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From intern to associate
Jan-Christopher’s story

October 2023: Jan-Christopher Wilhelms is an associate in our Frankfurt office. He reflects on his journey from three-time intern to Referendar to his current role, with advice for aspiring lawyers.

Internships and summer programs are a great launchpad for your career

Both positions contributed significantly to shaping who I am. In a professional context, I have learned to confidently establish my own position. Confidence, resilience and balance are key.

Personally, my most notable developments relate to emotional intelligence and communication skills. This truly helps you establish and maintain long-lasting friendships.

There's a big leap from law classroom to working in a law firm

Law school is theoretical and principle-driven. At a global law firm, commercial pragmatism and the ability to provide bite-sized summaries of facts, analysis and solutions to clients is essential.

Translating concepts of German law comprehensively for international clients and lawyers is a bit of an art. Simultaneously, the long-established German presence in the international network of White & Case allows me to extend my specialized legal knowledge by exposure to other jurisdictions and learning from so many great colleagues.

Start building your network straight away

My biggest takeaway is the importance of establishing personal connections, whether with a client or with other lawyers. From day one, I encourage our interns, research assistants and junior associates to connect among peers whenever possible and build relationships.

Being a great lawyer is not just about knowing the law

Advising on multijurisdictional matters, particularly in a Capital Markets and Corporate Finance context, encompasses never-ending learning opportunities. While legal knowledge is important, a sound understanding of economics and people skills are crucial too. This has accelerated my personal and professional growth significantly, much more so than it would in a single-jurisdiction setting.

Take the time to get the information you need for a full response

I have learned that in certain situations, for example, when receiving an unexpected phone call with equally unexpected questions, it is worth sharing an initial assessment and then coming back with a conclusive answer following thorough analysis. Your professional knowledge extends incredibly over time and the depth of  your assessments grows with experience.

I have learned to embrace all opportunities to exchange thoughts with and ask for guidance from my mentors. Their honest input is invaluable to my learning process.

Ownership and leadership are surprisingly straightforward

Assuming ownership and showing leadership is a trait that many fear but is (in theory) simple to put into practice. Being organized–for which preparation and vision are key–means that ownership comes easily.

The healthiest approach to stress is to stay calm and organized. Absorb information based on priority, dedication and taking initiative. Paired with a practical approach, this will accelerate establishing leadership traits and boost self-confidence.

White & Case is an environment that promotes curiosity and enables exposure

Across teams and practice groups, juniors are encouraged to proactively engage, gain client exposure and expand their professional horizons. We build on teamwork, regardless of seniority, and communication, whether in a transactional context or a professional development review.

Seize every opportunity to learn

If you are seeking to excel in an environment that is focused on training and successful development in a dynamic setting aligned with your personal and professional goals, White & Case is a great choice.

From day one, I encourage seizing every opportunity to learn and inquire. The entrepreneurial mindset of our lawyers extends to focus on shaping and enabling the next generation of associates and partners, hopefully soon including yourself.