[Editor's Note: This marks the first of our weekly "International Posts," a new series of Q&As with lawyers working in foreign offices. Whether it’s an associate from Omaha structuring deals in Dubai or a partner who daydreams about her childhood in Paris while handling arbitrations in Astana, overseas experience is an increasingly common feature of big firm life. We'll focus on a different locale every Thursday, covering everything about lawyering abroad, from the type of work handled in different regions, to the financial considerations and culture shock of life as an expat.
As always, we welcome your feedback. Send your suggestions, profile candidates, travel advice and frequent flier miles to John Bringardner.]
“It’s always a rude awakening to come back to the U.S.,” Richard Weiner, founding and managing partner of Sidley Austin’s Brussels office said from Washington, D.C., early last Monday morning.
But Weiner, age 49, is no stranger to these rude awakenings. For the past two years, since he moved from Brussels to Washington with his wife and three children, aged 16, 14 and 11, he has been splitting his time between the two Sidley offices.
Though Weiner has only been with Sidley for five years, he has lived and worked in Europe for the past quarter-century. He first moved to the Belgian capital in 1989 as an associate with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he worked until going in-house with the European Commission — which he still represents today — in 1991. In the fall of 1992, Weiner’s wife Joann took a job in the Office of Tax Policy under the new Clinton administration, so the family moved back to D.C. and Richard lateralled to Hogan & Hartson.
In 1999, Weiner returned to Brussels for his “second tour of duty,” working at Hogan’s Brussels office until 2003 when he moved to Sidley, where he’s a member of the firm’s international trade and arbitration group.
Why did you decide to work in Brussels?
We did it for the life experience. Professionally it’s been fantastic. I was educated in the states, but my parents were both born in Europe and came here during World War II. My father was born in Vienna, but grew up in London. My mother was born in Germany, grew up in France and then moved to Cuba. So I grew up in that milieu, and naturally gravitated towards the practice of EU law.
Did you experience any culture shock when you started practicing in Brussels?
Personally, no. I didn’t have any culture shock because it was a culture I was familiar with — but I know a lot of Americans do. It’s a different kind of legal practice here and requires a different type of approach than you would have in the U.S. It’s not better or worse — just different.
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