Michael Callier ’04 Finds Career Success in China
From clerking for Eugene-based judges to interning in Nike’s legal department to studying Chinese eight hours a day, Michael Callier has had a long journey to his current position in China, but it’s worth it to him. Callier, a 2004 graduate of the UO School of Law, is currently based in southern China’s city of Nanning, where he is Director of China Operations for Infinitas SA, a business consulting firm. With China’s rapid growth rate and booming economy, Callier felt like it was a place he could make a difference.
“I saw how China was going to impact the rest of the world, (and) in light of its impending influence, decided to come here to better understand this place,” Callier said. “I also have a goal to act as a commercial bridge between the West and China.”
Callier’s journey to China and a law career really started at the age of 13, when he first watched “The Firm,” a movie based on a John Grisham novel. Initially, the lead character’s salary and fancy car intrigued Callier, but he later found more grounded reasons to be interested in a law career. As an older teenager, Callier was harassed and assaulted by police over two consecutive summers, making him realize the importance of understanding his personal rights. Then, in his senior year at University of Oregon, Callier took a Supreme Court class with Professor Klonoski.
“I wanted and needed to understand the system that wielded so much power over my life,” Callier said. “I was ultimately inspired by my desire for knowledge and understanding.”
Pursuing a law career was a natural next step. As a member of the University of Oregon’s football team, Callier was introduced by Coach Mike Belotti to Judge Lyle Velure, who came to speak to the team during fall camp. Though Callier was only 20 years old, he began clerking for Judge Velure and, later, Judge Ann Aiken as well. Callier learned a lot about family and criminal law, as well as the law profession in general, thanks to the guidance of Judge Velure and Judge Aiken, whom he calls his “law profession parents.”
Prior to starting law school, Callier interned in Nike’s legal department, where he developed an aptitude for business law and developed a relationship with Tonkon Torp LLP. While still in law school, Callier worked as a clerk at Tonkon Torp, where he regularly worked on Nike matters, including the acquisition of Converse, Inc. After Callier graduated, Tonkon Torp hired him as an associate attorney. In 2008, Tonkon sent Callier to Nike’s legal department to work on secondment. Shortly thereafter, Callier took a position with Nike as an Employee Relations Manager, resolving employment issues for an employee district of over 2,000.
“At Nike, we used a combination of legal analysis, policy interpretation, root cause analysis and common sense to solve problems,” he said. “Nike was also great at providing training and opportunities to implement the training. So it was not just knowledge of the law that helped with the job but the skills associated with practice, including technical writing.”
It was during his time at Nike that Callier discovered a draw to China and realized the significance of China as an emerging country.
“China is the fastest growing country in the world, in large part still under-developed, and has already become the second-largest economy in the world,” Callier said. “It has the largest population in the world and spent a large part of the last 5000 years in a dominant regional position but without the major Western influence that it has today.”
With his passion to learn and understand, Callier first began to independently study Chinese culture in 2008. Next, he visited China for one month in 2010 to get a feel for the environment. He then began a Masters of Science in Information Management program at the University of Washington to develop tools and methodologies to capture, organize and leverage the vast amounts of information that he anticipated encountering while on his journey to understand China. Before leaving Nike, he won a language scholarship through China’s Confucius Institute and, upon leaving Nike, spent the 2011-2012 school year attending a one-year Mandarin Chinese language program at Suzhou University in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China, where he studied Chinese each day for eight hours a day.
Callier’s hard work and dedication led him to his current job at Infinitas, where infinitas’ clients include both state-owned and private Chinese companies. And although Infinitas is an international company made up of Germans, French, Americans and Swiss, Callier is the only one who speaks Chinese.
“It’s a great job, but not easy, and I’m right in the middle of the action—acting as the bridge that I set out to be,” Callier said.