German attorney gains confidence at Minnesota Law

Before settling into a career, many German lawyers travel abroad to earn an LL.M.

Some go to the United Kingdom, others to the United States.

For Christina Kappes, a Berlin-based attorney hoping to make her mark in labor and employment law, America was the easy choice. 

“My whole family came to the U.S.,” said Kappes, who completed her LL.M. at the University of Minnesota Law School this year. “I am just keeping up the tradition.”

It was at Michigan State University that Kappes’s parents fell in love. They came from different corners of the world. He was a German studying agronomy; she was a Guatemalan studying chemistry. After earning Ph.D. degrees, the couple moved to Frankfurt. There, the family spoke German, English and Spanish — and they added French to the mix during a three-year stint in Paris.

As a teenager in a German literature class, Kappes read and analyzed the work Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the 18th-century philosopher and writer.

“That’s when I discovered I really liked writing a lot,” she said. “That’s a skill that’s really important in law school.”

In 2016, Kappes graduated from the Faculty of Law at Humboldt University of Berlin, earning one of the top scores on the bar exam in the states of Berlin and Brandenburg. That same year, she co-authored an academic paper on the benefits of including nonunion employees in collective bargaining agreements.

At the University of Minnesota Law School, Kappes has studied employment discrimination, labor law, and employment law, among other subjects. 

“There are many law firms in Germany with international clients,” she said. “I’ve gained a better understanding of the U.S. legal system. I have more confidence now."

She returned to Berlin this summer for a two-year traineeship (required of all German attorneys) that includes stints working with a judge, prosecutor, administrative agency, and a law firm. After that, she must pass a second bar exam.


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