Sitting in my office, overlooking the chestnut trees, the industrious red squirrels and the beautiful Munich skyline (including the Bavarian Alps on a sunny day), I am still a little surprised. How did I get here from my Smithfield office with its views of the meat market and Andrew King’s busy desk? It certainly feels a long way from London, with its fast walking, fast shopping and fast Friday night drinking.
I moved from London to Germany in 2014 and now work at Noerr, one of Travers Smith’s independent law firm partners. I am based in Munich as part of Noerr’s International Litigation team, working for clients in Germany, England and further afield. I was delighted to find out that Noerr and Travers Smith work so closely together, and didn’t waste any time picking up the phone to my old colleagues. Long chats with dear friends - what’s not to like?
I joined Travers Smith in early 2008 from a large international firm, as I felt I wanted a little more hands-on action. Even in my interview, I felt Travers Smith was a good fit for me. We drank tea and discussed morality and the law and the function of punishment. I didn’t need my “top 10 cases on privilege” prep notes after all, and the time flew by. As I left, I thought: “That was great, I want to stay.”
As for my wish for a little more action, I certainly got that. My arrival at Travers Smith coincided with the financial crisis in 2008 and a huge influx of related disputes into the Dispute Resolution Department, which at this time had just four partners. I clearly remember my first day when Stephen Paget-Brown asked me if I could make a High Court application for recognition of the Cayman liquidators of a US$2 billion bond fund? Very good question. Could I? Well, I did.
Fast forward a few months, my knowledge and confidence had grown, and I was doing really exciting work with an excellent team. As the financial crisis deepened, our instructions came from all directions, including from the English administrators of Lehman Brothers. Many of the issues, timeframes and jurisdictions we grappled with were complex. It was an eye-opening time to be a lawyer and I learnt a lot – not just about the law, but about risk, regulation, accountability, and how people react under intense pressure.
I also have many contrasting highlights, like running from disgruntled cows in ill-advised footwear through the Staffordshire countryside (as part of the Alton Towers noise nuisance proceedings), and chasing around Arsenal football stadium with a very, very large process agent trying to serve an injunction on a reluctant defendant.
I was also involved in pro-bono work at Travers Smith, in particular in helping victims of domestic violence in obtaining injunctions, and advising at the Paddington Law Centre. It was this interest in pro-bono work that led me to the very difficult decision to leave Travers Smith and join Save the Children International as its Deputy General Counsel at the end of 2010. Whilst this was a very different position, my time at Travers Smith stood me in good stead. I had learnt so many things from great mentors - the importance of really listening, how to identify what is really important and how to break down even the most complex problems. During this time, I would still occasionally call Andrew King to informally chat through a tricky legal problem - a kindness that I am still very grateful for.
I left Save the Children in 2014 in order to move to Germany for family reasons (my husband is German). Although practising in Germany comes with its challenges, working life at Noerr is not so different from my time at Travers Smith. My work and client base are very similar. However, what is more striking is the similar working cultures. There is a real emphasis on teamwork, encouraging and rewarding knowledge-sharing and genuinely supporting your colleagues. And my new colleagues are an extremely impressive team, both in German and English.
Notwithstanding the sometimes sharp learning curve, I feel I have really landed on my feet here in Munich. It is a beautiful city and I have a great team at Noerr.