Is high paying job satisfying
law : More than right
When newspapers report on company takeovers, the reports are often no longer new to Jacqueline Stein-Kaempfe. Because many times the 31-year-old had already helped prepare the purchase for several weeks.
Stein-Kaempfe works in the Frankfurt office of the international law firm Freshfields. Their customers include foreign financial investors who buy into German medium-sized companies. The young lawyer drafts contracts with her colleagues and looks for legal pitfalls. “It is very exciting to be involved early on in the preparation of decisions that move the economy,” says the lawyer. Stein-Kaempfe has been with Freshfields for two years.
During her apprenticeship, it was anything but decided that she would join a large law firm. The student has hardly given a thought to her career. After starting her law studies in Freiburg, she wanted to see the world. She moved to the university in Geneva, then went to Argentina and studied international and commercial law there. After a stopover in Berlin, she went to New York. She did a Master of Laws (LL.M.) there and was admitted to the US bar. But it wasn't until she started talking to Freshfields recruits in New York that she began to consider the legal profession.
Back in Germany, she completed a traineeship at the law firm. Since then she has raved about the work there: “Here I can sharpen my analytical skills and learn a lot.” She also earns a lot of money on the side: In the first year, associates, as business law firms call young employees, collect around 100,000 euros gross.
Very few young lawyers have started their careers as smoothly as with Stein-Kaempfe. After all, studying law is no longer a guarantee of a secure job and a high income per se. Only those who complete their state examination with a distinction are among the privileged. Those who do only average can neither become a judge nor a public prosecutor. And large law firms such as Freshfields are only looking for candidates with distinction.
The group of graduate graduates is small: In 2006, just 16.4 percent of the participants scored “fully satisfactory” or better in the second state examination. The result: lawyers are divided into two groups. The representatives of the first have high-paying jobs in law firms and legal departments of companies or at least a secure livelihood with high prestige as a judge or public prosecutor. The representatives of the other group, on the other hand, often plague existential worries: they have to become self-employed as a lawyer. These young professionals often earn at the Hartz IV level. This is proven by figures from the Federal Bar Association (BRAK). The average founder of a sole proprietorship makes a monthly turnover of 1,531 euros.
“Although many lawyers find themselves in a difficult economic situation, most law students still have a model career in mind. Well-respected large law firms can be found among their most popular employers. Most students would like to work for the Foreign Office. Immediately thereafter, however, followed by international law firms such as Freshfields, Hengeler Mueller and Clifford Chance. In addition to the well-known law firms, there are also some prominent companies among the employers of choice: McKinsey management consultancy as well as Deutsche Lufthansa and the Stuttgart-based automobile manufacturer Porsche.
In principle, new lawyers have three career paths if they want to work as an employee. First, they can hire a law firm. In addition to the large international companies, many medium-sized law firms are looking for young employees. The downside of the high salaries that lawyers collect here: The workload is high.
Career path number two: Those who have completed their state examination with distinction can apply for civil service. Young lawyers already work independently as public prosecutors and judges. But you have to cope with the pressure to succeed that has found its way into the authorities. Plus, they don't even earn half the top salaries.
Career path number three: In corporate legal departments, lawyers ensure that contracts are watertight, that employees know their duties and that the company as a whole avoids risks. In addition, the in-house lawyers fight legal disputes with customers and business partners. Lawyers can concentrate on a few main topics here and thus specialize, reports Ingrid Harke, who has been working in Lufthansa's legal department for six months. When lawyers join a company, they often earn more money than business economists. The average starting salary in the automotive industry is 59,860 euros and in the chemical industry 53,500 euros. Only the large law firms with more than 100 employees pay even more. Young lawyers earn an average of 65,000 euros here.
But all of these career paths are closed to graduates if they do not graduate with a title. Experts therefore advise law students not to put everything on one card: Instead of just concentrating on their studies, they should acquire as many additional qualifications as possible. "Then they still have good chances on the job market, even if the state examination turns out worse than hoped," says Astrid Tostmann, partner at the Heidrick & Struggles personnel consultancy, for example.
In order to make themselves more interesting for future employers, law students should do what has long been a matter of course for business administration students. Instead of going on vacation during the semester break, they should do internships - at law firms or companies, advises Tostmann. In this way they gain experience and acquire commitment and curiosity - and can make contacts on the side. The same applies if law students regularly work in a law firm as an assistant.
Second, foreign languages are a big plus. Large law firms and companies demand fluent English from their applicants anyway. Anyone who also speaks other languages - ideally exotic such as Chinese or Japanese - belongs to a small, highly qualified group of employees. Another plus are other academic titles. “A Master of Laws from a respected Anglo-Saxon university is particularly popular,” says Tostmann. Third: If prospective lawyers are also busy with business on the side, they can later not only work in traditional legal professions, but also apply for many other positions. For example, many companies hire lawyers in the HR department.
In order to stand out from the large number of graduates with these strategies, law students would have to show a lot of initiative, says Mathieu Klos from the legal publishing house Juve. Because regular internships, languages and business management courses are not part of the compulsory program in law studies. Every student has to take care of additional qualifications himself.
Despite all the problems of their profession, even those lawyers do not need to bury their heads in the sand who set up their own lawyers. "If you pursue a clear strategy and specialize, you definitely have a chance to establish yourself in the market," encourages the President of the Federal Bar Association (Brak), Axel Filges, potential founders. One possibility is to acquire the title of specialist lawyer (box). The effort is worth it: 80 percent of clients orientate themselves in their search for a lawyer by specialist lawyer titles, the Brak has found out. And a title in the letterhead or on the door sign also pays off financially: specialist lawyers can charge significantly higher fees than other lawyers.
Article from the magazine "Junge Karriere"
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