Head of Legal Department at Daimler AG, talks about the challenges she is facing in her daily work and in particular leadership related topics with a special gender focus such as equality, promotion and career planning for women.

Renata was interviewed by Bruno Mascello.

General Counsel as legal risk manager and changed career paths for women

You have worked for an American corporation, are now active in a German corporation and have moved from Switzerland to Germany. Where do the greatest cultural differences lie?
The changeover from an American to a German corporation is not such a major cultural change for an in-house attorney. In both legal systems, the role of the General Counsel is very similar within an international corporation: Proactive, global legal risk management is in the forefront, and that is a management task.
It is true that under the Anglo-American legal system, the General Counsel is more heavily involved in corporate processes and decisions than is customary in large German corporations. However, with the growing importance of compliance the two cultures are increasingly coming closer. Relocating from Switzerland to Germany was no problem at all for me because the work culture is very similar in both countries.

What are the fundamental challenges facing you in your daily work?
The challenge is to guide and motivate the worldwide team of the in-house lawyers. As I said, our main task is the proactive and foresighted identification of legal risks for the company. This awareness must be created and constantly reinforced among all members of the legal department. Legal and regulatory requirements are constantly changing, and we as the legal department in our company have to ensure that these varied national and international requirements are fulfilled. As General Counsel I am much more active as a manager than as a legal specialist. However, in this management role I also need to keep my legal instinct alert every day.

What is your experience with gender equality in the field of legal advisory services and business in general?
In the past, government service was often seen as the „ideal berth“ for women lawyers seeking to combine their profession with family life. A great deal has happened since then, and law offices and international corporations have managed to significantly improve their attractiveness as employers for women. In my view, the legal departments of companies, and also Daimler, have been offering outstanding prospects for women for some time. There are now a number of female Chief Legal Officers both in Switzerland and in Germany, which shows that the career paths for women in major corporations have undergone positive and lasting development.

What do you do to promote women in your department?
Our goal at Daimler is to increase the share of women in senior management positions to 20 percent by 2020, and the implementation throughout the company is going according to plan – in Legal we already exceed this level. We do a number of things to achieve this: We offer outstanding working conditions, international career prospects and the possibility of combining family with professional life. For example, we have established around 700 in-house child care places in Germany, there is the option of part-time work, use of the home as an office, and much more. In the legal department, these tools are used frequently. In the litigation branch, for example, we have two female department heads who share the position. At the end of last year, we were able to recruit a highly qualified female colleague from outside to work for our company at senior department manager level, and promoted another female colleague to this level on a part-time basis.

What advice would you give women who wish to pursue a career in a legal department or law firm?
First of all: Have courage and confidence in yourself. Especially at the start of their professional life, many young women are unsure whether a heavy workload at the beginning of their career would be compatible with family planning. However, there are now many ways in which professional and family life can be reconciled more easily. They should choose an employer who meets their needs, try things out and make use of the currently available scope and arrangements for a work-life balance.

What general advice would you give young law students for their professional future?
Rather than advice I would share the motto I myself have always followed: Don’t wait for your career to be served to you on a silver tray, but shape your work and career actively for yourself! It is always better to be at the rudder and to determine your own course than to have your direction prescribed to you.

Renata Jungo Brüngger is Head of Legal Department at Daimler AG. In her previous position, she was General Counsel Corporate EMEA and Vice President/General Counsel Emerson Process Management EMEA at Emerson Electric in Switzerland. Before that, she worked as a departmental manager in the legal department of Metro Holding AG, Switzerland, as a lawyer at law firm Bär & Karrer in Zurich, and as a legal adviser at Bank Clariden Leu in Zürich. She is a licensed attorney and has completed bilingual studies of law at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and gained a Master of Laws (LL.M.) at the University of Zurich. Renata was interviewed by Bruno Mascello.

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