Job Watch: Germany

Germany is one of the strongest economies in the Eurozone at the moment, but what is the job market like for the legal profession?

“Basically the German legal market is doing well in all practice areas based on the persistent good economic climate in Germany,” says Jan Heuser, an associate based in Shilton Sharpe Quarry’s Munich office. “There are some practice areas that are developing outstandingly well, such as employment, tax, IP and patent litigation.”

For Conor Dilworth at Pro-Legal, there are a number of thriving practice areas in the German market right now. “Banking and capital markets is particularly strong, especially in Frankfurt,” he says. “German manufactured goods are very popular in the Far East so commercial law is also doing well. Candidates with experience of IP, IT, outsourcing, franchising and distribution agreements have been very busy of late.”

“A lot of firms are trying to branch out into other practice areas to be more crisis resistant,” adds Miriam Kuepper, a senior consultant at Taylor Root. “[This is] especially in the areas of restructuring and insolvency, which has led to an increase in demand for lawyers with expertise in that area.”

There are opportunities at a number of different levels, she adds. “Law firms in Germany are currently seeking newly qualified lawyers with top credentials for a broad variety of practice areas. Associates with 2-4 years’ experience in corporate/M&A, mainly from top level international law firms are also very much sought after.”

In-house is also proving a relatively strong area, according to Mark Schulte of Shilton Sharpe Quarry. “While currently nearly all professions – including lawyers moving in-house – profit from larger numbers of open positions compared with last year’s figures, many hiring managers are somewhat reluctant to employ further personnel in view of the current Euro crisis, according to economic researchers and economists,” Schulte argues. “At the moment, the high-tech, manufacturing and engineering and healthcare sectors are among those recruiting strongly.”

And what are the opportunities for non-German qualified lawyers to work in the local market?

“The different legal training system in Germany and the UK is still a hurdle for most foreign lawyers who want to work in the German legal market,” notes Heuser. “But there are some opportunities for English-qualified lawyers in Germany, in particular in the fields of banking and finance and occasionally in the field of M&A, private equity, venture capital work or in-house.”

Guy Adams of Laurence Simons admits that although opportunities for non-German qualified lawyers can be hard to come by though, they are worth their weight in gold. “It’s very rare indeed for a non-German qualified lawyer to secure employment even with an international law firm in Germany.”

“There are exceptions, where the international law firms run English law finance, capital markets and funds desks in their German offices, but these positions are not common,” says Adams. “Should a lawyer be lucky enough to secure such a role, it will put them in a very exclusive category and they will develop a skill set that not many other lawyers will possess.”