Excel Participant Andrew Kovtun on Freshfields

            Having interned at various other companies and government agencies during the previous two years of my collegiate tenure, I was prepared to deal with the dichotomous nature of an internship in 2013- performing grueling labor on the periphery of the employer’s purpose while simultaneously feeling ecstatic at the chance to feel important amongst peers and to “build career experience”. However, all cynicism was thrown out the window when I arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel as a participant in the Birthright Israel Excel Program. Before we could even begin our work at our partner companies, we were greeted by stunning presentations by some of the world’s leading corporate leaders and academics. As I am now writing on my experiences, it has been barely a week since I have been in Tel Aviv. In that short timeframe, we have listened to presentations by Aluf Benn (the editor-in-chief of the Haaretz newspaper), Barry Katz (a leading consultant on corporate culture and communication), Professor Manuel Trajtenberg (a prominent world economist and rumored future Bank of Israel governor), Dr. Zohar Raviv (International VP of Education at Birthright and esteemed Jewish Studies scholar), Daniel Birnbaum (CEO of Sodastream), and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro. While this list is extensive and incredibly impressive, it does not do justice to the knowledge and relationships I have gained as a result of Birthright Excel’s programming.

            On my first day working for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Israel Focus Group, my partner company, I was thrown into a whirlwind of activity surrounding the planning and logistics of the Association of Corporate Counsel in Israel Conference, which is sponsored by our office. In honor of this event, corporate and managing partners from London, Paris, and Shanghai flew in to meet with potential clients and to give presentations on Freshfields’ “Higher Growth: Lower Risk” vision relating to future international corporate expansions and legal agreements. Before I continue - the Israel Focus Group has an office of three people. That’s right- three permanent employees. Total attendance at the ACC Israel Conference? More than 200 professionals. I was thus indirectly responsible for managing the conference with my colleague and Freshfields associate Adam Nuhi and ensuring that the Freshfields name, which is not widely recognized in Israel, was seen in a positive light as representative of the leading international litigation, arbitration, and dispute resolution law firm as it is known in almost every corner of the world.

Thankfully, because Israel’s corporate mentality is so flexible and conducive to new ideas and actors, I was not overwhelmed at all by the demanding work schedule and was treated exceptionally well by my mentor and boss, Adir Waldman. As a result of Adam and Adir’s inclusiveness and my immediate contributions and drive to perform at Freshfields, I was given the opportunity to interact, network, and entertain a plethora of esteemed professionals at corporate events and fine dining establishments. I was constantly engaging with individuals whom no 19 year-old college student in America would ever dream of meeting. In addition, the conference took place at the Dan Accadia Hotel in Herzliya, where I was treated with fantastic seaside views of the Mediterranean and its gorgeous beaches during a typical workday (see accompanying photos). I feel blessed to have been given a chance to participate on this program and look forward to the extensive research projects, legal work, and client meetings to come. Stay tuned and you will be able to discover the many other adventures that Birthright Israel Excel has made possible for our top-notch group of future Jewish leaders!​