September 2015 Alumni Highlight

David J. Ettinger ’92David J. Ettinger (’92) David J. Ettinger became interested in international law while studying abroad in London during his second year at Pace Law School.  The time spent in London while at Pace was not only where some of his best memories were made, but where David gained his first up close and personal look into international law.  David often refers to his Pace-London experience as a “turning point” in his legal education and career.  After graduating from law school, with the support and encouragement from one of his mentors at Pace, Professor Willem Vis, David went on to obtain his LL.M. in International Law at Kings College London. 

After obtaining his LL.M., David then went on to practice as an Assistant District Attorney in the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.  He also was a trademark attorney with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office.  However, his passion for international law remained and he joined the DC-based law firm of Keller and Heckman LLP in 1999.  Currently, David is a partner with the firm’s food and food packaging practice group and he has taken his expertise in this field from a domestic to international level by practicing in various foreign jurisdictions.

In 2006-2007, David was the U.S. resident partner at his firm’s Brussels office.  Currently, and since 2012, David has been the managing partner of Keller and Heckman’s Shanghai office.  In both Brussels and Shanghai (and in his “home” office of Washington, D.C.), he counsels clients on global food safety matters.  David works with foreign and domestic companies to legally market products including food additives, food packaging materials, cosmetics, health foods, consumer products, and medical devices.  When products are seized at the port of entry or pulled from the shelf by authorities or subject to consumer complaints, David works with companies to find solutions that can range from eliminating or mitigating damages to assisting with product recalls.

“There is no question that practicing law in China has its challenges.  While there are huge opportunities for foreign companies to market in China, unless one has a good handle on the potential business and regulatory pitfalls, the monetary upside can be quickly trumped by adverse media that can damage the reputation of a company’s name and product brand.  The authorities are ramping up enforcement in an effort to reduce the number of food scandals that continue to make the headlines on both a domestic and international scale, so you cannot afford to get it wrong in China.  My efforts are focused on helping companies to understand the regulatory landscape in China so they can get it right and have the ability to market products that can be enjoyed by over a billion consumers.”

Despite the distance between White Plains and Shanghai, David has kept Pace at the forefront of his mind.  In December of 2013, President Stephen Friedman visited China and Pace held a series of gatherings for our Pace alumni based in China.  During this visit, David met with President Friedman and shared his positive Pace Law experience and insight on strengthening Pace’s ties with our alumni, friends, and industry leaders based in China.  David is one who puts words into action, and last year he gave a presentation on Chinese laws and regulations regarding the import and export of food and food-related products with an emphasis on food safety to a Pace graduate class taking a field study trip to China.  Recently, Greg Marsden, Pace Law’s Director of International Affairs and Graduate Programs, visited with David and they discussed ways to promote Pace’s presence in China.  David’s alma mater is important to him, “Pace gave me a chance to attend law school and my professors and coursework fostered my passion for international law.  For that I am grateful and will continue to support the institution as a friend and alumnus.” 

While in Shanghai, David balances his career with raising his three children.  His greatest joy is watching them grow up in an international community, making friends from all over the world, and learning one of the most important languages today.  While his Mandarin is not as good as his kids, David continues to take lessons in an attempt to keep up with them.  “I tell my kids that they need to learn as much Mandarin as they can, as it is very likely that one day they will be negotiating in Chinese.”  In his spare time, David loves to coach his boys’ soccer team and watch his daughter sing and perform on stage.