Katja Tautscher is the Chief Legal and Procurement Officer at Borealis, where she has been for almost six years. Prior to joining Borealis she worked with Scientific Games as its European Legal Counsel for two years, preceded by 7 years at Wolf Theiss. Before leaving that firm, she had attained the position of a non-equity Partner.
CEELM: Please describe for our readers you career leading up to your current role.
Katja: I studied law in Vienna and started to work immediately after my Masters’ degree in a then small law firm particularly focusing on day-to-day matters. I soon found out that I was actually more interested in international matters but that I lacked the foundation for that. So I went back to university to do an LLM at the London School of Economics, focusing on international business law and European law. I got a job offer to work in Dusseldorf for Clifford Chance and really enjoyed working on really big matters.
I had to come back to Austria because I did not have the bar exam and I returned to Wolf Theiss where I worked for almost 7 years, first as an associate and then as a junior partner in Austria and Slovenia. During that time I had a one-year secondment to Allen & Overy in London.
At the end of the seven years I realized that I really enjoy working very closely with clients and getting involved in matters beyond the purely legal questions. So I decided to move in-house and started this career as a European Legal Counsel for a US company. After two years I got a job offer from Borealis to act as its General Counsel and here I am. Last year I did an Executive MBA at INSEAD to broaden my skills more into the commercial area.
CEELM: Your role within the company recently changed from that of “Vice President - General Counsel” to that of “Chief Legal and Procurement Officer.” What does that change entail in terms of responsibilities?
Katja: The change is quite massive. Besides heading the legal department, I am now also responsible for all raw material, technical, and business related purchasing matters, which translates to a budget of EUR 1.2 billion per year.
CEELM: The recurring myth is that a GCs job is a 9 to 5 one. Do you find it to be accurate?
Katja: I think that there is a difference between an in-house role and a role in private practice and yes, the working hours are more “civil” now. However, in my entire working life I have rarely left the office at 5 and I rarely only show up at 9. The big difference is that – unless there is a real emergency – you are more of a master of your time than you are in a law firm (where the clients call on emergency matters).
CEELM: Prior to joining Scientific Games as its European Counsel, you were a Partner in a law firm. What drew you to the in-house world? Would you consider returning to private practice?
Katja: I wanted to understand the bigger topics that companies have to deal with and got a bit bored by only looking strictly at legal matters. I also wanted to participate in projects when they are a pure idea and develop them from the beginning rather than being only called in at the very last moment. I also enjoy getting a really good picture of the industry and being able to move away from the legal department into a broader role.
Never say never but at the moment I would not see myself in private practice again.
CEELM: You have been with Borealis for almost 6 years now. What still gets you excited about going to work in the morning?
Katja: I think Borealis is a truly fascinating company with an open company culture and strong values. The business we are in is very exciting and I love the fact that we are very international. In the Viennese headquarters, two-thirds of my colleagues come from other countries than Austria and you hear many different languages in the corridor. My team, from both the legal and the procurement departments, is extremely professional, very motivated, and just fun to work with.
We are also not very hierarchical and you can talk to everyone freely irrespective of rank and age.
CEELM: How large is your in-house team and how do you structure it?
Katja: The in-house legal department consists of 17 team members. We have 13 lawyers, a company secretary, a contract manager, an Ethics and Legal Compliance officer, and an assistant.
We have structured it along the business. This means that we have dedicated business lawyers which are unofficial parts of the respective businesses and specialists for areas such as IP, M&A, corporate law, and finance and funding law.
CEELM: On the lighter side of things, what is your favorite thing to do after you leave a stressful day at the office to decompress?
Katja: I have a little son, age 2, and playing with him really makes my day worthwhile.