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The G(irls) 20 Summit: Women in Law

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I am a law student from Freiburg. And this year I will be the German delegate to the G(irls) 20 Summit in Mexico City. I am so looking forward to this chance and somehow law was the reason that brought me there.

Studying law is one of the hardest things you can do after graduating from high school -- and it doesn't matter in which country you do. Studying law means countless nights with huge stacks of books to each side, the cold remains of a coffee somewhere near and a paper that needs to be written by tomorrow on the screen of a laptop in front -- next to Google search.

In those situations, law students -- at least here in Germany -- happen to think about the sense of the endless hours at their desks they have to face before they are finally allowed to write their State Examination. Exams in which less than 20 percent reach grades, which allow them to work in well paid positions e.g. as a lawyer in one of the top law firms.

So why are we all still sitting at our cluttered desks even during the holidays and mostly in the middle of the night? And how on earth did I get in there?

I do not come from a family of lawyers. And to be honest, I never dreamed of studying law like Grisham's Theodor Boone when I was child. I got interested in law, because I grew up with my mother and my younger sister and it is even tougher for single parents since the financial crisis infected Germany. I was often troubled with authorities because of maintenance advance or public assistance. I learned very early that education is the only way for me to a more comfortable way of life and that self-pity wouldn't help anyone.

Therefore at the age of 18 I went into politics. I became member of the Junge Liberale (JuLis), a political youth organization and the related party. Both organizations stand for civil rights and education as the key for upward mobility. I started as a simple visitor for a speech at the federal congress of the JuLis. Today I am a voluntary member of the state board and responsible for organizing similar congresses.

In politics, I met lawyers and law students for the first time. Until than I was very interested in law, but intended to study something with short duration of study, to keep it cheap, and with good job opportunities. But getting in touch with all those people in law I realized, that studying law was worth a try and being a lawyer would be a good foundation for a variety of great jobs.

I will never forget my first day at law school. But after attending an all-girls school and growing up with my single mother and my sister, I somehow missed female lawyers right from the beginning. Most law students in Germany are women. Women are often the subject of law and policies. But women are rarely in law. No lecture, I should attend this term, is held by a woman. I have only met 3 female professors in 2 years at law school, and about 20 male.

Where are all the bright girls who sat in the auditoriums at the beginning of their legal training? Many change their major, become doctors or teachers. Others meet their Prince Charming in the criminal law section in the library, marry and decide to become a housewife. Those who stay and pass, go into civil service as a judge or state's attorney because in these jobs it's easier to balance career and family.

There are mostly only a few female figureheads in big law firms. There are few exceptions like Norton Rose. At its locations Norton Rose promotes female associates. There are special seminars for women to support female associates to become a partner. And Norton Rose's policy on women seems to be successful, the proportion of women in partnership is nearly twice as high as in other law firms. Therefore it is a great opportunity for us delegates to meet Norton Rose as a Sponsor of the G(irls) 20 Summit in Mexico.

Most law concerning women is mostly made without women. But legislation on childcare, maternity leave, equal opportunities etc. has to be changed to encourage young women to find their places in law. It has to become normal for young female law students to dream of a career in the mergers and acquisition department of a law firm as it is for their male fellow students.

The lack of support for women with children, is one reason that keeps me in politics. I am also very interested in more girls and young women to become interested in politics and to become political leaders. And this is how I became the German delegate at the G(irls) 20 Summit in Mexico. It was suggested to me by the JuLis federal board, because they knew of my interest. I am so looking forward to meet all the amazing young women from all over the world and to get to know their stories. I hope to produce new ideas for how to encourage women to get involved in politics.

So, why do I still sit at my cluttered table for so many nights, studying law and hearing lectures in geography and management?

I am interested in the subject. For me, law is a magnificent and complex tool to understanding society. A tool, that can be improved by politics and combined with other sciences. And today I dream of a career in a top law firm somewhere abroad -- but only if the legislation named above is changed. If it doesn't improve, I would prefer a position that would make it easier to balance family and career, like in urban planning.

What about you? There are 3.5 billion girls and women on earth. This means 3.5 billion ways to change the world. I am number 24,983. So what's yours?