Experience Reports

A (fictitious) discussion between two executives is currently doing the rounds on social media:

“What if we invest in our employees and then they leave us?” asks one executive.

“What if we don’t invest in them and they stay?” replies the other.

At Schalast we also know that continuous training and education and investment in our young colleagues pay off for both sides. We are therefore always willing to support tailor-made training measures. Here you can find some of the first-hand reports of our young colleagues. 

 

Multilaw Academy 2018, Chiang Mai (Thailand) - Philippe Woesch

In August 2018, Schalast Rechtsanwälte Notare enabled me to participate in the annual Multilaw Academy taking place in Chiang Mai (Thailand). In a nutshell, this week was one of the most interesting weeks of my life. 28 lawyers from different countries with different jurisdictions became friends during this unique week at the Veranda High Resort, an amazing venue.

Multilaw is a leading global network of independent law firms with over 9000 lawyers and 90 law firms from 100 countries. The purpose of the Multilaw Academy was for each of the delegates to learn more about the practice of law on a global basis. Lectures were conducted using methods of interactive discussion in which the delegates were expected to participate actively each day. Against this background we looked at a hypothetical cross-border venture and its analysis under three different legal systems: Civil Law, Common Law and the US system. All work sessions and conference documents were in English. It was very well organized with the very friendly and helpful faculty members and their presentations were very educational.

We worked all day and in the evening we enjoyed sitting together at dinner with drinks and music – socializing at its best. On Wednesday afternoon we participated in a cooking session with typical Thai food, umbrella painting and rice planting. In the evening we went to the Chiang Mai night market where we tried to use our "negotiating skills" and went shopping. Furthermore the Asians delegates convinced me to try the king of fruits from Asia, the Durian. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust. Frankly it is not my favourite fruit. At Thursday we participated in a meaningful pro-bono activity for Ban Pong School and painted over some old parts of the school building. One of my highlights was the karaoke party on Thursday evening, where I was forced to sing a German song. I decided to perform Matthias Reim and after that I was part of the Backstreet Boys.

In sum it was a fantastic week. I got to know wonderful people and I can´t wait to see all the delegates again as soon as possible. We have already started planning a reunion for next year.

Bar Exam, New York 2016 - Sven Bösing

 “No associate at the firm has ever failed the bar exam ... ever.”

This line from the film The Firm starring Tom Cruise as a young lawyer at a US law firm has been haunting me for the past three months, in which I – like the main character in the film – have been preparing for the New York State Bar Exam.

While completing by Master of Laws at the University of Georgia in spring 2013 I was already asked whether I was interested after getting my LL.M. in taking the Bar Exam as well, the American equivalent to the German State Law Examination. In terms of significance, the Bar Exam can be compared with the Second German State Law Examination and, if passed, entitles you to practise as a lawyer (at least in the State in which the Bar Exam was passed). The States of New York and California in particular offer graduates of an LL.M. programme the possibility to take the Bar Exam, assuming they have completed their legal training in a foreign country. In New York State alone, around 4,500 exam candidates take advantage of this possibility. A total of 15,000 candidates take the New York State Bar Exam every year, which is held twice.

What failed back then due to a lack of time and financial resources, once again became a real possibility after two years at Schalast. As a law firm active in the international legal network Multilaw it made sense, besides using the possibilities for participating in supported national Master of Laws (LL.M) programmes, in particular at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management here in Frankfurt, or qualifying as a certified specialist lawyer or notary, to take advantage of international development possibilities as well. I was then offered broad support for my plan to take the Bar Exam after all. I therefore had the opportunity to gain an (even) deeper knowledge of the American legal system.

Essentially the Bar Exam in New York consists of three parts and is taken on two consecutive days with a three-hour exam each morning and afternoon.

  • The first part – consisting of two essays – takes the form of a practical assignment in a law firm in a fictitious country. This does not require any knowledge of substantive American law because all necessary documents which are to be used (records of questioning, legal texts, court judgments) are provided. The main task is therefore to understand the assignment, obtain the necessary information and present your results in written form. The essays mark the start of the examination days and are written in the first three hours of the first morning.
  • Another six essays on various areas of law then have to be written in the afternoon of the first day. Since on average only 30 minutes are available for each essay, the time component is one of the main difficulties of this part of the examination. This is made even more difficult by the fact that the assignment itself does not provide any information about the area of law being tested. The first thing you therefore have to do is find out which area of law is the subject of the question. This is not always easy in view of the fact that there are total of 15 examination areas.
  • The last and largest part of the exam contains 200 multiple choice questions (100 in the morning, 100 in the afternoon) on eight areas of law. Time management is a key challenge again here because you only have a little over 1 ½ minutes for each question, which in particular for questions on real property with several (valid and invalid) transfers is needed just to read and understand the question.

To prepare for the Bar Exam I took part in an online preparatory course, for which Schalast thankfully essentially released me from work. With an average of 50 hours of lessons per week, plus learning outside class, regular work in line with clients’ needs would hardly have been possible.

After effectively 100 hours of online lectures, countless essays and over 2,000 practice multiple choice questions, the time had come at the end of July to finally sit the exam. Together with an estimated 3,000 other candidates I made my way to the Javits Convention Center in New York City to hopefully put my “concentrated” knowledge of the American legal system to profitable use.

