Alumni Profile Series: Jessica McBride '06
Name: Jessica McBride
Class Year: 2006
Current Residence(s): Frankfurt and Berlin, Germany
Current Position: Principal Associate at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
After spending the summer of her freshman year at the Goethe Institute in Munich, honing her grasp of German and exploring the country, Jessica McBride ’06 knew that she wanted to move to Germany when she graduated from Princeton.
“I think from that point on, I knew that I felt much happier in Germany than I did in the United States,” said McBride.
Although she majored in history, McBride’s college experience was defined by her work in the German department. Her senior thesis focused on the experiences of German prisoners of war returning to post-war Berlin. She completed the language program, interned in Germany through the Summer Work Program for three summers straight, and even spent a semester living in Berlin.
“That was, academically, a disaster, but personally a huge development period for me,” said McBride. “It really introduced me to a bunch of wildly different things — that was Berlin of 2004. I live part-time in Berlin now, and the city is still awesome, but not as grungily, dirtily, weirdly awesome as it was back then.”
Upon graduation, McBride headed back to Berlin on a Fulbright scholarship, teaching at a school for socially disadvantaged students in Neuköln. She was set to start her life in Germany. By the end of the year, however, McBride had cooled on her original plans and decided that she wanted to focus on professional development. She took the LSAT, applied to law schools, and was accepted into the New York University School of Law.
Before attending, McBride spent six months in India working for a pro-bono lawyer in Delhi. This experience reaffirmed her decision to go to law school, which she did upon coming back from India in 2008. After passing her bar, McBride joined Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and settled down in New York.
A few years in, McBride decided she wanted a change of scenery and switched into the firm’s Latin American group. After moving to work in Buenos Aires, however, she missed living in Germany and decided that it was time to go back.
“This precipitated a long process of figuring out how to do that, because law is one of the most nationally bound professions that you can choose,” said McBride. “I ended up being very fortunate to find a position at Freshfields in their structured finance department and moved in December 2018 back to Frankfurt.”
For McBride, the move was a challenge. Her colleagues are highly trained, and the German law system has important intricacies.
“It has been an adventure trying to find my footing in this environment,” said McBride. “It is an adventure that is still continuing, but I feel that progress is being made.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Freshfields sent workers home in the middle of March. The firm let a limited number of younger people back into the office in May on a voluntary basis. As the summer rolled on and Germany’s case count remained stable, the firm began allowing more people to come back. Not all German businesses did this; Volkswagen, for example, kept work remote through June.
During the quarantine, McBride would go on runs and see friends for socially distanced walks. Still, there was plenty of work for finance departments at law firms, as the crisis brought about a sudden need for liquidity.
McBride has praised the German government’s response to the pandemic, but she worries that the economic situation will become more dire in October, when many important business bailout schemes will be phased out. For many financially unstable firms, McBride predicts that this will be a mortal blow.
Given the current world economic situation, McBride advises current students to look into professional schools. She also underlines the potential in the German Department’s Summer Work Program offerings.
“The opportunities that the work program presents are really not to be snuffed at. It’s hard for me to imagine what work experience I could have gotten that would have been so diverse and so well-supported,” said McBride. “It’s quite a luxury to be able to live in a foreign country for a month or two and not have to worry about money. The [Summer Work Program] is an incredible opportunity, and I would take advantage of that. It gave me a lot of exposure and taught me a lot of good German.”