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Working in Public Law in Berlin
Berlin associate Mathilda Xu

For Mathilda Xu, the long road to becoming a lawyer in Germany had its benefits: "In hindsight, I am glad to have had this time to develop my legal thinking and to collect practical experiences in a variety of legal professions, plus I got the chance to study subjects like philosophy and art history on the side."

She first met representatives from White & Case at a recruitment fair on campus, something that she recommends to law students. "I found the White & Case team very friendly and approachable. The fact that the Firm was so international was also very appealing. Overall, I got a really good impression of what it would be like to work here."

Mathilda explains how she progressed from undergraduate to associate. "I passed my university degree with the First State Exam in Hamburg and then moved to Berlin for two years of practical training to become fully qualified. As a trainee, I gained insight into different kinds of legal professions by preparing drafts for a civil judge, for instance, or substituting for the criminal prosecutor in court."

During her practical training, Mathilda had the chance to think about what kind of workplace would suit her best. "I always felt most comfortable in the team-oriented and solution-driven environment of law firms and was lucky to complete my traineeship with White & Case, mainly in Berlin, but also with colleagues in the Frankfurt office."

Japan calling: A secondment to Tokyo

Next came a chance to join the Firm's Tokyo office. "I spent the three months of my selective stage of training in our Tokyo office. This was an amazing experience—the food and the culture of course, but also the fact that I got to meet so many people from around the world. It helped me "join the dots" between domestic law work and international practice, and I also got to take part in virtual meetings, learn more about our pro bono work and generally feel part of the team."

Living in Berlin: "Tolerant, colorful and authentic."

After passing the Second State Exam, Mathilda rejoined the Berlin office and recently started as an associate in the Public Law team, part of the Competition practice section. "I love living and working in Berlin! As the capital city, we are close to the political decision-making—we can walk to the chancellery and parliament from our office. Berlin is tolerant, colorful and authentic."

Mathilda explains what her team does: "We advise wherever regulatory issues occur and public authorities intersect. Typically, this will be where there is high public interest, industries like energy and telecommunications, involving matters of national commercial relevance, notably in the automotive industry; and we also regularly deal with questions of national security, especially in light of the heightened awareness during the global pandemic."

A day in the life of a Public Law associate

"As a first-year associate, I have the opportunity to work on a very diverse range of tasks and topics. For instance, I am preparing a statement of defense to an extensive claim with the Federal Administrative Court in the energy sector. I can continue to develop specific expertise and at the same time practice the drafting of legal correspondence on challenging legal issues."

How different is the work to that of a trainee? She says that it's about being proactive and also managing your own time. "I try to plan ahead each day, scheduling when I should send out and receive feedback on my work in order to accommodate the schedules and work flow of my senior colleagues."

“Understanding other cultures is very important in delivering the best solution for our clients.” 

Mathilda says that she enjoys contributing to the "big picture" of the work that her team is doing. "Right now, I provide first drafts, allot plenty of time for research and seek to provide answers immediately to specific questions that come up during discussions with colleagues who know the client by heart. And it's great to see when everything comes together in the end."

Why diversity matters

Although she has only recently started as an associate at the Firm, she is clear on the importance of diversity at White & Case. "Understanding other cultures is very important in delivering the best solution for our clients. It's also how we can best support each other with empathy and respect. From what I've seen so far, individuals' heritages are acknowledged and put to use in our daily work."

So how would Mathilda sum up working at White & Case so far? "It's an enthusiastic global community." She reflects on what's needed to succeed at this global Firm: "An international mind-set is required, but you also need to be a true expert in the law of your jurisdiction and be able to give concise advice to colleagues around theworld. There are so many opportunities to build an individual career here while feeling part of a truly global team."