I now have to wait and hope that all the effort was worth it. Unlike the majority of exams in Germany, the Bar Exam is a purely “pass/fail exam”. The score/grade actually achieved is therefore to all intents and purposes irrelevant. The grading is also done in relation to the standard of all other candidates. The objective is therefore “simply” to be better than the average of all candidates. Due to the number of candidates and therefore the immense task of grading all the papers, the results are not to be expected before November of this year.

A big thank you goes at this point to Schalast, who made all this possible for me and within the firm in particular Dr. Andreas Walter, who was key in encouraging to take the exam, and Kristof Schnitzler, who with line quoted above constantly reminded me of the “seriousness of the situation”, but also did an excellent job of covering my back.

Let’s hope that after the results have been published in November, we can then also say that:

No associate at the firm as ever failed the bar exam ... EVER!

Executive Programme, IESE Business School, Barcelona - Anne Baranowski

With great professional and personal profit, I completed an Executive Programme at the IESE Business School in Barcelona and Munich in 2015. Obtaining a general overview of management issues appealed to me; in particular for providing legal compliance advice. My attention was drawn to the IESE Business School by a recommendation from friends, who had participated in the programme and were very enthusiastic about it. That the Business School is always amongst the top ten in executive education in the Financial Times ranking, currently even number one, was naturally appealing as well.

Subjects such as decision-making techniques, strategic marketing, corporate strategy, ethical management, accounting, controlling, managing in the digital age, logistics and production, as well as macroeconomic trends were worked on in four “in-class” modules using specialist materials and case studies. I found sharing experience and ideas with other participants from many different industries and the way the knowledge was conveyed very valuable for providing prudent and sustainable legal advice. The module Entrepreneurship was also very interesting for me as a practising lawyer: both for advising start-ups and for preparing to become a possible partner at my law firm.

The experience gained and the values which were conveyed such as professionalism, integrity, respect and a “spirit of service” were also valuable take-aways. I can therefore highly recommend executive education for lawyers as well.

My detailed first-hand report “Als Rechtsanwältin begeistert von Executive Education” has been published in the JURAcon Yearbook 2016/17 of IQB Career Services GmbH and can be accessed here.

Multilaw Academy, Malta 2015 - Ramón Glaßl

A week on Malta, at the expense of the law firm, in a 4-star hotel. There had to be a catch, but there wasn’t. At most the fact that is can get very hot on Malta in August.

In August 2015, Schalast & Partner made it possibility for me to participate in the Multilaw Academy on Malta. The Multilaw Academy is an event held annually by our international network Multilaw for associates and young partners of it member firms. The location where the event is held also changes every year. 

The objective of the Multilaw Academy is, besides conveying legal know-how, in particular conveying intercultural values and strengthening contacts within the network. What initially sounds rather high-brow, is in fact much more down-to-earth and very pleasant. On the basis of two cases with a cross-border character, not only were the individual phases of a corporate transaction run through, but in particular the various approaches and culture differences of the individual delegates and jurisdictions were demonstrated. These aspects came very much into their own during simulated contractual negotiations.

The organisers of the event were very much aware that networking not only takes place during professional exchange, but also during cultural exchange. There was also a varied programme of evening events during the week, for example, and plenty of opportunity to get to know the other delegates. Charitable work was also on the agenda, which led us to the Inspire Foundation Malta.

All in all, this week was not just a special experience at professional level. The new acquaintances and friends made from a total of 21 countries were a huge gain and brought the world a little bit closer together.

Firsthand Report: M&A Master’s Programme (2012 – 2014), Ramón Glaßl

 

The question came out of the blue and I was completely unprepared for it: “We would like to make it possible for you to do an M&A Master’s Programme at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management; what do you say?” Naturally, I said “yes!”

The M&A Master’s Programme is a degree course offered by the Frankfurt School and designed to give students comprehensive insight into every phase of an M&A transaction. It is intended to give them the tools to be able to successfully manage a deal at any time, even on unfamiliar ground.

Whilst a limited amount of new knowledge was gained during the introductory week (it is after all essentially designed to get to know the Frankfurt School and above all your fellow students better), the very diverse range of courses was offered which were not just tailored to the needs of students with a legal background. The syllabus with the subjects “Company Valuation” and “Accounting” right at the beginning of the course proved very difficult to digest for the legal practitioners (iudex non calculat!). Having successfully got to grips with mathematical equations for discounting and company valuations, the curriculum continued to come up with interesting subjects. Besides introductions to the various due diligence issues and excursions into company law, competition law and post-merger integration were also dealt with in detail.   

One special highlight of the course is certainly the seminar “The Method of Harvard Principled Negotiation” (also known under the book title “Getting to yes!”). Besides numerous role plays designed to illustrate the principles of the Harvard Method, a real SPA negotiation situation was simulated as well. Here is was not only possible to measure your negotiating skills and knowledge of human nature, but also apply what had been learned in the previous course units on SPAs and company valuation in practice.

The dissertation required to complete the programme has to be presented to all programme participants. Particularly excellent participants have the possibility to obtain a panel slot at the annual M&A Conference held by the Frankfurt School and to present their theses to the national and international big names in M&A – which often kick-starts a career.

Not only the academic title Master of Laws (LL.M.) obtained at the end and the knowledge associated with it, but in particular the friends and acquaintances gained during the programme lead to the answer “Naturally!” The question is as follows: “We would like to make it possible for you to do an M&A Master’s Programme at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management again; what do you say?”