The lawyer: Petra Heinicke from Munich | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 06.07.2010
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The lawyer: Petra Heinicke from Munich

Her most important tool is her recorder, into which she dictates 'legalese': words that mean nothing to most people, but that will determine the fate of her clients.

Petra Heinicke

Petra Heinicke sits in her sunny office at one of Munich's top addresses, just a few minutes' walk from the Karlsplatz. Holding a dictaphone in her hand, she records messages beginning: "To come back to the counseling session we conducted last week, I am transmitting you the attached summary as a memo."

These words may sound bone-dry to most, but for this 50-year-old, they are riveting. Buried in this kind of language is the fate of Heinicke's clients, who range from assembly-line workers to nurses, from bakers to administrators.

A Lawyer with a Heart

"Hi, Oskar!" the lawyer calls upon entering the office. Oskar is the brown mutt one of Heinicke's co-workers brings along to work. He is a daily source of joy for Heinicke, who loves dogs but can't keep any four-legged friends at home. "It wouldn't be fair to the dog, because my life is so irregular," she explains.

Petra feeding a small brown dog

Petra feeding the office dog

Discretion is the name of the game for lawyers; for Heinicke, her clients' privacy is paramount. However, she is quite happy to discuss the wider aspects of her job that fascinate her. "When I buy a newspaper at a kiosk, I don't particularly think about how the paper is produced," she explains. "But when you represent newspaper employees, or the people who print the paper, your image of the world gains new depth."

A Love Affair with Logic

Heinicke discovered her predilection for logical thinking while still in school, a passion that led her to study law. "It's what I enjoy the most: analyzing situations," she glows. Heinicke's employer happens to specialize in travel law, and Heinicke has been litigating for tour operators, writing standard form contracts and proofreading text for travel catalogs for over 20 years.

Tourism is not Heinicke's only focus. More and more the attorney is dealing with labor law, which poses the challenge of treating each person as an individul and not saying, 'this is the fiftieth lay-off I've seen this year,' but rather, 'this is the first time in this person's life that he or she has been laid off.'

brown glass object

Petra collects glass objects

Heinicke can sympathize with these clients, as she herself once lost a job. After being laid off, the lawyer quickly found a new direction: she and a partner opened their own law firm. Now she's the boss and has her own staff who look up to her. One young lawyer in her firm describes her as "A very kind, very committed and a very tough lady." And Heinicke's secretary adds: "She's very competent in her field, yet also quite friendly. Strict, but fair."

Bach, Books and Beakers

A lawyer's work life is hard to plan, and Heinicke also does volunteer work to boot.

Heinicke's private life is a solitary one. The lawyer is divorced and has no children. She lives alone in her three-bedroom apartment, where her passion is immediately obvious.

Her living room is filled with amber-colored glassware: "These are pieces I just couldn't pass by," she says.

After a stressful day at work, Heinicke relaxes at home, sipping a cup of tea and listening to music. At the moment her favorites are Bach concertos and South-American jazz. And, of course, no restful evening is spent without a good book - whether a classic, a biography or a detective story. On her bookshelf she prominently displays a volume entitled Justice is a Woman.

Author: Roman Goncharenko (dl)
Editor: Rina Goldenberg