German Legal Trainee Program - Rechtsreferendare
Approximately 20 years ago, under the direction of Murchison & Cumming's former managing partner, Friedrich W. Seitz, the firm established an internship program for German lawyers who are working through their last few months of practical training required to gain their license to practice law in Germany. The program was founded when Seitz learned that German legal trainees have the option to take a portion of their practical training in foreign countries.
Murchison & Cumming is one of few Los Angeles law firms offering a program of this scope to German legal trainees. Overall, the firm has had somewhere between 70 to 100 interns who are now attorneys in private firms, governmental agencies and on the staff of German corporations.
By way of background, if one wants to practice law in Germany, one has to take and pass two bar exams and complete a mandatory two-year legal internship program. Upon passing the first bar exam, a German law student obtains the equivalent of a “J.D.” degree. Then, the student needs to complete the mandatory two-year legal internship program during which the intern will gain experience in all major fields of legal practice because the intern will clerk for a Judge, work as a Deputy District Attorney, work in a government agency and for a private law firm.
The practical experience required during the two-year traineeship concludes with a chance for the intern to choose an internship in their preferred legal setting during their last few months of training. Although the vast majority of students do not intend to practice outside of Germany, many choose to train in an international setting for the concluding portion of their traineeship, he added. After that, the intern will have to take the second bar exam to obtain his/her license to practice law in Germany.
Choosing to intern in an English-speaking country is a popular option because students interested in international law need to have experience in foreign countries, given that about 75% of the work done in German international law firms is written in English, and employers make a point of looking for English language skills while reviewing a candidate’s CV.
Usually, the interns come into Murchison and Cumming knowing very little about the U.S. legal system. At Murchison & Cumming, German internship participants have the opportunity to accompany lawyers to court and otherwise familiarize themselves with the American legal system by attending depositions, mediations, arbitrations and trials.
For information about M&C's German Legal Trainee Program, please contact Hagen Weiss, who currently serves as the program's Director.
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