Dortmund Exchange

Claire Stoneman, now a solicitor in our planning team, reminisces about the month of secondment she undertook in Dortmund with our Interlegal partner, Spieker & Jaeger, whilst a first-year trainee at Shulmans.

I studied Law with German at the University of Nottingham and, having spent a year of my degree studying in Germany, I found it important that any prospective employer could offer me the opportunity to utilise my language skills. Shulmans was an ideal choice for me in that it is one of the founding members of Interlegal, an international network of independent commercial law firms which offers support to members whose clients are engaged in international transactions or cross border disputes.

In May 2012, I packed my bags and took the short flight to Germany to spend a month at Spieker & Jaeger, a firm based in Dortmund which is the partner city of Leeds. The firm is a similar size to Shulmans and represents clients from across Germany as well as being involved in a significant amount of international work, particularly in the field of intellectual property law. I was greeted at the airport by my exchange partner, Daniel Wolgast, a qualified lawyer specialising in corporate and employment law. After a welcome meal and an attempt at celebrity spotting at a local restaurant well-known as being a haunt for Borussia Dortmund football players (although none were there celebrating my arrival), I was looking forward to my first day in the office and to meet my new colleagues.

Although it was daunting to be thrown into the new environment, everyone at Spieker & Jaeger was incredibly supportive and encouraging and I was fortunate to be involved in a variety of work across many practice areas including IP, employment law, competition law, commercial law and family law. I shadowed many of the lawyers in the firm and in particular enjoyed attending court in Germany as there is no solicitor/barrister distinction and most firms do not tend to have specialist litigation lawyers.

As they say, time flies when you’re having fun and my time in Germany certainly passed very quickly. After a brief interlude for the Jubilee Weekend, Daniel flew to Leeds at the beginning of June to spend a month working at Shulmans and gain an insight into the English legal system. Having been welcomed with such hospitality when in Germany it was good to have the opportunity for Daniel to meet my colleagues and develop an understanding of the work Shulmans is involved in and how prolific Leeds is as a legal hub outside of London.

Looking back, taking part in such an exchange was incredibly rewarding and gave me the opportunity both to refresh my language skills and to learn more about the application of German law. I was able to make many valuable professional connections, which led to closer ties between our respective firms, which in turn enabled (and still enables) Shulmans to continue to offer fantastic service to our international clients.

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