The CLP - interview series goes into the third round: After the expert round as well as the Legal Coaches it concerns now primarily special commitment in and beside the lawyer occupation. Some of them have already been honored for this commitment with prizes; in any case, all colleagues in this circle are very successful in what they do. This may be due to the rousing passion with which they are committed to their cause. Or their personal recipe for success, which they reveal to us in the end.
Dr. Frank, may I ask you to briefly introduce yourself?
In 2020 I look back on 33 years of working as a lawyer.
Would I choose this profession again today?
Yes, there is hardly anything more fulfilling for me professionally than mastering legally complex situations and perhaps seeing the joy in the eyes of my clients when I have found the right approach to a solution. However, I had the great good fortune to start my legal career in Vienna in 1988 at a very exciting time - after my studies and years of practice in Austria and abroad. I started out as ONE WOMAN Show, initially in a small directing partnership together with a lawyer and directing partner with whom I shared the costs of the first office premises. But already after one year the space requirements of my office grew and so I moved into my first own office premises.
For more than 20 years now I have been working together with my professional partners in a law firm under the name Alix Frank Rechtsanwälte GmbH in Vienna (www.alix-frank.co.at ). During my studies I was particularly interested in business law and I was also interested in the international context. In my youth I learned how important it is to master foreign languages, primarily in order to better understand the thoughts and, above all, the foreign mentality.
The sound legal education and my four foreign languages opened the doors of many companies to me, but at that time above all the doors to a now multinational company based in Vienna, which was at the beginning of a great expansion in 1988. I consider this consultancy mandate as the kick-off of my career as an attorney who is still internationally active today.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 gave my career a massive boost. In the following years, many Austrian and Western European companies began to look across the border into Eastern Europe and my language skills came in handy. -
Very quickly I learned then that my profound knowledge of Austrian law and a little bit of international and comparative law would not be enough to meet the increasing quality demands of foreign and Austrian clients. I therefore looked for alliances and initially started to build up the then still quite small network Eureseau (http://www.eureseau.com/home/), an alliance of independent law firms, together with the then members.
But I wanted more: Every legal question also has its fiscal side! Therefore, it was obvious for me to offer our clients networked thinking also on an international level, which resulted in the fact that since 1995 we have been members of a worldwide network/alliance of independent lawyers, tax consultants, chartered accountants and management consultants, MSI Global Alliance (www.msiglobal.org).
What drove me to become a lawyer when a well-trained lawyer with foreign language skills has a number of career opportunities in legal professions?
I have always enjoyed representing the interests of others, which began in high school as a class representative and ends today with the fact that I have always enjoyed working for women and their careers in the legal professions in a structured way, but since spring 2018 I have been involved in the Vienna association Women in Law. The last 20 years have also taught me to better understand our profession and above all its self-image as a liberal profession in my work as a voluntary functionary of the Vienna Bar Association.
To fight for the independence of our profession on an ongoing basis and thus to secure access to law for every citizen is not only a noble goal for me: In 2007, I was able to convince the Austrian legal profession that it was the first independent profession in Austria to deal with the fateful years 1938-1945 of a total of 1916 members of the Austrian Bar Association in a scientific publication. It is important to me for today's legal profession and also for all future colleagues in the legal profession to remember how quickly law can become wrong and then still be perceived as "right". This knowledge strengthens our profession and makes us sustainable representatives of a healthy democracy.
In autumn 2010 I was proud to present the first issue of "Advokaten 1938" (www.advokaten.com). Currently I am in charge of the publication of the 2nd edition of this publication.
Next to me stands privately a very extraordinary man. We support each other mutually and share our many common interests as well as our everyday "joys and sorrows" with our young people. .... and when I am not playing the clarinet in my private life, I walk with our "Aussie" named Sydney through the Vienna Woods.
#1 What do the "Women in Law" mean to you besides your work as a lawyer?
