the LLM representative to the Student Bar Association and was a graduate student associate for the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies. He also was the first LLM student to be allowed to enroll in the Elmore Entrepreneurship Law Clinic and took two trips to New Orleans to do pro bono work.

During Duke’s 2009 Southern Justice Spring Break Mission Trip, Chen worked at New Orleans Legal Assistance on a family law case involving visitation rights. Calling the experience both “invaluable” and “unforgettable,” he notes the practical skills he developed drafting motions and memoranda and the insight he gained by being able to observe American lawyers at work in the public sector.

Apart from his pro bono commitments, at Duke Law Chen has challenged himself with courses outside of the fields of intellectual property, criminal law, and civil law — his areas of focus in his Taiwanese legal studies.

“At the beginning of orientation, I decided that I wanted to expose myself to a different field,” he says. “Of course I am interested in what I already know and have studied before, but I am even more curious about the things I don’t know.” As a result, he has immersed himself in classes relating to corporate law, bankruptcy, negotiation, and the global economic crisis.

After graduation, Chen plans to take the New York Bar examination and hopes to continue his legal education by pursuing a JD degree. He intends to practice law internationally, and will continue his pro bono work, maintaining his tenet of “passion and love.”

“We definitely need to love people,” he reiterates. “If we lose our passion and love toward people, even though we are writing opinions or memorandum or appeals every day, [we begin to] think that this is just a case or a routine. That is not what it should be.

“To us, this might be one of thousands of similar cases we have done so far. But to the client, it is very possible that this is the only case he ever has in his life. It is also very possible that this case can change his life or his family’s life. If we lose our passion and love, we will forget about that.”