When Annie Wu graduated from Jilin University School of Law in 1992, China was beginning to modernize its legal system. She was one of the first lawyers in private practice there. As her business grew through a strong influx of foreign clients, Wu soon realized that, though she could serve their needs within China, she needed more knowledge and experience to excel on a global playing field. “I knew studying at a top-tier law school in the States would give me a solid foundation to go anywhere and do anything that I wanted,” she says. In 1998 her desire for that foundation led her to Cornell Law School.
“The first year at Cornell was very special for me, and it is where I developed the deep bond that I have with the school,” says Wu. “Unlike now, at that time there were very few law students from China. The faculty at Cornell took me in, and they showed me the intricacies of law as it is practiced both in the U.S. and abroad.”
There were challenges, especially the language barrier, but, says Wu, “the staff worked very hard to help me survive and succeed.” She recalls in particular the support and encouragement of John A. Siliciano, Senior Vice Provost of Academic of Affairs and Professor of Law, and Anne Lukingbeal, Associate Dean and Dean of Students. Among the faculty, Professor Robert A. Green, she says, “gave me an enormous amount of his time to answer the most basic questions, many of them outside the subjects covered in his class,” and Professor Muna Ndulo “served as an inspiration during some of my most difficult times at the school. I saw how hard he worked, and how he persevered, and there were late nights studying at my carrel in the library where I thought of that, and pushed myself harder.”
“Annie Wu will always be one of my favorite alumnae,” says Lukingbeal. “We met in my office when she had only been in Ithaca for a few days. I was captivated by her positive approach to being a stranger in a new country. It quickly became clear that she was in her element at Cornell Law School. She thrived in classes and emerged as a leader among her classmates. Annie has stayed in touch over the years, and I have watched with admiration as she forged a career where she now has such an influential position in China. And I am continually grateful that she is always able to find the time to support Cornell Law School with her energy and talent.”
Wu received her LL.M. in 1999 and stayed on to complete a J.D. in 2001. After graduating, she practiced law in the U.S. with Sullivan & Cromwell (New York) and Kirkland & Ellis (Chicago) before returning to China to work as a partner at the Beijing offices of Paul Hastings. Now at Jincheng, Tongda & Neal, Wu is a senior partner leading the firm’s outbound investment practice.
In this capacity, Wu recently has served as lead counsel to Chinese companies on a number of high-profile acquisitions, including one by Aluminum Corporation of China Limited, the second largest aluminum producer in the world, and Hebei Iron & Steel Group, the second largest steel producer in the world. Additionally, she advises multinational companies on their investment matters in China on a regular basis including Bombardier and Tesla Motors. “Being on the cutting edge of outbound and foreign direct investment transactions and leading a team of talented lawyers is incredibly exciting and rewarding.”
Wu served as president of the Cornell Law School Alumni Association from 2010 to 2012 where she worked tirelessly to engage current alumni. Wu has since rotated off the board, but she still has some advice for future alumni: “More than anything else [the Cornell Law faculty] taught me to appreciate excellence. I would say to any student reading this that the pursuit of excellence in your studies, an uncompromising push to produce quality work—this is what will land you at the firm of your dreams. It is what will enable you to obtain and keep clients. Cornell sharpened that edge for me, and it is what I use every day.”