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Thought Leaders

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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader
WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Bernd Weller is a prominent figure in the German market who is described as a “go-to lawyer for collective employment law matters”.

Questions & Answers

Bernd is a partner of Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek PartGmbB. With Andreas Walle, he co-heads the firm’s labour and employment practice. Most of Bernd’s work is related to works council issues – both contentious and non-contentious – in which he is regarded as one of the leading experts. Bernd has always been drawn towards matters with international aspects, as he studied not only in Germany but also in France and Italy. As a consequence, most of his clients are international companies or groups of companies.

What attracted you to a career in labour and employment law?

At university, I was initially fascinated by all international topics: international comparative law, international public law, European law. When it then came closer to the end of my university career, I attended a seminar on international labour and employment law. There, I noticed that labour law is subject to constant change like no other field of law. Constant changes in the law and international references, for example in the representation of globally active companies, require great flexibility and creativity. So I found both an international aspect and a “real-life” angle. Since then, I have stuck to this topic.

What do you find most challenging about handling industrial relations matters?

Actually, industrial relations are the core of each and every business. And both sides interact on a basis that is not always purely rational. This tension between complex legal questions, the economic interests involved and pure psychology is where the success of a business is determined. What could be more challenging?

Your practice spans a range of sectors and industries – to what extent is sector-specific knowledge on the part of the lawyer important when handling labour and employment cases?

There is not that much of a sector-specific legal framework. Thus, one could think that sector experience is of no value for a lawyer. Actually, it is quite to the contrary. Only if you truly understand your clients’ business model and processes may you find the best solution for the client. It is our lawyers’ job to understand the goal and to then find the best way to get there. It is not so much the mere technicality of drafting the perfect contract for the provisions a client has explained to you.

What impact has Germany’s approach to whistle-blower reporting over the past year or so had on the type of work you have been receiving?

Germany is still quite a difficult terrain for whistle-blowers. They are not well reputed, for historical reasons. It is interesting to see how businesses now react to, and implement, the whistle-blowing directive. And it will be even more interesting to see its effects on German society and our legal system.

What is the greatest effect that the introduction of GDPR has had on the labour and employment market in Germany?

Under article 15, the GDPR offers quite extensive information rights. The Higher Regional Court of Cologne has made a remarkable statement: “The German legal system does not know pre-discovery like in the Anglo-American legal system; in the end, however, article 15 of the GDPR is granting something similar”. The effect has not yet been understood by the market, but it will be understood quickly.

To what extent has legal tech become an important aspect of labour and employment practice?

Everybody is talking about legal tech. Legal tech has already had a massive effect on (mass) consumer claims (flightright, etc); in the labour and employment sector, we have not seen such an effect yet. The first attempts to establish similar platforms have not yet become a viable business model – presumably because of the low legal costs in labour courts.

In your opinion, where does the future of labour and employment law lie?

Currently, most national labour and employment laws are driven by the legislative wish to protect employees, as work is the only way to safeguard an economic existence. That concept will not be sustainable if more and more work is replaced by robots and AI. Once our society has found a new economic basis for everybody to live on, that will “uncramp” industrial and employment relations. Already the younger generations today feel bewildered by the traditional and ritualistic contrast between the employer and employee sides.

What advice would you give to those looking to establish a career in the law?

As a lawyer, you will be successful only if your clients accept you as a trusted adviser. Legal excellence is only the first of many criteria that must be fulfilled to be accepted as such. I sometimes have the impression that young people today are afraid of creating experiences, because they have been told that only the best and quickest will get a good job. As a consequence, CVs of applicants are streamlined. My advice is: think, be critical! Where did you get an information from? Why is this source reliable? Why do you let other people decide about your life? You can only be good at what you love – so go and live your life!

Global Leader

Labour & Employment 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

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

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.

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 is “a pragmatic and sharp lawyer” who is held in high esteem for his ability to find “intelligent and creative solutions” for clients.

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 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.

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