Charles Ho '01: An American Lawyer in Hong Kong
Born in China, Charles Ho ’01 first arrived in the U.S. in 1990 to earn a graduate degree from Oklahoma State University. After his 1993 graduation, he worked as an engineer in Texas and Ohio until embarking on his legal studies at Moritz in 1998.
In 2003, Charles and his family moved to Hong Kong because, he says, “It was a great opportunity.” According to Charles, although Hong Kong is part of China, common law governs, while in Mainland China, civil law rules. “This is one important feature of so-called ‘one country, two systems,’” he says.
Three years after relocating to Hong Kong, Charles founded his own IP boutique firm, Barron & Young. His voice smiles as he explains the history behind the firm’s name, since no one at the two-lawyer practice has the last names of Barron or Young.
“The English pronunciation of the firm’s name of Barron & Young means ‘hundreds of wisdom,’ in Chinese,” he says.
In addition to being the principal and founder of Barron & Young, Charles is of counsel at a prestigious IP law firm in Shenzhen, China. He works six days a week, usually three in Shenzhen and three in Hong Kong. On the days he works in Mainland China, he takes a two-hour train ride from Hong Kong, each way, to his office there. He doesn’t seem to mind, though. “I get a lot of reading done,” he says.
Despite living and practicing law half-way around the world, Charles says he has fond memories of his days at Moritz. He says the courses he took that are most useful to him today are writing- and advocacy-related, such as Appellate Advocacy and Advanced Legal Writing. “I want to say hello to my professors,” he says, specifically naming Moritz Assistant Dean Robert L. Solomon II. “He admitted me to OSU law school,” Charles remembers.
He also keeps track of OSU football via the Internet.
Charles’ ability to speak English, Mandarin and Cantonese allows him to seamlessly resolve disputes between American patent owners and Chinese manufacturers, he says. If a Chinese company gets sued in the U.S., he can help that corporation manage the litigation in the U.S. He is also equipped to aid American companies in securing IP protection in China, as well as help Chinese businesses file for those rights in the U.S.
Despite being a naturalized citizen of the United States, Charles says he hasn’t thought about returning to live stateside. His professional life is satisfying and his wife is Chinese. Their daughter, Lydia, who was born in Columbus during his second week as a 1L at Moritz, is thriving in Hong Kong, although she enjoys the trips the family makes to the U.S., made so Charles can earn his continuing legal education credits.
Charles’ background as an American-trained—albeit Chinese—attorney renders him a rare breed in Hong Kong and Mainland China. “There are many American lawyers in Hong Kong, but a lot are corporate lawyers. I am one of the few U.S. patent attorneys working in China and Hong Kong,” he says. Besides, he says, his unique personal, educational and professional backgrounds serve him well as he endeavors to resolve what he perceives as a difficult but surmountable problem: intellectual property qualms between American patent owners and Chinese manufacturers. He says, “I want to help resolve the differences because I understand both cultures. There are a lot of misunderstandings between them. My culture and legal background serve me well to help resolve the disputes between the Americans and Chinese in those situations.”
By Tami Kamin-Meyer