It is with great pleasure that I follow the suggestion to submit some of my recollections and words of thanks as a Fulbright alumnus. I was privileged after having finished my law studies at the University of Vienna to enter into and complete a post‐graduate program at New York University School of Law in New York City, one of the oldest and finest Law Schools in the US. This opportunity, as it turned out, was the single most experience of lasting influence on my (professional) life and later on even on a law partnership which I entered into with Austrian colleagues and friends.
It was as early as in the summer of 1963 when I embarked on this American adventure and found myself amidst a wonderful group of international students at NYU in a most inspiring academic environment around Washington Square in the Southern part of Manhattan. Luckily, I still was able to experience John F. Kennedy as President of the US before I became witness of the tragedy which happened that very year on the memorable November 22. It was his legacy at the time which greatly impressed me. From among the many quotes of this great statesman, there was one that I particularly remembered: "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." I found out that this reflected an attitude which applies not only to the country but also to your family, your job or profession, your clients, friends etc. In this connection, I had realized during my early time in the US that people there were often willing to give another person an advance credit and trust. I did not remember that from "old Europe" but I found it extremely motivating. I hope I have saved that attitude myself ever since.
I should mention that my studies at NYU permitted me to qualify for work at the renowned law‐firm of Debevoise & Plimpton (at that time called Debevoise, Plimpton, Lyons & Gates) in New York City. I even got a chance to get to know and work for such personalities as Eli Whitney Debevoise and Robert B. von Mehren and that was again a particular enrichment and stimulation for me. The former had been general counsel to the Allied Commission that administered Germany's affairs in the years after World War II and the later was instrumental in creating the legal structure of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. It probably helped me that he knew Austria. It was during the time with this New York law firm when I developed an enthusiasm and compassion for legal work on a broader basis. During the 60s lawyers back in Europe were mostly confined to their national jurisdictions and were not at all looking beyond national boundaries. That was different at such international law firms as Debevoise & Plimpton.
While my Fulbright Scholarship had a lasting impact on my life, this was not immediately felt at the time, when I returned to Austria in 1966. The world was not globalised in those days and all my new knowledge and experience gained did not obviously improve my employability. In other words, it was hard to come back. Nevertheless, I was eventually able to profit from and make use of my incredible Fulbright experiences in the US. With Austrian partners we were able to develop what then became an Austrian law firm of a new dimension, with a truly international reach (For its subsequent development, see this article). It provided a wonderful basis to renew cherished contacts in New York and other parts of the United States and practice law on a cross‐border basis. So, my early Fulbright experience helped me immensely to follow a professional life full of new experiences with interesting people, seeing different and new ways of promoting the profession. Frankly, also on a personal basis this changed my way of life and that of my family - lastly also that of my two children.
Our Austrian law partnership finally became part of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer operating worldwide. Now as a retired partner of that firm and, personally, I am always prepared to share my experiences with others, particularly trying to help young people when they seek out opportunities in life. That way I hope to "give something back."
Fulbright scholarships were and continue to be a gift from governments, including, in my case, the Austrian government. It is, therefore, more than appropriate to warn against cuts in the financial allocations for the Fulbright Program. May this fine project continue to flourish and make a difference in this world!
Heinz H. Löber was an Austrian Fulbright Student at the New York University School of Law from 1963 to 1964. Photo courtesy of the US Embassy Vienna.