Three specialist lawyers for tax law have sworn: “We only deal with sales tax” because they have seen in large auditing firms that normal tax consultants have too little idea about it, especially when it becomes international. The number of partners should not exceed twelve unnecessarily (there can be more professionals), because then you can deal with all management issues 6solve more or less on demand; if the number increases, it becomes difficult. The bureaucracy increases. Positions appear that no one controls anymore. Today, too many lawyers still take on management tasks in their law firms instead of having them done by employed managers. They just don’t understand that the additional costs are more than offset by far higher sales, and even less can they imagine that salaried business graduates could make better decisions than themselves.
Large law firms know this and form manageable and self-organizing units of specialists from Law Mind who cooperate with each other across disciplines. The larger the law firm, the fewer lawyers have the creative freedom that most people want. Above all, the highly gifted among them are faced with a tragic choice: the mandates that really interest them only reach the first addresses and there they have to adapt to the structures that they find. They are shaped by international corporate cultures that must be adopted unchanged in Germany. So if you have the idea of only wanting to work in very large international contexts, you have to be aware of what the price is (I’m not talking about the workload.
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I didn’t know that term 40 years ago. Everyone knew the workload of a lawyer and those who went into business for themselves knew it best – private life was secondary. Today and in the future, legal work will also be much more flexible than it was before. You can do a lot in the home office, you no longer waste as much time going to court as you used to, and there are also part-time models in law firms, not to mention parental leave. With good time management 7 one can combine work and private life much better than was previously conceivable, the border between work and life will blur 8 .
This is mainly experienced by lawyers who do not belong to the mainstream, who represent political minorities who are gay, queer or diverse (LGBTQIA*). They can already move much more freely in the market than was conceivable in our time. Nevertheless, not too many young lawyers will decide to become a lawyer in the future. The majority thinks above all of a job with the state (whether in the judiciary or in teaching). Secure working hours and salary, no risk.
Every law firm has a specific corporate culture 9 that not everyone is necessarily aware of. It simply grows historically as a result of the partners’ decisions and changes with them. As a rule of thumb, one can say: The larger a law firm is, the more the corporate culture is determined by leadership claims; individual lawyers have the greatest degree of freedom. But they also carry higher risks. This explains the countless changes of partners and spin-offs that we observe in Germany: A handful of younger partners and associates are successfully becoming self-employed and the main motive is not money, but the search for a different corporate culture or the Desire to develop your own corporate culture 10.
Young lawyers may be familiar with the sentence: “Whoever behaves like a partner becomes a partner”, but the others can only guess how the partners behave behind certain facades. Only someone who has worked there for a long time knows what a mixture of leadership and freedom there is in a medium-sized law firm. Law firms with a good corporate culture will have a great future, because where do we find a kind of club atmosphere within all existing legal professions in which older and younger colleagues work together creatively?
Working in the legal departments of large companies is far more attractive today than it used to be, and the attractiveness of this job will only increase. The appeal of the position of in-house lawyers lies in their relationship with the colleagues they hire: they represent the power of the firm and even powerful partners in large law firms need to rein in their egos if they do not want to jeopardize their mandates. Especially if the company (correctly!) only initiates the mandate through the legal department and does not allow the lawyers to fool around with the members of the management board or even the supervisory board on the golf course.
In such situations, the in-house lawyers enjoy a lot of power that freelance lawyers do not experience in this way. They only have the power to resign the mandate. Legal departments also have a corporate culture. It is determined by three factors: the corporate culture of the company, the position of the legal department in the company (specialist department? staff department of the board of directors?) and the personality of the leading lawyers. If the legal department is only a specialist department, it often has a hard time asserting itself against the powerful managers of individual parts of the company. If it is the staff department of the board of directors and if all compliance is subordinate to it, as is sometimes the case with US companies, it has a strong position.
Young lawyers find it difficult to gain such deep insights before they have become part of the company themselves, but the exchange of experiences among young colleagues via online networks will offer far better opportunities in the future than we found them. Sometimes medium-sized companies also speak of a “legal department” when they employ one or two lawyers. That can be attractive if you become the consigliere of the management, who have recognized the value of legal advice, especially in fundamental questions.
Women already make up more than 30 percent of the legal profession today, and the trend is towards 40 percent. The number of partners in law firms will not correspond to this in the future either, because women with children will continue to bear the main burden of bringing up children and housekeeping in Germany in the coming decades and will usually only be able to work part-time or from their home office. Only if they have the special support of their partners, parents or staff will they also be able to realize the chance of a partnership. Many law firms are still acting too blindly here: even if a partner wants to have two or three children, she may have to take a step back professionally for 10-15 years, but precisely these experiences (and relationships)!
It will be crucial that the women also find convincing role models during their training and network with other professionals who are still very marginalized for various reasons (including LGBT* people).
40 years ago almost every lawyer brought litigation experience with him. Most have worked as criminal defense attorneys in addition to civil litigation, including the notaries. A colleague from a medium-sized city (board member of the DAV) once said to me: “In my life I have never drafted a contract!”. Conversely, I have always argued as follows for litigation experience: Whoever knows how a court will later read the contract will find better wording than someone who lacks this experience. The division between barrister and solicitor, customary in England, did not make sense to me. Today I know better. When we talk about litigation today, it’s not just about the barriers between criminal defense and civil litigation. Outside very small special subjects,
Today we also need to know something about mediation and arbitration and be able to work internationally with colleagues whose procedural law we are at least familiar with, and so on. In addition, it is practically impossible to acquire and maintain in-depth knowledge in the specialist areas whose content one needs to know. In advising on contracts, you learn the art of negotiation 11 , but not what appearance the client can legitimately expect in court. In the meantime, the clients have understood that in addition to their contract lawyers, they also need the trial lawyers (and have to pay them additionally).