Sometimes James Trussell’s life in Shanghai seems pretty similar to the one he left behind in St. Paul, Minn. Trussell, 3M Company’s first China-based in-house counsel, comes home from his office in Pudong and helps his three daughters with their homework; some nights the family even orders Papa John’s pizza for dinner.

March 24 wasn’t one of those days. After months of preparation, Trussell spent the morning in a Shanghai courtroom, watching his Chinese outside counsel argue an infringement case over 3M’s respirator masks. The proceeding was conducted entirely in Chinese, and Trussell is still learning the language — “Other than saying good morning and thank you, my Chinese isn’t going to get us very far,” he says.