An American Law Student in Frankfurt

Jarek Peterson (’20) reflects on his summer internship with Clifford Chance in Frankfurt, Germany.

Jarek Peterson ('20 at Heidelberg Castle
Jarek Peterson (’20 at Heidelberg Castle

During my 1L summer, I had the extraordinary opportunity to work as a Capital Markets Praktikant (intern) with Clifford Chance Deutschland LLP in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. This summer internship helped me build the necessary skills and expertise I will need to accomplish my goal of working in transactional law after graduation. After returning to the United States, I accepted an employment offer to work as a 2019 summer law clerk with the New York office of Clifford Chance US LLP.

Coming into law school, I knew I wanted to work as a transactional attorney. The only problem was that all of my prior work experience was in litigation—first with a small insurance defense firm, and then a state government agency. I needed to find a summer job that showed my interest in transactional work. Not only did this internship expose me to “big law,” it challenged me in more ways than expected. I had to learn through a crash course in cross-border debt and equity transactions how to complete my daily assignments. In eight short weeks, I was drafting risk factors for prospectuses, preparing publicity and research guidelines, compiling briefing packets in preparation for pitch meetings, editing business-description sections of offering documents, and working with local interns on translating German laws into English. I also had to adjust to living in a foreign country, navigate the German bureaucratic system, adapt to differences in food, daily routine, and necessities, and respond to the plethora of other challenges living as an Ausländer (foreigner). I quickly realized that my conversational German was not going to be enough. Thankfully, the people I met and interacted with on a daily basis were warm and welcoming and helped me improve my speaking proficiency and build my vocabulary.

Jarek Peterson ('20) and friends at the Wiesbaden Opera House
Jarek Peterson (’20 and friends at the Hessisches Staatstheater opera house in Wiesbaden.

Living and working in Germany also gave me the ability to explore. During my first weekend in Frankfurt, I spent two days simply walking the city and trying to orient myself to the location of my flat and office. I located the nearest grocery store, which I visited frequently, and got to know my neighborhood. I quickly started a list of all of the exciting things I wanted to do in my short time abroad. I spent my weekends exploring Germany, Switzerland, and France. I traveled to the German cities of Erfurt and Weimar to tour the Buchenwald concentration camp and visit the memorial. I explored the ruins of the Heidelberg castle, climbing to the top of a 22,000-liter wine barrel and visiting the old portion of the city. I took the train to Interlaken, Switzerland so I could jump from a 300-foot cliff and swing through a narrow gorge while the waters of the glacial river raged below my seat. I hiked through wooded paths of Der Eiger, a mountain in the Swiss Alps overlooking the city of Grindelwald. I visited the French city of Strasbourg where I climbed to the roof of the Cathédral Notre Dame de Strasbourg and sat at a riverside café eating local escargot and drinking local wine. I visited the Hessisches Staatstheater opera house in Wiesbaden for a modern performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  Finally, I enjoyed exploring many local street festivals and the river walk district in Frankfurt.

My journey through Europe did not materialize out of thin air. It came about thanks to a history of studying German language and culture, joining the right organizations, discussing my interests with as many people as possible, and—in all honesty—a little bit of luck. When I began my law school career, I kept hearing about the importance of joining student organizations and networking. Now, as a 2L, I cannot express the value of this advice. You never know whom you may be speaking with and what background they have, and a little conversation can go a long way. Because of my interest in transactional law, I decided to join the BU Law Business Law Society (BLS). All new members were asked to fill out informational forms that BLS used to match 1Ls with upper-class mentors. I wrote that I wanted to work in financial services and that I had dreams of living and working abroad at an international law firm. Thankfully, I was paired with an upper-class mentor who had spent her 1L summer working on the US Capital Markets Team at Clifford Chance. Thanks to our many discussions about her experiences and my interests, she felt comfortable putting me in contact with the supervising attorneys in Frankfurt. After submitting my application and a few back-and-forth emails, I was on the phone interviewing with the team. I still remember the feeling of excitement and shock when they offered me the job. Although my flight was months away, I was ecstatic to start this job.

Working with Clifford Chance helped steer me toward Capital Markets, and during the On-Campus Interview process, I focused on firms that specialized in financial services and other transactional practice areas. Although I ended up choosing to stay with Clifford Chance, the knowledge and experience I had from my summer work gave me the confidence to tackle interviews with other firms. Looking back, I am grateful that my mentor told me about the internship. In the end, the lesson I learned was the importance of talking with those people officially and unofficially assigned as mentors, and taking advantage of every opportunity presented, no matter how numerous the hurdles.

Although at the end of this summer I said “Auf Wiedersehen!” to Germany, I knew my journey was just beginning.

Reported by Jarek Peterson (’20)

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