Dr. Geertje Tutschka, PCC, Managing Partner at CLP, President of ICF Germany (2016-2019) and trainer in legal coaching since 2016, on her path to becoming a female manager and the compatibility of work and family in an interview with Breaking Through by Nadja Harraschain.
Ms Tutschka, you are a self-employed lawyer, coach, president of the Professional Association for Coaches (ICF), speaker and author of specialist literature and fiction - in other words, a true multi-talent. Has it always been clear to you that a single profession would not suffice?
I believe that professions, especially such classic ones as the lawyer, are overrated. People and their talents and competencies cannot be categorized. That's why there have been so many new professions, especially in the last few decades. I am convinced that the profession of the lawyer will also change fundamentally.
Before the merging of East and West, it did not seem justifiable to you to study law, so you initially worked as a cellist. For generations today, who grew up without an East-West divide, this is hardly conceivable. Why did you first decide against studying law?
I did not want to study law in East Germany. Law is (and was) a political study. That would have meant that I would have had to position myself clearly in conformity with the state, for example, by becoming a member of the SED. That was out of the question.
After your studies you first worked as a lawyer before you had three children within three years. But not only that, you used the three years to write a doctoral thesis in contract law. This requires a lot of discipline and good organisation. What was your daily routine during that time?
Structured and chaotic in equal parts. It takes a certain tunnel vision to focus on the essential things: in my case the children and the dissertation. During this time I learned self-management, but also mindfulness. It was an advantage for me that I was much more flexible in how I organized my time during parental leave. However, being autonomous and self-organized, but also being able to work alone, is absolutely necessary to be able to reconcile writing a dissertation during the time of starting a family. Another advantage for me was the financial security of parental leave. I could not have afforded to take time off for my doctorate instead of a full-time job. A disadvantage is possibly that the everyday life of a young family is often chaotic and difficult to plan. You have to be patient and have a long breath; keep at it. In a structured adult's everyday life, a dissertation has much more space; you can do more research and revise it more often. In the family break, the dissertation takes longer overall and is nevertheless written with considerably less time. My tip: Before starting, you should know yourself and your motives for the dissertation well and get partners on board (your partner, a mentor, a working group, a good friend).
In your opinion, what role does external childcare play in the realisation of such ambitious projects?
A leading role. I am a big fan of professional childcare. I've worked intensively on early childhood bonding and development - not just as a coach. Good childcare is important for parents and children.
Would you also advise others to have children during your doctorate? What advantages and disadvantages do you see in particular?
No, I would not like to make a recommendation. For me it was the ideal solution. As a coach I have respect for the life decisions of others. How the ideal solution looks like depends a lot on your personality and environment.
Your coaching is specialized in lawyers. What role does the issue of compatibility of family and career play in most coaching sessions?
This is a central topic for those under the age of several decades. These are the ones who are in the so-called rush hour of life. Everything has to happen in the 10 years between 30-40: Relationship, children, career, income, status, house building, travel...
They also regularly provide coaching for young female lawyers, such as winners of the PANDA Law Events. Are there any topics that have hardly lost any of their relevance since your training period? Are there others that seem to have lost relevance in the meantime or are still relatively new?
The always topical issue for women lawyers is the unequal treatment in terms of salaries/partnership but also in terms of daily interaction. It is painful to see how little has developed in this area. Politics is less. Entpreneurship with Legal Tech new.
For several years they have dared the step into self-employment. Today you give others advice in publications and personal coaching on how to set up a law firm or run a law firm as a business. Which qualities do you consider indispensable if you want to become self-employed?
In addition to leadership and decision-making skills, an entrepreneurial spirit is essential, i.e. having fun with strategy, positioning, marketing and above all sales people. You do not necessarily have to be an expert in a legal field.
Where do you get the ideas for your plans, for example your new book on setting up a law firm? Do these ideas sometimes arise from your coaching sessions or do they tend to come from your own experience?
Of course, these are also part of my work at CLP, where I get comprehensive insight into the current issues, needs and problems of our clients. In the meantime, publishers or the lawyers' association approach me for these projects.
Your personal background has taken you from Germany to Detroit and from there to Salzburg. Where do you see the greatest need to catch up in the area of compatibility of family and career? Do you see any serious advantages at any of the locations mentioned?
I see the greatest backlog demand in Austria, where the Christian-dominated value system emphasizes the very conservative image of women. Austrian female lawyers look with admiration at the achievements of their German colleagues.
(Originally published on 12.09.2018 on the former CLP blog JurCoach.)