Be an Entrepreneur: Barbara Mayer-Trautmann

Barbara Mayer-Trautmann is the office Managing Partner of the firm’s Munich office. She talks about keeping her perspective and the importance of teamwork.

I come from a strong corporate background and never imagined becoming a lawyer. I had done an apprenticeship at a global company before beginning my studies and planned to go back afterwards – you know, make it up to the board someday. At school, I was torn between engineering and the law, but decided to go with what made me happy. The law classes were much more fun and interactive.

I stayed with the company part-time and, after graduation, asked to be relocated to London. They said they would do it after another year in Germany. That wasn’t fast enough, so I asked my brother, who was studying law at Oxford, to recommend a firm that had offices in London and Germany. Clifford Chance had been recruiting there the night before, so that was his suggestion. I interviewed a week later and got an offer the same day. The deal was: three months in Germany, then two years in London.

I started on the M&A team but, after moving to London, discovered that finance law is more transportable. The documents are more commercial and, therefore, less affected by local governing law, so I switched to acquisition finance. I’m definitely in the right field. My practice is connected to living companies, and I enjoy working with high-profile clients and making things happen. I also love the independence of being a partner, aligning my own strategy with the firm’s and figuring out how to be successful.

One thing I’ve learned is that you will never get there alone. No one does everything well, but as a team, you can do it all. I find it easy to develop client relationships and run complex deal meetings. But ask me to give a public speech, and I will go straight to a particular colleague and say, “let’s do this together.” That’s her strength, and she loves doing it. Then I make sure I am super prepared for my part.

I encourage everyone on my team to be entrepreneurial. For junior lawyers, my advice is to get close to a few key clients. Work on repeat assignments, give speeches at closing dinners and find ways to connect at a plain level. Then balance that with other projects for broader exposure. It’s never too soon to build relationships and help sell your firm.

My first child was born right after I was made a partner. I took my full leave but worried about being out of the market for six months. I had great support, so it was all in my head. When I returned, people said things like, “Oh! You’re back after only two weeks?” After that, taking leave for my other three kids was much easier.

Childcare is not the place to count pennies. Get the help you need, and then learn to let go and trust what you’ve done. My own feelings of success thrive when I manage to balance, and find compromise in an enjoyable way, the competing demands of family and my personal passions – downhill skiing, the opera and my two greater Swiss mountain dogs – and being a partner at an elite global firm.