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As a teenager in the 1950s, Klaus Bohlhoff cycled from his hometown in Berlin to Rome. He had no set itinerary and instead went where the mood took him — sometimes veering off course to see a particular site or staying for extended periods in places where the locals were particularly friendly. It was a strange thing to do at a time when traveling for the sake of traveling wasn’t at all commonplace, but Bohlhoff says it was second nature to him. Nearly 50 years later, Bohlhoff’s love of traveling is clearly evident. For the last two years he has been the president of the International Bar Association — a role requiring him to visit exotic countries such as Mali, Ghana and even the proverbial Timbuktu. It is a job that has also required him to become somewhat of a diplomat, meeting heads of states and facilitating meetings between people who, under normal circumstances, would never meet. “I have seen things I would otherwise have never seen and done things I would never have done. I have met the most fascinating types of people.” This year, Bohlhoff steps down as IBA president, and after two years in the role he says he is ready to see “fresh blood” take over. “It has been one of the most fulfilling times in my life, but a job like this requires constant new energy and complete involvement. After two years there is a danger of it becoming routine.” FAMILY An international and commercial law specialist, Bohlhoff’s legal aspirations began when he was a child. He grew up in Berlin in a “legal environment.” His father, Kurt, was a business lawyer who would come home every day at lunchtime to eat with his family and discuss various cases. With law always in the background, it seemed natural to Bohlhoff that he should go on to study the profession. “I kept tradition by following my father into the law, but I deviated from tradition when I decided to pursue international law. It meant I could still travel, see foreign countries.” After completing law school and a brief training stint at top Dusseldorf firm Hengeler Kurth Wirtz, Bohlhoff accepted one of the first training positions ever offered to a foreigner at the EEC Commission in Brussels. New York was next on his agenda. “From a German point of view at the time, New York was regarded as the international business mecca. Nowadays London and other cities are equally as important, but at the time New York was it absolutely.” Between 1963 and 1964 Bohlhoff was employed as a foreign associate with Shearman & Sterling. It was also during this time that he met and married his wife, Mary Ann. Though he was tempted to stay in New York, a phone call from senior partner, “old Mr. Hengeler,” lured Bohlhoff back to Hengeler Kurth Wirtz. Within a year and at the tender age of 31, he was made partner. Bohlhoff is modest about his meteoric rise to partnership, simply saying the firm knew the way he worked and saw no reason to delay the inevitable. He never regretted his decision to return to Germany and says he was immediately assigned “interesting and international” cases. TEXACO His first major case came only months after he was made partner, giving him the chance to earn his spurs. American gas giant Texaco was looking to purchase the German petrol station network known as DEA. A client of Shearman & Sterling, Texaco needed German representation. Bohlhoff’s former colleagues at the New York firm put his name forward. “To be fair there is no way they would have come to me if I had not had the backing of a top German firm,” says Bohlhoff. “But I did, so it worked out.” The Texaco / DEA transaction turned out to be the biggest capital markets deal in German history. Another case that stands out in Bohlhoff’s mind came in 1979 when he was hired by a German firm to arrange a major construction contract in China. China, after years of being closed off to the outside world, was allowing foreign investment for the first time, and an American banking consortium was given permission to build a power plant. The German firm supplying the materials hired Bohlhoff. His task was to draw up the contracts between the Americans, Germans and Chinese. Bohlhoff spent weeks going through the contracts paragraph by paragraph with Chinese officials and was struck by the way they conducted their business. “At the beginning they had no idea what the law even was, and contracts were completely strange to them. By the end of it all, they understood and kept those contracts to the letter. There was no deviation from what was set out at all.” NOMINATED Bohlhoff’s introduction to the IBA 25 years ago came about when his colleagues at Hengeler Kurth Wirtz decided to nominate someone to join the organization. Bohlhoff, as the most “international,” was the obvious choice. Passionate about the IBA from the first, Bohlhoff soon found himself chairing various committees, including the banking committee and the section on business law. In 1990, he founded the Asia Pacific Forum. From 1994 to 1996 he was IBA treasurer, then vice president and finally, in 1998, he was appointed president. Looking back on the last two years Bohlhoff finds it difficult to neatly sum up the highlights, but says meeting and talking with Chinese President Jiang Zemin for over an hour stands out firmly in his mind. He also recalls with great clarity an official visit to Pakistan, during which he met General Musharraf — the man who would go on to lead a successful military coup and seize control of the government. As his presidency draws to a close, Bohlhoff intends to remain involved with the IBA and is likely to be assigned a place on the nominating committee. He also plans to devote more time to his corporate law practice at Hengeler Mueller Weitzel Wirtz — as Hengeler Kurth Wirtz is now called. This involves commuting between the firm’s Dusseldorf and New York offices — which Bohlhoff says suits his jet-setting personality perfectly. Despite his hectic career, Bohlhoff always finds time to relax and spend with his family. While none of his three daughters have followed him into a legal career, they have all taken up professions that require a good deal of traveling. Says Bohlhoff, “One is a photographer, one studies social anthropology at Colombia University in New York, and the other is a travel agent.” As for relaxing, Bohlhoff enjoys attending the opera, reading, playing the odd round of golf and, of course, there is always traveling. “I travel for my work, and I travel for relaxation. I love it,” he laughs.

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