In-service doctoral studies at Noerr


Dr. Christiane Berr | Counsel | Commercial & Real Estate | Munich:

"What? In-service study during the working day?" Is that practical? This was all about the in-service production of a dissertation about which my boss had just spoken to me. It was something that I had never ruled out completely. Even after I started work as a lawyer, the idea of doing a doctorate had come into my mind again and again, with greater or lesser force. The upshot of our conversation was that this is something that Noerr encourages.

No sooner said than done: I started looking for a subject for my dissertation. I found one in transport law. Next came the reading-in stage, which was uncharted territory, and the search for literature – folder by folder. There was also a synopsis to put together.

With these preliminaries completed and my admission to doctoral study secured, the "how" was soon sorted out with Noerr. We agreed a four-month sabbatical from my work as a lawyer.

I knew I would not be able to work efficiently within my own four walls, and the timescale was tight. It would work only if I did not do it at home. These considerations led to Noerr making a room available for me. We preempted my concerns that my plan might "fall victim" to my work with clients if I were present in the office by moving me into a different building, where I could give free rein to my enthusiasm incognito and unseen by colleagues.

"Nobody cares whether or not you are there and what you have done with the day" – this is the first difference that struck me directly as I started my dissertation. In contrast to the past few years at Noerr, I had to exercise self-discipline again. No clients needing a result urgently, no colleagues with a short-notice audit assignment, no external deadlines, and no requirement to be present. Apart from the limited time window, it was now up to me to create the necessary pressure myself – an unaccustomed feeling compared with my recent years at Noerr. This worked best if I stubbornly drove to the office in the morning to write my dissertation – just as if I really did have to go to work – and then home again in the evening. In addition, I realised quite quickly that I would not need to come up with any practical solutions for the next four months. For now, it was again mainly a matter of pure theory and detail. However, I also became aware of one significant advantage, which I had underestimated: the professional experience that I had gained during the past few years at Noerr. The routine of structuring, formulating and prioritising that I had learned enabled me to make rapid progress. Four months later, the dissertation was ready. A few changes and improvements were sorted out on the side and at weekends. One week's leave went on some last fine-tuning – and soon it was all over!!! In my opinion, in-service doctoral study is an excellent alternative to doing it before you embark on your career. Especially in light of the support you get from Noerr, it is also one that you can complete in all manner of different ways.