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START foundation

Legal industry basics for new migrants in Germany

Freshfields has been offering insights into the legal services industry for new migrants to Germany since 2009.

Two-day workshops help attendees (who are aged between 16 and 20, and from a migrant background) understand what it's like studying and working in the law. Around 20 ‘START scholars’ attend each event, with one lawyer generally present for every five students.

The programme includes both legal modules (the basics of civil and criminal law, and negotiation skills) and informational modules (law faculties, LLM studies, working as a lawyer and career options in law).

After an introduction, students can ask the lawyers about the profession informally over dinner. On day two, following a presentation on becoming a lawyer and legal career options, the workshops take a more interactive turn. In sessions on the civil code, our lawyers answer questions such as ‘Can I return a pair of jeans I bought and get my money back?’ and ‘Are parents really liable for their children’s actions?’ To introduce them to legal argument skills, students are split into ‘tenant’ and ‘landlord’ teams and asked to negotiate a tender for an old movie theatre.

The programme has been well-received, winning the prestigious ‘Wirkt’ (impactful) mark from not-for-profit corporation, PHINEO, which analyses the effectiveness of responsible business and their potential to make a lasting impact. (PHINEO is also a Freshfields partner organisation.)

The positive impact of the initiative is clear: more than 90 per cent of START students attend university after college. Many subsequently choose to volunteer and take on social responsibility in their professional careers.

One START recent student said the workshops offer “a deep insight” into life and work as a lawyer: “Working in an international firm is very different from what I expected and have seen in movies or on TV. It was worthwhile learning more about this career option. The workshop has revealed career opportunities to me that I wasn’t aware of before.”

The START students’ intelligence and appetite for learning also makes the project rewarding for our own Freshfields volunteers: “This was a great opportunity to meet the next generation of lawyers at a very early stage in their career – and it was fascinating how eager they were to learn what it’s like to be a lawyer,” said one recent participant. “Our lawyers are doing a fantastic job of translating difficult legal language into practical knowledge and skills, and are patiently answering all questions fired at them – even the personal ones!”

We hope to widen access to work placements for START students, with Freshfields sponsoring a new START scholarship in Frankfurt.