A Franco-German lawfirm
We give the floor to Judith Adam-Caumeil, a French lawyer who specialises in providing local service to German companies operating in France.
What is a Franco-German lawfirm?
It means we do French law in the German language. We work mostly for German-speaking clients from Germany or Austria who have business in France, be it through their French office or because they sell their products on French territory. They may encounter difficulties or simply be in need of advice about how to do business properly here; perhaps they need to employ French people and thus need assistance on labour law.
How did you end up working this way?
I grew up in Germany and graduated from a German secondary school. Then I came to France to study law. There were no such things as double courses at the time, in contrast to today when you can undertake a wide array of mixed programs at university. After I became a lawyer, I worked five years in a Franco-German lawfirm before creating my own after I passed another exam in Germany. This allowed me to be a lawyer in Germany too: I am registered at the Bars of Paris and Stuttgart at the same time.
What are the most challenging aspects of your work?
German-speakers tend to be very serious; you do not need to ask them a dozen times for the documents you need! And let's be very clear and pragmatic here: they pay on time! I know lawyers doing the same kind of work with other cultures and they seem to be constantly chasing their clients for payment. Let's say on the other hand that German-speakers can be very rigid in their habits to the extent that they have difficuly understanding how a foreign system works. But it is my job to make them understand and accept it!
What about specialisations?
We do only business law here, in the past we did family law or succession law but I decided we should only focus on one kind of law.
My vision is such: you cannot be good at everything. If you try to do everything, you will stay mediocre. If you want to excel you have to stick to one area that you will thoroughly explore.
There is also the basic need to organise yourself and to make it worth your time: if you want to do every kind of law, you will end up learning a new field every time you have a new case, which demands hours and hours of work. So in the end you will either invoice your clients for huge hours which is not fair for them, or you will just invoice normally for something that actually required a monstruous effort. This is not viable. When you become a specialist you can do a fair job for a fair amount of money.
On the other hand, there is the risk that you become so specialised you would only appear to be competent in your very precise niche field. I have seen such cases of lawyers who never get clients anymore because it seems they would not be able to deal with something that is slightly out of their speciality. So beware of that.
What would be your best advice to a young lawyer who plans to follow a similar career as yours?
There is not one way to acheive this. Do not imitate others!
But I would advise doing one of these courses that exists today in Europe, such as double training in law and language, Erasmus exchange, etc. As I said, those did not exist when I was a student and I would have loved to have done them, so take advantage of it!
Young people today are very mobile and this is very good. If you are a young lawyer, please do not remain isolated, otherwise things will change without you on board and you will wake up someday realising you are obsolete: connect with others, go see how they work, and stay in the loop!
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