Off to a good START in Germany
START is a scholarship programme for young students who have newly migrated to Germany. The programme’s focus has now narrowed to support those students who have lived in Germany for up to five years in financially difficult circumstances.
Students receive financial support, plus a PC and a small quarterly allowance to buy books or to attend a course and cultural activities. Additionally, START offers a comprehensive educational programme covering courses such as intercultural communication, personal and career development, and understanding German society. With this mix, START supports the students’ personal and professional/educational development, enabling them to take an active part in German society.
START was recently awarded the prestigious ‘Wirkt’ (impactful) mark by PHINEO, which analyses non-profit organisations in terms of their effectiveness and their projects’ potential to make a lasting impact, and is also a partner organisation of the firm. More than 90 per cent of START students attended university after their A-levels. Most continue to volunteer and take on social responsibility in their professional careers, something that they learned to do during their START scholarship.
The narrowed focus of START helps us to implement our new responsible business strategy by offering routes to the legal profession to young people with an immigrant background.
We have been offering workshops for students interested in a career in law on an annual to 18-month basis since 2009. The workshops are designed to give an insight into studying for, and working in, the law. Held over two days, these workshops are attended by interested students on the START programme aged between 16 and 20. Around 20 students attend each event, with the firm trying to ensure one lawyer is present for every five students.
‘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 personal ones!’
The programme includes legal modules (the basics of civil and criminal law, and negotiation skills) as well as informational modules (law faculties, LLM studies, working as a lawyer and career options in law).
After an introduction, the students can ask the lawyers about the profession informally over dinner. On day two, after a presentation on how to become a lawyer and available 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 arguing skills, students are split into ‘tenant’ and ‘landlord’ teams and asked to negotiate a tender for an old movie theatre.
We plan to include our business services staff in the programme, offering information on opportunities as a business services employee, and to roll out the programme to all our offices in the region. This coincides with START’s plans to extend its work to the state of Bavaria. We are currently organising an event in our Munich office to give START the opportunity to present itself to a number of our clients and to foundations working in the educational field.
We also hope to increase our efforts to offer work placements for START students, supported by Freshfields sponsoring a new START scholarship in Frankfurt.
Feedback from our volunteers expresses how impressed they are by the students’ intelligence and appetite for learning: ‘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.’
One START student said, ‘The workshop offers 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.’