Mercedes has always felt that family life is a great asset in her role as a lawyer – and vice versa.
“When I started at Vinge in 2009 my boys were nine and six-and-a-half and played ice hockey. In the first five years, I spent a lot of time at ice rinks drafting contracts while they practised. I found it very relaxing. These days I might be trying to solve a tricky issue while I’m baking cakes for the kids. Obviously we’re governed by what our clients need and during certain periods we work a lot, but there’s a flexibility here that I like. This job is a big part of my life, and that’s the way I like it because it’s so enjoyable and exciting.”
Mercedes applied to Vinge in Gothenburg as a new law graduate, looking to work and develop in insolvency law. Over time, she also developed an interest in real estate law. Now a trustee specialising in real estate law, she finds the two areas complement each other very nicely.
“In simplified terms, insolvency law is about closing something down that’s dead and gone, while real estate law is more about ongoing, often quick and therefore very much ‘living’ deals. You can’t be a good insolvency lawyer without having an insight into ongoing, living business, and I think you’re a better real estate lawyer and have more humility if you’re aware of what an unwise decision or bad luck can bring about.”
Being able to develop in two different law specialities, as Mercedes has done, is down to the way new recruits start out at Vinge. The rotation programme means new members of staff try out at least three areas of law, while personal initiative is encouraged at the same time.
“I started out in the real estate group and rotated to the litigation group, the tax group, bankruptcy, M&A, and finally back to the real estate group. But right from the beginning I was talking to the insolvency lawyers about my desire to manage bankruptcy cases. The more experienced lawyers tend to respond well when others share their special interests, and that opens a lot of doors. The lines of communication are open here, and new recruits are encouraged to take responsibility. Some may need a gentle shove to take that first step, but they’ll quickly realise that at Vinge there is a really open atmosphere.”
While all new members of staff are encouraged to take responsibility, Vinge’s work model has very little room for sharp elbows.
“Because of our size, we need to secure organic growth. Our projects are staffed so that people with different levels of experience have an opportunity to work in and grow into a specialist area. There is room for everyone to gradually take on more and more responsibility.”
Mercedes recommends asking questions and showing interest, but she also has one other piece of advice for all new members of staff.
“During the rotation programme, I learned to treat every colleague as a client. So always to focus on the task, always to be on time, and to show respect and good judgement in other ways too. That way you learn to be a legal consultant, not just someone who looks into legal issues.”
Mercedes recently returned from the Sweden Rock Festival in southern Sweden, a long weekend that included Aerosmith’s final gig in the country. It’s become a tradition at Vinge in Gothenburg to go to the festival, a tradition Mercedes started. Mercedes looks back on when she first joined, wondering whether she would fit in.
“I had an idea in my head of a large law firm, which turned out to be wrong. I think I expected a certain kind of person, whereas the reality is there are all kinds of people with varying interests and a very accepting attitude. Yes, we all have and take a lot of responsibility for our clients and cases, but you’re never alone, and there’s always support and inspiration to be found among colleagues. Quite simply, we have a great time together. I discovered you don’t have to be the grandchild of a judge to become a lawyer. And that, at Vinge, it’s fine to just be you.”