Legal Education in Germany

The German legal education is certainly different and by some means more difficult than its American counterpart. Although passing the First State Exam ends the law school portion of a student`s education, graduates are not automatically admitted to the German Bar, and although debates to loosen this restriction abound, nor can they join the judicial or other public service sectors as a qualified jurist. To become fully admitted as an attorney (Rechtsanwalt) and thereby eligible for a public service career ("Volljurist" or "Assessor"), law school graduates must first complete a two-year rotation or clerkship, much like an American medical doctor would complete residency. 

During the clerkship, each graduate (Referendar) completes four 6-month clerkships in the following four legal environments (Station or Stage):

  1. Judicial clerkship with a court
  2. District attorney's office
  3. Government agency
  4. Law firm

During the final three or four months of the last Station, the Referendar is given the opportunity to choose an elective clerkship (Wahlstation) according to his or her interests or career objectives. The Wahlstation is what leads many Referendare to the U.S., where they intern with U.S. law  firms or U.S. public agencies.

Referendare receive a small salary from the German government to set off living expenses and are considered German civil servants for that period. Because Referendare receive a Government stipend and are considered German civil servants, any compensation they receive during the Wahlstation that exceeds the amount that the Referndare receives from the government reduces the amount of money paid by the government.  A U.S. law firm hosting a Referendar in a Wahlstation is not required to compensate the Referendar for work performed.  The law firm may, at its own choosing, pay for other expenses (e.g., moving expenses, transportation costs).  However, the law firm should be aware of the impact on the Referendar if the law firm chooses to provide any compensation.

If your firm or agency is interested in knowing more, please contact us. 





Translation/localization courtesy of the Accuracy Legal and Financial Language Services LLC,