Whether it’s through Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle, Beethoven’s Fifth or Bastian Schweinsteiger’s midfield magic, Germany is a country that knows how to leave an impression. Riding out the Eurozone crisis with healthy economic progress, its cities are distinctly individual in both character and forte, and this is reflected in the work available to trainees in each location.
Frankfurt, the European capital of Capital, is home to the European Central Bank, the Deutsche Bundesbank and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (the world's 10th largest by market capitalization). If it’s top-flight banking and capital markets work that appeals to you, then look no further.
Munich stands second to Frankfurt as Germany's main financial hub. It has the strongest economy in Germany and is a major centre for technology, manufacturing and insurance. The city serves as the global headquarters for Siemens, BMW and Allianz, as well as hosting the European headquarters of McDonald’s and Microsoft.
Germany has largely evaded the shadow of Europe’s recent financial woe, and remains a more buoyant market for legal services than many of its neighbours. Each of the country’s major cities has it’s own individual market strengths, and this decentralized quality continues to attract some of the most prestigious international firms: Linklaters, Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy are all big-hitters in the Bundesrepublik.
The most likely destination for UK trainees is Frankfurt, where there are usually a dozen or more positions available, many in banking and capital markets. A lot of work pertains to English or New York law, but “you can't be afraid of German law.” There's a good chance you'll also be working across one or more of the following areas: M&A, joint ventures, restructuring and insolvency, competition, capital markets, and private equity.
Munich-bound trainees can expect to cater to the needs of the powerhouses of German industry and technology. IP is a commonly encountered practice. Sources in Berlin reported focusing more on litigation, with financial, commercial and EU disputes all commonplace.
Local business culture
Even though much of the business is done in English, a working knowledge of German is a real advantage when it comes to building up a rapport with clients and locals and making the most of your time here. There’s always a danger of being roped into mundane translation work, but you should see more responsibility than you would in the UK. Trainees say work, hours, atmosphere and manners in German offices are essentially the same as they are back in London.
According to Frankfurt trainees, apartments provided by firms are generally pretty smart and it's likely you'll be within walking distance of the office. All UK trainees tend to be clustered in the same part of town so you should be in close proximity to like-minded juniors. “The city benefits from having a lot of professionals who want to spend money so there are plenty of bars, restaurants and clubs.” Another trainee added: “It's a very business oriented city which means there's not much else to do.” Luckily Frankfurt is in the middle of Germany so it’s easy to hop on a train to pretty much anywhere else in the country at weekends. Trains are cheap, clean and quick.