Welcome to Frankfurt and Germany with Nicola Elsner

20 Jul 15:00 by Laurence Simons


Germany continues to be a powerhouse of Europe and with Britain’s demise from the EU, Germany can only expect to be more of a hub for international business according to Laurence Simons German Managing Consultant, Nicola Elsner.

We recently sat down with Nicola to discuss the biggest challenges facing the German legal market, how to start a career or make a move in the industry and what law firms and in-house teams can do to future proof their business.

With over 160.000 qualified lawyers in Germany, the German legal market has almost doubled in the last 20 years. The growth rate has slowed significantly over the past 3 years but is still growing. 
The in-house market has seen significant increases in their legal departments, especially since the credit crunch in 2008/2009 when businesses were forced to cut costs, including their budget for external legal advice. 

Many General Counsels were able to make a case and add headcount to their teams thereby not only reducing the external costs but also adding expertise to their teams and helping support the business on any legal related matters on a day-to-day level. Nicola says it’s an on-going trend and she expects in-house numbers to rise.

The recruitment market has also changed significantly over the past years. Ten years ago, it was a given that joining an international law firm would mean working 60hr weeks and longer. Now, Nicola says one of the biggest challenges employers face when hiring new candidates is the demand for flexibility and better work/life balance. 

‘Often, the first thing newly qualified lawyers will ask is what the work/life balance is like at the firm and to what extent sabbaticals are supported and some older partners are struggling to adapt to this attitude.’

If a candidate is lucky enough to be employed by a firm with good work/life balance, it is often due to their specific skillsets. While generalists will always be in demand, Nicola has noticed a move away from lawyers with broad skillsets and employers are now seeking specific skills in areas like labour & employment, IP law. 

Other growth areas are the tech sector, banking and financial services (with a particular focus on international expansion) and IT/data privacy due to the new GDPR legislation that is coming into effect in 2018. 

If you want to get a job in any of these specialisms or start your own career in law, Nicola says exam results are still an important metric when employers are looking to hire. 

‘Good results in the exams are still a key factor, especially at the entry level when looking to join an international law firm. Exam results are a real make it or break it.’

Apart from exam results, Nicola finds that employers also look for: 

• true passion for the legal area of focus and expertise
• excellent communication skills in both English and German along with the ability to communicate in a straight and understandable manner
• someone who can work with all teams in the business 
• a welcoming attitude that encourages other employees to approach legal for advice and support  
• personality and cultural fit 

Her biggest piece of advice beyond exams and the above, is to focus on something you are truly passionate about. Do it by exploring and experiencing as many different areas of law as you can while you are getting your training. 

If you feel it’s time to leave your current position, Nicola recommends that you find your real motivation by talking to your spouse or a close friend. A simple conversation can clarify what you are really looking for. 

Once you have found your motivation for leaving, start thinking about what your ideal job would look like. What would be your tasks, challenges, progression and cultural fit? 
You can then start exploring your key assets and strengths and figure out what you bring to the table.

One of the best ways of finding a job (and sometimes overlooked) is to get out there and get networking. Laurence Simons also hold events across Europe throughout the year, which are a great chance to meet people and our team.

While law firms and business put a lot of effort into finding and attracting the right candidates, Nicola feels that talent development is often overlooked. One of the main reasons for leaving the firm or company is lack of further development and progression. 

Candidates typically ask themselves “what’s next” after 3-5 years – at a time where the employee is often very valuable to the firm/business. Nicola strongly recommends hiring managers constantly look at their existing teams and sit down with their team members on a regular basis to discuss personal development and progression.

According to Nicola, Talent attraction and Talent development go hand in hand. It is essential to find out what motivates talent – what do they want and need? Finding this motivation and talent can be a struggle for many businesses. 

Nicola is a German qualified lawyer and has been working as a recruitment consultant in the German market for over 10 years. She is happy to provide her advice to both in-house and private practice of any size to develop their talent attraction. You can reach her on +49 (0) 174 9202 790 or email at nicola.elsner@laurencesimons.com

You can also view her skills and experience on LinkedIn here.