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“You don't need to know your entire career path straight away”

July 2021: "When I came to White & Case, I anticipated a really steep learning curve," explains Düsseldorf associate Petra Kistner. "That was definitely the case, but I also found that it was a really supportive environment."

Fellow Düsseldorf associate Cristina Caroppo agrees. "I joined as part of a team from another firm. This new path has been an amazing opportunity to combine the energy of a startup with the huge benefits that come from White & Case's global network."

The exciting, varied life of an international lawyer

What does working for an international firm mean on a day-to-day basis? "I work in the Energy team," says Petra. "That means that our clients' business regularly spans different countries and continents, and I work with clients and colleagues from different countries and offices on a daily basis. These aren't just the energy teams, but also the teams helping with project funding, investment banking and so on. I find it really stimulating to be right at the heart of it all."

Cristina says that working like this is the best way to improve and grow as a lawyer: "Antitrust is generally not a big part of law students' studies. It's really an area that you learn about on the job and from working with experienced lawyers. Seeing different approaches, whether that's between partners, between different offices or countries, that's a great way to grow as a lawyer."

Answering questions from future lawyers: Women@CommercialLaw

The two recently moderated a webinar of the Women@CommercialLaw series for female law students and graduates in Germany. This new series of events gives students an insight into what it's really like to work in a "Big Law" firm and is an opportunity to ask women associates and partners frank questions about the challenges, benefits and most enjoyable aspects of their work.

Petra points out the importance of role models in addressing historical imbalances when it comes to gender representation: "It's essential that you can see other women in positions ahead of you, and also that you are visible for those more junior."

Everyone has a part to play: Building diverse teams

"I believe that it's a very good time to be a woman at a 'Big Law' firm," says Petra. "First of all, there's no doubt that everyone realizes the benefits of diverse teams." Cristina adds that everyone has a part to play in facilitating a working environment that supports women to succeed: "It starts with female lawyers being proactive and the teams supporting them to be visible by making sure that women are included in meetings and pitches."

Formal mentorship and coaching programs

Both Petra and Cristina emphasize the importance of networking for all associates as they grow and develop in their careers. "Mentors are important too," says Cristina. "You need to not only build up your network of colleagues, clients and your fellow associates, but also have senior figures who can champion and guide you."

White & Case's formal mentoring and coaching programs for associates at all levels are making a positive impact and creating change, according to Petra: "In particular on a more senior level, women are still underrepresented in the legal profession, so in some cases, we do need focused support to help us address structural imbalances."

Cristina mentions the Women's Initiative coaching program, a mix of one-to-one meetings and group sessions for mid-level female associates: "It has been intense – in a good way – and an absolutely valuable experience." Cristina and Petra talked about their experiences with these programs at the Women@CommercialLaw event and emphasised: "Young lawyers starting at the firm don't need to know their entire career path straight away. That is really exciting and liberating."

Applications for the next Women@CommercialLaw event are open to 30 August, scroll to 'Events' to find out more here