When young lawyers ask Magdalena Jablonski for advice, she is sure to tell them, “Don’t expect the world to cater to your likes, dislikes, and preferences. Be open to environmental challenges and changes and make sure to have a Plan B.”
Law was Jablonski’s own Plan B. “I had the idea of becoming an architect,” the senior intellectual property counsel at Bosch says. “I wanted to create. As a teenager, I perceived practicing law to be dry and boring. Personal experiences changed my view, and I developed a strong desire to become a lawyer.”
A couple of things changed her perception. First and foremost, it was her parents’ own Plan B to move the family from their native Poland to Germany when Jablonski was about nine years old.
“I was born into communist Poland during the 1980s. My parents wanted to make sure that my brother and I had the chance for a better future and better opportunities. I remember as a little kid standing in line with my mother in front of a grocery store to get food,” Jablonski says, adding that her father was often working abroad in West Germany as a technician and construction worker to provide for the family.
“That’s how we were able to move to Germany,” she says. “He would bring home sweets and other Western food we could never get in Poland. When we came to Germany, my parents developed their careers basically from scratch, dealing with obstacles related to moving to a new country as immigrants.
“My mother had been a midwife in Poland and after moving to Germany, she build up her career to become a well-know and reputable midwife in the city we lived in,” Jablonski continues. “I remember, there was a US Army base in our city. All the American women would choose to go to my mother. I was inspired by my parents’ confidence and strong will to develop their careers and our life in a foreign environment with little to no language skills, and by doing so to create wonderful opportunities for us as a family.”
Architecture had appealed to Jablonski’s creative side, but she admits that she was not too good at math. Law and IP rights represented a win-win for her. “When deciding on the subject for my career, the IP area was a growing field where I not only would deal with innovative topics and creative people, but I could also utilize my creative side in my legal work when consulting on intellectual property rights in the areas of copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets,” she says.
Jablonski was first introduced to IP during her two-year legal training in Germany that prepared her for the Second Legal State Exam. In Germany, as part of their training, aspiring lawyers must complete various legal assignments while working in a court system with a judge, law firm, or government agency. She chose a well-established midsized law firm in Cologne that primarily handled IP rights.
“I was exposed to various interesting work assignments in the field of IP, was mentored by one of the law firm’s partners and had the most outstanding experience in my legal education,” she says. After completing law college and before joining Bosch, she earned her master’s degree in IP rights.
Jablonski joined Bosch in 2005 as an IP lawyer and has been senior IP counsel for almost a decade. She is currently based in Detroit after transitioning to the United States in 2010 on what was to be a short-term work assignment in Chicago.
“Working for an international company opened the doors for a career abroad. I was grateful Bosch enabled me to work in the United States, in a different jurisdiction,” she says. “As a lawyer, this is an exceptional situation. Moving to the US was not such a dramatic departure. I had already experienced a transition from one culture to another as a child, although coming to a new country as a child is different than going to a different country to work.”
Jablonski adds that Bosch’s internal processes are consistent across different geographical regions. “This made my transition from Bosch Germany to Bosch US rather easy, especially also due to the great support within the company and my department,” she explains. “What stood out the most for me during the first years was how impactful cultural difference are. I was able to adapt, and looking back, it was a great learning curve for me, professionally and personally.
She encourages inquiring young lawyers to be open and curious. For example, Jablonski says, working with international teams and in different legal systems is challenging if you are not open to leaving your comfort zone, experiencing new challenges, and continuously learning and growing. “Acquiring new knowledge in legal fields and improving my personal skills has always been important and inspirational, two key drivers in my career as well as in my personal accomplishments,” she says.
Jablonski credits attending Michigan State University College of Law with equipping her with the knowledge to take and pass the New York bar, enabling her to become licensed attorney in the United States. The experiences she gained through her legal education in Germany as well as while working as a German attorney provided the backbone for her to advance into a second legal career in the US. Transitioning to Bosch North America opened career opportunities and allowed her to not only gain highly valuable working experiences, but it also equipped her with unique skills and tools to become a more excellent attorney and master any challenge.
“Overall, transitioning from the German legal system to the US legal system was an amazing experience for me,” she says. Understanding and applying my newly acquired knowledge about the US common law legal system, utilizing my existing knowledge of the German law, which is based on the civil law system, being able to compare these two legal systems, and particularly acknowledge the differences in law while supporting my clients at Bosch, made me a better lawyer, rendered my assessments and decisions as a lawyer to be more creative, effective and valuable.”
When Jablonski joined Bosch in Germany, she observed that there were more male employees than female. The company now takes gender diversity very seriously, she says, and it is now common to find women in leadership and top management positions. She says she remains focused on her goals and the big picture when it comes to career development.
“Take challenges as they come,” Jablonski advises. “Learn from experiences, good or bad. Trust yourself to find a solution and use opportunities to improve yourself and the situation at hand. Most important: never underestimate your own capabilities and the power within you to achieve whatever you strive for in your career and life. This has helped me to always remain confident about what I’m bringing to the mix and how I can best serve my clients and the organization.”
Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP:
“Having worked closely with Magdalena during the past decade, I can personally attest to her deep knowledge of IP law and her keen ability to develop pragmatic solutions to IP problems in both litigation and transactional matters. As an attorney licensed in both Germany and the US, Magdalena’s international experience, coupled with her collegial leadership style, make her a terrific and highly-valued member of the Robert Bosch legal team.”
–Thad Chaloemtiarana, Partner