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1Ls Headed to Japan for Inaugural SMBC Summer Internship

By Lori Atherton
April 15, 2014

Eddie Mears hasn't lived in Japan since 2009, but thanks to a newly created internship at Michigan Law, the 1L is headed back to Tokyo this summer to work at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), one of the world's largest banks.

Mears, along with fellow intern and 1L Diana Duan, will spend three weeks at SMBC gaining practical experience in departments where five Michigan Law LLM graduates are working. While the Law School sends a large number of students to work in the private sector each summer, this is the first internship developed as an exclusive partnership between the Law School and a corporation, according to Gary McGinnis, attorney-counselor in Michigan Law's Office of Career Planning.

1Ls Diana Duan and Eddie MearsThe internship program emerged from conversations among Dean Mark West, Yoichiro Yamakawa, MCL '69, and Masayuki Oku, LLM '75, SMBC's chairman and a longtime supporter of the Law School. Oku was eager to work together to develop an internship for students who have a demonstrated interest in Japan and international banking.

"It can be difficult for current law students to find high-quality in-house experience, so having a couple of reserved positions for 1Ls at a premier international corporation like SMBC is exceptional," said McGinnis, who noted this is the first time SMBC has hired interns from an American law school.

Both Mears and Duan were encouraged to apply by Sarah Zearfoss, '92, senior assistant dean for admissions, financial aid, and career planning, who remembered their Japanese ties from their law school applications.

Mears's interest in Japan began in the eighth grade when his Japanese boarding school roommate-turned-best friend invited Mears to visit his home country. Mears chose to major in Japanese at Georgetown University, becoming fluent in the language, and spent two summers working at law firms in Japan. After graduation, he taught English at public schools in rural Japan, then took a job working on broadcast rights in the New York office of a Japanese advertising agency. Mears, who is "excited to learn another side of the law at Sumitomo," hopes to pursue private-sector law after graduation.

Duan, who is originally from China, has had a longstanding desire to work in Japan and has visited there on numerous occasions. She plans to join her sister, who is already living in Japan, after graduating from law school. A Cornell University graduate, Duan majored in Asian studies and is proficient in the Japanese language, which she began studying in middle school. Working at SMBC, she said, "will be a great opportunity to build a better background in law and finance," and will aid her career aspirations of working in outbound mergers and acquisitions.

McGinnis said the Office of Career Planning hopes the Sumitomo opportunity will help pave the way for additional partnerships to be developed. "This internship is a great example of how graduates are giving back to the Law School," he said, "and we're excited for other alumni to partner with us in creating similar experiences for our students."

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