Mathilde Houet-Weil is admitted to practice in Paris and New York and joined Weil & Associés in 2003. Mathilde has been representing English and German-speaking clients in a broad range of employment-related litigation matters for 25 years. She counsels HR managers of global companies on their most important and sensitive employment issues. She has extensive experience in re-organisations (down-sizing, closing of plants, business transfers, international and national mobility) as well as in matters involving corporate policies, privacy, employment discrimination, whistleblowing, wrongful termination claims and internal investigations.
What inspired you to pursue a legal career?
The role playing. I find it fascinating that we lawyers act in the name of numerous and very different parties all the time. In court, all players appear to me like a bunch of actors, wearing a robe and pretending to be a character just for the duration of the show. We deliver our message in the most persuasive manner, then go on to the next case where we will act in a completely different way, pursuing a completely different goal – albeit with an unaltered passion.
What do you enjoy most about working in labour and employment law?
There is no day like the other and we are learning all the time. Each new case offers a unique combination of legal challenges and human aspects that forces us to shake up our convictions, be creative and figure out tailor-made solutions. I feel that we put a lot of ourselves and our personalities into our cases because there are so many different ways to handle them.
I also enjoy the very strong human aspect. We are constantly dealing with a wide range of individuals from various backgrounds. Employment law is a very lively practice where human nature plays as important a role as the ever-changing rule of law.
How has the market changed since you first started practising?
When I started 25 years ago, it was only the beginning of globalisation. With an ever-growing connection between all countries, the needs of our clients have evolved to include a broader picture extending beyond our borders.
Multinational corporations typically seek to roll out one common plan or policy for all their subsidiaries across various jurisdictions and we need to make adjustments to make them compliant locally, while bearing in mind the goal of our client.
How has your dual qualification at the American and French bars enhanced your practice?
Learning about the American legal system and sitting for the New York Bar after six years of practice in Paris has been a real eye opener for me. I found it particularly enriching to adjust to another way of approaching and solving legal issues, especially across the common law/civil law divide. A “double-trained” mind enhances legal creativity and helps one think outside the legal box.
What type of matters are clients currently seeking advice on most frequently? What would you say is driving this?
One of the hot topics currently is privacy. The protection of privacy is a transversal concern that translates into most aspects of employment law and became even more pressing two years ago with the GDPR Act.
The respect for privacy and the necessary line between personal life and work is particularly challenged with the rise of teleworking during this health crisis.
How is the labour and employment market in France responding to the covid-19 pandemic?
Businesses here have benefited from wide support from the government and were able to put their workforce on partial activity thanks to generous state subsidies. This helped avoid reductions in workforce despite heavy drops in turnover, especially but not only in the hospitality segment. However, some of these downsizings were only postponed and now we are starting to see collective lay-offs for the companies that are the most affected by the health crisis.
What advice would you give to younger practitioners hoping to one day be in your position?
To anyone seeking to practice in an international environment, I would definitely recommend not only to learn other languages but also to become familiar with foreign cultures.
Because of the strong human aspect in my practice, it is very important and most interesting to get to understand who you are dealing with, and how to best connect and communicate in an efficient way.
Some psychological sensitivity is key to understand and anticipate how people are likely to react, and to be able to “read between the lines” and get the real message in the light of cultural codes.
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
Never, never, never surrender (Winston Churchill) – for battles can eventually be won when all hope seems lost.
After several years of practice with major international law firms, Mathilde Houet-Weil joined Weil & Associés in 2003 to lead and develop the firm's labour and employment law department.
Mathilde has over 20 years’ experience representing English and German-speaking clients in a broad range of employment and labour-related litigation matters. She regularly counsels HR managers of global companies concerning their most important and sensitive employment issues. She has extensive experience advising employers with respect to matters arising out of reorganisations (downsizing, closing of plants, business transfers, international and national mobility) as well as matters involving corporate policies, employment discrimination, whistleblower claims, breach of contract and wrongful termination claims, internal investigations, and matters concerning mandatory working hours. Mathilde represents clients in labour courts, civil courts, criminal courts and administrative courts.
Mathilde's dual French-American education enables her to represent Anglo-Saxon companies in a global environment, thanks to a pragmatic approach focused on the economic stakes at hand and on solutions that fit into the social strategy of the company.
Her excellent knowledge of the German language and German culture also led her to deal with French-German cross-border cases.
Mathilde earned a master’s degree in Paris, an LLM from Duke University, USA, and is admitted to practise in Paris and New York.
Mathilde is a recognised labour and employment law specialist, and regularly speaks at conferences hosted by the American Bar Association, the International Bar Association and the Canadian Bar Association.
Mathilde is the author/co-author of numerous publications, including International Labor and Employment Laws and Social Networking, published by the labour and employment law section of the American Bar Association.Mathilde is fluent in French, English and German.