Why are lawyers so smart

Legal career: Success in the legal profession is no coincidence (Interview with Mag.Kosa LL.M., Schönherr, Vienna a.d.)

Success in the legal profession is no accident.

Is it always the result of hard work? Or is it also about doing the right thing at the right time? What is the secret of successful lawyers? What should you pay attention to right from the start? Do you really take every chance? And is the decision for a career really a decision against a fulfilling private life?

In our series “Success in the legal profession is no coincidence”, we introduce you to top lawyers and their own personal recipe for success.

Mag. Monika Kosa, LL.M. (Dr.iur. In Hungary) studied law in Hungary, France and Germany with a focus on European law. After working for Rödl & Partner in Budapest, she worked for Austria's leading law firm Schönherr Rechtsanwälte GmbH in Vienna.

I asked her about her recipe for success.

Ms. Mag. Kosa, LL.M., after working as a trainee lawyer at Rödl & Partner in Budapest and Austria's leading law firm Schönherr Rechtsanwälte GmbH, you have now made a conscious decision to take a family and educational break. At Women in Law (Vienna) you have written a highly regarded article in which you advocate modern and alternative career paths for top lawyers.

What did you achieve as a lawyer and why?

In addition to my first work experience at Rödl & Partner in Budapest, I completed my degree in equivalence (nostrification) at the University of Vienna, then completed the court year in Austria and worked as a trainee lawyer at Schönherr in the Corporate / M & A department in Vienna. I was very enthusiastic about the good infrastructure, the professional work at a high level and the challenging issues relating to international or European law. I was really burned for my job. Too much. And at some point I had to choose between my health and my private life on the one hand and my career and this exciting job on the other.

I made a conscious decision in favor of the former and took a break, during which I started a family and trained myself in various areas (legal, but also other topics).

What my private and professional path shows me in retrospect is that many things could not be planned or planned: with the decision to go to higher education, I set my life in a direction early on, but the individual fork in the road arose step by step. My story is a good example of the fact that life (and accordingly also the career path) is not linear, but organic ...

So would the decision for a career really have been a decision against a fulfilling private life?

In my case it would have been so, yes.

For example, many law firms have an all-or-nothing mentality that sets the tone in favor of a career. Many young lawyers are only confronted with this during their first years of work. They would like to define themselves in a modern and equal way, but the often rigid structures do not allow that. In my opinion, in many places there is still a very rigid, outdated image of what a career as a lawyer should look like. In Austria, for example, it is still practically impossible to work part-time as a trainee lawyer.

But I didn't want to accept it like that.

In addition to advancing my career, starting a family and time for life experience and personal development was important to me. In the long run I would not have been happy in my job if I had always known in the back of my mind that I had neglected this part of my personality. With the family and educational break, I finally had the opportunity to underpin my experience that education is the key to a fulfilling life with further studies and training and voluntary work. At the moment I am in the process of realizing one of my heart's projects: the establishment of a kindergarten that is specially tailored to the needs of lawyers and thus helps to improve the institutional framework so that Viennese lawyers can more easily master the balance in the future, at the same time good lawyers and to be good parents.

I was inspired by the book “Unfinished Business” by Anne-Marie Slaughter, who advocates allowing different life and work models, recognizing care services and investing in care work and caregivers. Enabling the plurality of work and life plans means, on the one hand, expanding the institutional background in order to allow options at all. On the other hand, it would be time to allow questions in the legal profession as well, such as: Why shouldn't one devote more time to family or other personal issues in certain phases of life and then start again a little later? If we can (want or have to) work until our mid-60s and beyond - why do we have to climb the highest rungs of the career ladder by our mid-30s?

The compatibility of legal profession and family as well as a sustainable career for lawyers will certainly occupy me not only privately but also professionally in the future. You can be curious!

Please name your three very personal tips for success:

Tip 1: work smart not hard! Take care of your health.

At the beginning of my legal career, I still thought that more work would bring more results. First I had to learn that after a certain point in time, productivity and quality simply decrease. Intellectual activity such as developing complex solutions and writing opinions on more complex legal issues, which also require creative, critical and divergent thinking, requires a fit mind and it is often more useful to work smarter than just harder. Tip no. 1 is therefore: work smart not hard. You can only achieve full performance in the long term if you are doing well.

Tip 2: be calm! Detours are part of it.

We like to overlook the fact that success depends on the interaction of many factors. Happiness is certainly one of them and doing the right thing at the right time, but also just being in the right place at the right time. An important and often underestimated factor is the social background (i.e. being born in the right milieu at the right time). Much of it cannot be influenced or can only be planned to a limited extent, but you can always try to make the best of it and seize the opportunities that open up along the way. In my case, education was the key to a full life. My thirst for knowledge has even taken me to five European countries, which is still very valuable to me today.

My tip no. 2 is based on the serenity prayer: Accept what you cannot change, do what you can and always try to clearly distinguish one from the other.

Tip 3: Constantly develop your soft skills! They are your personal key to success.

My plea: Much more targeted training should be offered during the course in matters of sustainable career planning and life development. Sound legal knowledge, distinction exams and good-sounding degrees are often an advantage when starting a career, but they are not everything. In my opinion, to survive in the job in the long term, a lot more training in soft skills, topics of sustainable career planning and healthy life development, e.g. questions of compatibility, stress management, conflict resolution, cooperative and solution-oriented communication, would be needed both at the university and during the student's time. On an individual level, it would be very important to take care of yourself from the start: to know yourself with your strengths and weaknesses, your personality, to know what you want and what is important to you and, above all, to your own health and long-term performance to pay attention to. And a lot happens on the way: space and time for reflection and self-actualization is immensely important. It also takes a lot of skills development right from the start. And under “from the beginning” we can safely include our school days: it would be important to rethink many areas.

Many Thanks.

Ms. Mag. Kosa lives in Vienna with her husband and son. In the last few years she has dealt with educational issues and a sustainable career (among other things, besides her work, she volunteered to support working-class children).

Your personal motto in life is:

Life is colorful or "Everything will be all right in the end ... if it's not all right then it's not yet the end."

In this sense -


Your Dr. Geertje Tutschka, ACC

PS: With training, coaching and mentoring, we support law firms and lawyers in their professional and entrepreneurial development. Find the right lawyer or legal coach for you at www.coachingforlegals.com.

Originally published on May 2nd, 2016 on the former CLP blog JurCoach.