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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Bernd Weller is highlighted for his profound knowledge of workplace regulations and collective employment law.

Questions & Answers

Bernd Weller studied law at the universities of Trier, Ferrara and Strasbourg; he is fluent in German, English and Italian. Since 2002, he has been admitted to the bar and since 2006, he has been a certified specialist lawyer in labour and employment law. Bernd co-heads the firm’s labour and employment group. Over the years, he has become a well-renowned specialist for labour law issues, mainly all negotiations and litigation with works councils and trade unions.

Describe your career to date.

I started my career in an international law firm, where I stayed for almost seven years. I am still grateful for the excellent training, trustful relations and brilliant role models I enjoyed there. 

In 2009, I joined Heuking and established my own labour and employment practice; it was the right decision at the right time. No burned bridges albeit the fact that some clients followed me.

With lockdown restrictions in place, how have you managed to best balance work and home life?

There is no “have managed” but a constant recalibration of business and family needs. My wife works as well and the kids’ needs change constantly depending on the changing decisions of schools and government. Lockdown has, however, had one great result: historically, lawyers were always expected to (or at least felt that they were) be available 24/7 and family was something reserved for small talk but could never be “in the way”. Now that literally everybody globally has had to face the same challenges, business has become more “human”. It is no big deal to postpone a telephone/video conference because of family reasons. I am confident and hopeful that this will remain. It would be helpful as well for female lawyers to have more trust in their career rather than thinking that it is “either career / or family” – which it is not.

What potential challenges does the covid-19 vaccination pose to workforces? How are you ensuring that you and your clients are well equipped to tackle them?

There is a plethora of challenges. Starting with the expected approach that several countries will let foreigners enter only if vaccinated and/or negative-tested. The same might become a reality for business partners to demand such proof before entering a meeting. Going over the general wish of employers to protect workforces and their business goals by vaccinating employees and ending with the healthcare sector where – for responsibility vis-à-vis the patients – employees might be demanded to be vaccinated. 

Of course, that is a sensitive topic. Vaccination is not and will not be mandatory in most countries, (non-)vaccination (and the reasons for it) is particularly sensitive information under the GDPR and it might trigger anti-discrimination protection.

We have increased the frequency and the extent of cost-free information/updates for our clients. The ever-changing nature of the last 12 months has taught us that we need to provide our clients with an increased service level to cope with the situation.

In light of the pandemic, what changes will employers need to consider in order to ensure optimal occupational health and safety in the workplace?

The pandemic has taught us all that we generally need to observe a higher standard of hygiene and awareness. Changes will be more in the small rather than “big” things: we will no longer turn up our noses over people wearing masks – like we did for years. It will no longer be seen as “weak” to stay home with “just a cough and the sniffles”. And employers will have to take a firmer stand in this regard – discouraging sick employees to show up at work.

What impact will technological innovation have on labour and employment practice in the next five to 10 years?

On the one hand, more and more of what has fed us lawyers in the past has become, and will become, a convenience product that can be obtained cost-free. So, there is a push towards ever more specialised advice. That makes it more difficult to train new lawyers and give them room to develop. On the other hand, legal advice will have to become a seamless part of our clients’ internal processes – including the IT landscape. That will change the law firms’ internal process drastically – finally.

What developments in Germany should foreign practitioners be following and why?

After more than a decade, Germany will have a new government and a new chancellor in fall 2021. The elections are as open as ever. The Social Democrats, the left and former GDR-party and the Greens could form a new coalition. That may then result in a significant approach of the new government vis-à-vis the economy (particularly with regard to the energy and real estate sector and new forms of “cloud working”), taxation and employee rights. Until then, the current coalition will have to focus on the coronavirus pandemic only and will, most likely, not initiate any new legislation. 

What do you think will be the greatest challenge faced by the next generation of employment lawyers?

Apart from obvious challenges (AI, legal tech, etc), one of the greater challenges  will be on a completely different field: we are heading towards societies where public judgement far removed from a real legal basis has become normal, is being considered more and more by judges and is more threatening to the reputation and success of both companies and lawyers. It will be challenging to follow and defend the rule of law. A new twist – not protection against the government but against “public judgements”.

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

The partner I was working for during the first years of my career kept saying “a lawyer is a self-employed person – even if he/she is working in an employment relationship”. If one follows that guidance in all aspects, most of the lame and dumb questions and self-restrictions fall apart.

Global Leader

Labour & Employment 2021

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Bernd Weller is “an excellent lawyer” who is singled out among peers as “very bright and user friendly”.

Biography

Bernd Weller is a partner in and co-head of the employment law team of Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek. As a fluent speaker in English, Italian and German, he advises the firm's national and international clients on all labour and employment law aspects, both contentious and non-contentious. His areas of practice focus mainly on all aspects of collective labour law issues, namely works council matters, collective bargaining issues and industrial actions. Bernd has won particular recognition for his expertise in these legal aspects and his practical negotiation and litigation skills in this regard. Furthermore, Bernd often deals with compliance-related tasks (internal investigations ad disciplinary measures), restructurings, the protection of confidential company information as well as data protection issues related to employment law.

Bernd Weller studied law at the Universities of Trier, Ferrara (Italy) and Strasbourg (France). He was admitted to the Bar in 2002 and became a certified specialist for employment law in 2006.

Since then, Bernd Weller has authored numerous publications and he holds regular seminars on employment law, in particular on works council issues, and trains other certified employment law specialists. Bernd Weller is a regular speaker at national and international seminars and conferences.

Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek is a partnership with more than 400 lawyers, tax advisers and civil law notaries with eight offices in Germany and an office and Zurich, making it one of the major commercial law firms in Germany. The firm's employment practice group is very active and expanding. It consists of about 40 highly specialised lawyers covering all aspects of both national and international employment and labour law.

National Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Bernd Weller “a well-known name in Germany” for labour and employment matters and has impressive experience with a range of contentious and non-contentious issues.

Biography

Bernd Weller is a partner in and co-head of the employment law team of Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek. As a fluent speaker in English, Italian and German, he advises the firm's national and international clients on all labour and employment law aspects, both contentious and non-contentious. His areas of practice include, in addition to the support of transactions, the restructuring of groups of companies and operations, outsourcing, TUPE-related questions, mass dismissals, the drafting of employment contracts for all levels of employees (including board members) and data protection issues related to employment law. Bernd Weller is particularly praised for his expertise in collective labour law issues, namely works council matters, collective bargaining issues and industrial actions.

Bernd Weller studied law at the Universities of Trier, Ferrara (Italy) and Strasbourg (France). He was admitted to the Bar in 2002 and became a certified specialist for employment law in 2006.

Since then, Bernd Weller has authored numerous publications and he holds regular seminars on employment law, in particular on works council issues, and trains other certified employment law specialists. Bernd Weller is a regular speaker at national and international seminars and conferences.

With more than 400 lawyers, tax advisors and notaries providing legal services across eight offices in Germany as well as an office in Zurich. Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek is one of the major commercial law firms in Germany. The firm's employment practice group is very active and expanding. It consists of about 40 highly specialised lawyers covering all aspects of both national and international employment and labour law.

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