As I was reminded, it was not always easy for me to survive and be perceived as a woman in a male domain that was very predominant in business life and in my profession in the eighties. There is a lot to tell from the professional "sewing box", funny, unpleasant, but also very beautiful situations. As a very consistent woman I have always achieved what I really wanted in the end. When I look at our profession today, it saddens me that more than half of us are graduates of law school, and that more than half of us are still preparing women for the legal profession, but at the end of the day, we are represented in the legal profession in Austria by a maximum of 20%. This is not an isolated case in the legal profession. Many other legal professions in Austria, but also internationally, show quite similar pictures. In my international work I have come to know many different women's fates in industry, trade, politics and of course in the legal professions. From the initial exchange of ideas, more and more structured networking has developed and is developing with the aim of promoting women's careers in the legal professions. Together with my professional partner, Professor Franz J Heidinger, we launched the nationally and internationally oriented initiative Women in Law, Vienna, in spring 2018. The main focus of our initiative is that only together will the genders find the right approach to successful diversity in business.
#2 When did you first get involved in this initiative and why?
I have always enjoyed supporting young women and young men in the course of their training, whether simply as a good friend and advisor and thus New High German as a mentor or in my function as a trainee lawyer. Of course, it is not hidden from you that women in challenging professions are under pressure due to a multitude of extra-professional challenges, the fulfillment of which is often expected of women rather than men. Whether the pressure comes from outside or is self-made makes little difference. The important thing is to balance out the pressure accordingly.
In spring 2018 I received an international award as a woman in law. That was ultimately the final trigger to become really active. The basis for this was our firm's many years of activity in anti-discrimination law and the impressive work and cooperation with a very wise fellow lawyer and former president of the Law Society in London, Christina Blacklaws.
#3 How do you divide your work between the firm and the Women in Law today?
An initiative that really wants to make a difference must be structured accordingly and, of course, it also requires appropriate staffing. Of course, I can act as a source of ideas, but it would be impossible, apart from a full-time lawyer's activity and a fulfilling private life, to successfully supervise such an internationally oriented initiative on my own. Therefore we decided quite quickly to embed the initiative in a proper association according to the Austrian law of associations with headquarters in Vienna.
At present, a team of three is responsible for the day-to-day work of the association, which is not only limited to maintaining contacts with our members and cooperation partners, but also to communication with the University of Vienna, where the first course Women in Law - Frauen im Recht (Women in Law) was successfully held in the elective baskets Gender Legal Studies and Legal English in the summer semester of 2020. The association organized and held its first international conference in 2019.
The second international conference planned for 2020 was postponed to September 2021, specifically September 9-11, 2021, for reasons of "corona". In 2020, the association, together with the law book publisher MANZ, has launched the JUSTITIA award for outstanding women in law. We hope for a great event on November 19, 2020 in the ceremonial hall of the Palace of Justice in Vienna. This clearly shows the intensity of the work of the association.
#4 Who are the members of Women in Law, Vienna?
Female lawyers and their male allies from all legal professions and disciplines of the legal profession. We address students, professionally active and also already retired lawyers in Austria and Europe. Our cooperation partners are also located in non-European countries, such as WOZA, Women in Law South Africa.
We want this international exchange of ideas because we believe that we can learn from each other and can therefore achieve a lot together. We also deliberately want the exchange of ideas with academia and practice. I think it is very important to build a bridge between theoretical discussion and practical implementation in everyday work. Only with sound background knowledge and an understanding of causes and effects can we, as an association, seriously and sustainably bring about a change in thinking and achieve change with our initiative.
#5 What role does it play for you to become involved as a lawyer?
I simply like to share my personal enthusiasm for the legal profession, and it is therefore very important to me to pass on this enthusiasm and to encourage young female lawyers in particular to develop themselves. It is exactly this commitment that gives me strength and joy on a personal level!
#6 Who supports you in this or with whom do you prefer to work together?
My perfect team! I prefer to work with really personally committed people! Then the cooperation comes from the heart and what you do with your heart usually succeeds!
#7 Your very personal tip for success:
Be true to yourself and your goals and treat yourself and your fellow men with respect.
Thank you very much.
More from Dr. Alix Frak-Thomasser, the Women in Law and Justitia Awards here: