Rouse in Profile: Hatty Cui

A love of English opened a window to the world … but family ties remain as strong as ever

Hatty is an Executive in our Beijing office, representing and advising clients on all aspect of trade mark protection, management and enforcement. 

Whether we like it or not, English is currently the most useful language in the world for professional and business purposes.  But that is not what initially motivated Hatty to become fluent: she developed a real passion for the language in Junior High School when she fell under the spell of a young and inspirational English teacher.  At that stage, the potential usefulness of English was far from Hatty’s mind, but her love for the language has certainly had a major influence on the direction her life has taken. So has the ambition, direction and support provided by her family.

Hatty grew up in a small city in Shan’xi province where her father worked as a driver, her mother an accountant.  Her father, in particular, was always very ambitious for his children and from early Junior High School days Hatty’s clear goal was to go to University, even though she and her sister were the only two from their neighbourhood who would actually do so. Hatty was consistently top of her class, so there was never much doubt that she would achieve her goal, but her sister, now a successful computer engineer in Beijing, initially failed her college entrance exam and tried to abandon the idea of further study.  At that point, their father insisted she sign up for extra courses and try again.  She did, and the second time round she succeeded.  Now she’s extremely grateful for her father’s insistence; without it, she says, she would probably have a routine, unchallenging job in a small city. 

When it came time for Hatty to apply to university in Beijing, her parents were hoping she might enrol in medical school: for members of their generation there was a certain prestige, as well as a practical usefulness, in having a doctor in the family.  They weren’t familiar with the world of lawyers and the law.  But Hatty had begun to think about a career in the law largely as a result of watching Hong Kong TV dramas, where Attorneys defended the innocent, presenting impressive arguments to the Court in an effort to achieve justice.  She thought it would be very ‘cool’ to be doing what they were doing.

So she chose to do Law – and to major in International Economic Law because that would give her the opportunity to study English intensively.  There were four extra English classes with a foreign teacher each week.  Up to this point, she had loved the language for its own sake and been keen to get good grades just because it made her feel good.  At University she learned, for the first time, that English was essential from a practical perspective:  without it, it would be difficult to move forward and get a good job.

After graduating in 2001, she applied to do a Master’s degree, but wasn’t successful so started looking for a job.  Although she had graduated at the top of her class, her work options in Beijing were limited because of the strict residency requirements that existed.  In the end she accepted a position with the Beijing Copyright Office.  It was her first introduction to IP and she found it fascinating.  The job itself, however, involved a lot of administrative work so after several years she decided to move to an in-house counsel position.

It was during this period that she began to think seriously of going to America.  She couldn’t get a Master’s degree in China so she would try America instead. By now she was married to Mervin, whom she had met at University where he was studying Computer Science, and he was keen on the idea of America too.  When her application for LLM at Chicago-Kent College of Law was accepted, he managed to get a transfer to his company’s Denver office and they set off.  They wouldn’t be in the same city, but at least they’d be in the same country.

Three years later, by which time Hatty had obtained her Master’s degree and was working for a boutique IP law firm in Sillicon Valley, their daughter, Caitlin, was born and Hatty’s parents came to America for a year to help.  Two years later Hatty and her family moved back to China and Hatty got a position with Rouse.  Caitlin is now 9, studying at an international school in Beijing and, obviously taking after her mother in some respects, consistently top of her class. Each summer she goes back to America for summer school - she’s already a citizen of the world! 

Life is busy for Hatty and her family, but they all love to travel and do so whenever they can.  Recent holidays have been to Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Hong Kong and Macau and there are plans to visit Europe.  Because Mervin’s work involves a lot of international travel, he is often away and Hatty finds herself juggling a heavy work load and family responsibilities.  She’s well organised – running a busy trade mark practice you have to be – which helps, but still she sometimes feels she is missing out.  She can’t, for example, supervise Caitlin’s homework at much as she would like to - but at least her in-laws are on hand to help out with that. 

Hatty’s gratitude to her family is striking.  She says her parents didn’t have a lot of money when they decided to support her and her sister through College.  She saw how hard they worked in order to do that, and she was grateful.  Now that she and her sister are successful it is payback time.  Her mother passed away several years ago, but her father still lives in Shan’xi and she speaks to him several times each week and spends as much time as possible with him during the year.

Hatty says that having the support of her family and being brought up to study hard and strive for excellence has got her to where she is today.  She doesn’t see herself as particularly competitive; rather,  someone striving to do her best. It’s a matter of self-esteem.  She’s very happy to be a lawyer working in an international firm in Beijing and grateful to her parents for having encouraged her ambition and discipline.