The 35th Power Breakfast was in many ways an extraordinary experience for the 19 law students from the Universities of Passau, Munich, Augsburg and Regensburg. Firstly, the office of Hengeler Mueller in Munich looks brand-new and is located quite comfortably in a business area near the English Garden. Secondly, the two speakers filled the room with international spirit: Irene Bellew, Group Council and Chief Legal Officer from Whirlpool Europe, with British roots working for an American company in Italy and Dr. Daniela Favoccia, lawyer and one of the only two female partners out of 80 working for
Hengeler Mueller. She has German-Italian origins and worked in international cities such as Los Angeles and Brussels.
No wonder that the students were all very eager to find out more about the possibilities of an international career. The second half of the discussion was dominated by the question of how one can combine a challenging job with a partnership or even with children and still having some free time left for hobbies.
Although she described her English as "rusty", Margret Steinle from e-fellows.net successfully managed to welcome the participants and the two speakers. Then it was on us to prove our English skills. When Irene Bellow described our English as wonderful, the ice was finally broken.
Career one: Working as a partner
At first, Dr. Daniela Favoccia revealed the secret of how to become a partner at Hengeler Mueller. What surprised the students most was that her career had not really been planned: Favoccia was writing a thesis about international insolvency law at the University of Freiburg. She was planning to habilitate after the second state exam. But then she accepted an invitation of Hengeler Mueller to a restaurant and was fascinated by the balanced personality of one of the partners. Despite the image of being a "Macho-Verein" Favoccia applied for a job - and succeeded. Since 1993 she has been working for Hengeler Mueller in various fields of law, stayed abroad in Brussels for six months and in Los Angeles for a year. In 1999 she finally settled in Frankfurt, Germany, as a partner. In her opinion three requirements are needed to achieve such a position:
- love your job (workload up to 12 hours a day, often unpredictable overtime)
- have enough compensation (friends and family, hobbies)
last, but not least: luck
Career two: Working in industrial business
Irene Bellew taught us that taking risks and having a brave heart are important factors for being successful as well. Being the first woman and European in the role of the Chief Legal Officer for Whirlpool Europe, she has inherited a great position. Originally having ambitions of working in journalism, her mother finally convinced her to study law. Since Bellew was more interested in commercial environment than in bureaucratic matters, she continued her studies in order to be called to the bar and become a barrister, not a solicitor. After being married and having worked some time as barrister at the Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, one of Englands Inns of Court, in London, she and her husband decided to move to Italy, being fed up with the rainy weather in London. While it was easy for her husband to find a new job, she had to give up everything. Fortunately, she found a job at a law firm in Milan. But when she became mother of two children, Bellew decided to take a break from law. She started to work for a boutique instead, choosing clothes for the store. But when her youngest daughter was two years old, she was asked for help in commercial business and her career at Whirlpool started.
Managing workload and family
According to both speakers some key abilities are necessary to manage the combination of work and family life:
- a good organisation
- a supportive network around you (not only family, but also employer)
the ability of thinking ahead
For all students it was a relief to hear that companies are trying to improve the compatibility of family life and work in order to attract and to keep well-educated females. Hengeler Mueller has only recently increased the support for mothers: After the birth of a child the mother can leave the firm for one year and then return and work part-time for three years. That applies both to partners and associates. If that is not sufficient, she can still stay in the firm and switch to the counsel track and status which is similar to the partnership track and status.
Bellew emphasised that brilliant academic grades are not sufficient for success: "You also have to be able to adopt, be flexible, work in a team, show character and cope with difficulties." Favoccia pointed out that being curious and not being satisfied with simple answers are further important characteristics. "Especially in economics the challenges lie in your ability to learn by doing", she said. "And the skill how to solve problems is something you learn in your studies." After this profound and detailed discussion we were all looking forward to enjoying more of the delicious food and to taking part in private small talks. Later on, most of us took the opportunity of the sunny weather to do some shopping or to take a walk through the English Garden.