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The Journey and the Destination

How Cecilia Ju found her true passion

Published in 2021 Wisconsin Super Lawyers Magazine

Cecilia Ju’s path to family law involved studying legal systems at universities in three countries, passing the bar in two states, opening her own immigration firm and finding the right mentors. In the end—or, really, the beginning—it was worth it. “It took me a while to navigate,” she says, “but I feel this is my true passion.”

After Ju completed her undergrad at Dalian Maritime University in China, she went to University of Nottingham in the UK via its exchange program. “But maritime law felt too far away from my real life and who I am,” she says. “It has a complicated system with international conventions and private agreements, and you need to be a high-intensity litigator.”

She remembered studying Marbury v. Madison in her first year, and was attracted to the checks and balances of the American system, leading her to apply for George Washington University Law School. Comparing the differing legal systems, she sums it up thusly: “Chinese law schools train judges. In America, they train lawyers,” Ju says.

“We focus more on reading and interpreting the terms and the regulations in Chinese law school, then get an answer for each case. We jump to the conclusion in a hurried way. But here, I was super uncomfortable at first because there is no conclusion. Everything can be reversed. I’m not saying or judging which system is better. It’s culture. It’s politics. But I’m personally more interested in practicing law here because it’s more vivid and practical.”

After an internship at DC Superior Court, her first exposure to family law, Ju took the Bar. “For international students, the only two options are New York and California. So I took the New York Bar and chose immigration law because it’s federal law, which means I can practice it in any state, and I can serve clients all over the world.”

She relocated when her husband got a job in Madison, where she opened an immigration practice. After a few years, she joined Kowalski, Wilson & Vang as an associate. Up to now, she has mostly handled divorce, paternity and guardianship cases, but Ju looks forward to serving as guardian ad litem for the first time. “I don’t think there are lots of attorneys who are able to speak Mandarin,” she says, “and I hope I can be of help.”

She is fully dedicated to the practice area she feels she was meant for. “I have been interested in family law for a long time, but I didn’t get this opportunity to really learn how to practice,” she says. “Now I’m learning, improving and practicing every day.”

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