Marius Janke is an in-house lawyer at Deutsche Bahn in the area of data protection law, a graduate of the Double Degree Program and an alumnus of the 20th EULISP class.
17.07.2021 – Interview
Hello Marius, thank you for taking the time for this interview today. To start, we would like to ask you what your personal motivation was for applying to the EULISP program.
As a native Hanoverian, returning to my hometown for a semester after my first state examination was very convenient for me. In addition, there were other important points. For one thing, it was important to me not to do the LL.M. just for the sake of it; I also wanted to choose a professionally respected program that matched my interests. Because in addition to the classic legal topics of digitization and intellectual property, there were also offerings here such as contract negotiation, legal design thinking, and comparative law events. This mix really appealed to me, and even then I found the data protection law offering very interesting.
When I applied for the LL.M., I was about to take my first state exam and noticed that these topics were not covered in our university courses, even though digital business models using data were already in full swing at that time. Therefore, I found the EULISP program very interesting as it covered these areas. I also found the opportunity to spend a large part of the program in a Scandinavian country very appealing.
Were you then able to use the content you covered and learned in the EULISP when you started your career and also later in your professional life?
Yes, that was definitely an advantage. On the one hand, there were of course legal aspects that I got to know during the program and could then put to good use when I started my career. I recognized a lot of the topics and was therefore able to quickly understand them and deepen my knowledge. For me personally, starting my career in a commercial law firm was also characterized by international work. The language skills I was able to consolidate in the English-speaking environment in Oslo helped me a lot with international assignments and gave me more personal confidence in working with clients.
As you just said, you spent your second EULISP semester in Oslo. What did you like most about studying there?
What I particularly liked about Oslo was that it took a very different approach to learning and assessments than we know from our German legal training. In Germany, education is still notorious for its rigor and strict assessment. In addition, there is often a not so well functioning interaction between universities and state examination offices up to really outdated legal bases for legal education. I did not experience these aspects in Oslo. My impression was that teaching and examinations there were much more at eye level with the students. In contrast to the often prevailing concern in Germany about bad evaluations, in Oslo I rather felt that the students approached the topics with more courage and confidence. The lecturers and students were interested in developing new ideas and legal approaches together, instead of simply learning a huge amount of legal areas by heart and testing them in various types of exams within a very short time.
I also really liked the fact that teaching and exams in Oslo were largely digital as early as 2015. When I told my Norwegian fellow students that here in Germany you have to write six five-hour exams by hand, which then have to be deciphered by the correctors, it caused quite a bit of astonishment.
Apart from your studies, which you enjoyed very much, how did you use your time in Oslo?
What I particularly liked was that student life in Oslo often took place outdoors. For example, students could rent skiing equipment very cheaply. I also liked the other activities offered by the university for students, such as hut trips lasting several days in the mountainous surroundings of Oslo. When the weather was bad, we could use the university’s modern gyms, swimming pools and saunas.
In general, I found it interesting that many Norwegians do not sit in the office for so long and many still met early in the evening for sports or went out drinking. Overall, there was a very high quality of life.
Today you work as an in-house lawyer at Deutsche Bahn. Why did you decide to pursue this career path, and was this already your plan during your studies?
To be honest, I didn’t have a clear plan in mind during my training; a lot of things happened step by step. I was aware early on that I wanted to see and get to know as many professional facets as possible in order to be able to make a good professional decision later on. My career path only became clearer to me through the stages of my traineeship. Especially through the experiences I made while working at the German Foreign Office and during my time at the German Embassy in New Delhi.
After my legal clerkship, I knew that I wanted to either become a diplomat or support commercial enterprises with regard to the legal aspects of digitization. In the end, I decided to take the path of legal counsel in a law firm. During my work at the law firm, I got to know companies of various sizes and industries. This also gave me the idea of working as in-house counsel and thus being an even more integral part of a company with its products and processes than I was in the commercial law firm as an external consultant. In the area of IT and data protection law and the associated digitalization topics, you get very close to colleagues from other disciplines compared to other legal specializations, which also prompted me to move to the Group.
Like many other companies, the Deutsche Bahn Group faces the challenge of making large volumes of data useful for its business purposes. At what point are data protection lawyers involved in these processes?
We advise the projects and stakeholders in two main areas. One is customer data protection, i.e. end-customer data protection, and the other is employee data protection. Regarding the issue of using end-customer data for our business purposes, products and improving travel experiences, we are involved very early and advise from the very beginning of a product idea. For example, in addition to traditional topics such as drafting legal documents, drafting contracts, and negotiating contracts, we have the very specific focus on digital product development that I just mentioned. That means we collaborate on the development of new apps and websites that facilitate our clients’ journey. I find that particularly exciting because you have to dive deep into technical aspects. In this setting, you can help shape the legal path from the outset with privacy issues like Privacy by Design and Privacy by Default. This is often challenging in early product development phases. I always notice that you have to coordinate legal topics very closely with other disciplines such as technology, design and marketing. Of course, the Group’s data strategy also plays a very important role here.
At the same time, data protection law is also often perceived as disruptive and overregulated, which also corresponds to its image in the public perception. The exciting thing is that we can jointly develop innovative product solutions despite the regulatory requirements, and data protection law rarely really represents a final obstacle for us. Even though it always means a lot of work to establish data protection compliance, we can definitely design a lot within the framework of the legal requirements. That’s one of our biggest challenges, but also one of the things that makes the job the most fun.
You just mentioned that you work a lot with colleagues from other disciplines on the product side, especially from the IT sector. Do you have the impression that the EULISP program has given you the technical basics that make it easier for you to understand technical issues?
Definitely. During the EULISP, I was also able to get a taste of non-legal and more technical topics without having to understand everything down to the last technical detail. In my opinion, this is not what lawyers are expected to do, but it makes it much easier to work together when you get out of your own specialist world. Lawyers have a very unique way of thinking, and we find some things problematic that technicians don’t find problematic at all, and vice versa. You need patience to keep asking questions until you have really understood something in such a way that it can be legally evaluated.
Looking back, what would you say is the importance of EULISP for your career in general?
On the one hand, the EULISP enabled me to stand out professionally as a young professional and thus to be able to take the path into the highly specialized field of digitalization topics in a commercial law firm. Looking back, the LL.M. program definitely contributed a lot to my personal development. I learned to break away from the lawyer’s perspective and to be more open to the ways of thinking and needs of other disciplines.