September Edition 2022

‘Our network exists on a national, European, and intercontinental level’: B. J. Fehn on how well FEHN Legal is connected, benefitting its clients internationally


“In particular, we maintain very close relationships with an outstandingly competent law firm in the U.S. and are very well-networked through the International Association of Defense Counsel in Chicago.”

FEHN Legal, Cologne/Dusseldorf/Hamburg, is an internationally-networked highly-specialized German law firm. It was founded by Karsten Fehn, JD, Ph.D. in law, Ph.D. in theoretical medicine, and professor of criminal and public law. After initially focusing on criminal and medical law, the portfolio of FEHN Legal was expanded to include tax, foreign trade, and administrative law, when the second managing partner Bernd Josef Fehn, JD, Ph.D. in law and Ph.D. in theoretical medicine, too, joined the firm in 2021. He previously worked in his own law firm iuramed, Cologne. As a retired government director in several divisions of the Federal Ministry of Finance, especially as a former senior customs investigation official, with many years of professional experience, B. J. Fehn has excellent knowledge of the interface of criminal, tax, foreign trade, and administrative law, which enables FEHN Legal more and more to counter effectively the ever-increasing specialization of police and public prosecutors for the benefit of the client, uphold the principles of a fair trial and draft an optimized defense strategy. Due to his extensive knowledge of tax and foreign trade law, he was appointed in 2021 as a member of Tax & Legal Excellence (TLE), which exclusively includes leaders from justice, politics, administration, business, and the consulting community who can contribute their expertise to solving urgent global and national issues. The group of advisors includes auditors, tax advisors, and lawyers as managing partners from the top 500 law firms and inter-professional tax firms. By involving different professions at the top level, TLE contributes to better interdisciplinary exchange and a sustainable international understanding in the fields of law, tax, finance, and economics. The complexity and diversity of the issues to be addressed in tax and business law require strategic and interdisciplinary approaches to solutions across national borders. This is what its member B. J. Fehn is standing for. At first, he is not only an attorney-at-law but also a tax advisor. In addition, an understanding of technical procedures and the ever-changing environmental law were necessary to write his first thesis. Moreover, during his second doctoral study about issues of infectivity of allografts in oral and maxillofacial surgery just as implications in medical law, he held contact with several biotechnology companies. Furthermore, Dr. Fehn has proved his expert knowledge in foreign trade law through many publications. One of them was even cited by the Federal Constitutional Court in a foreign trade case. So he is thus broadly positioned for all areas of law represented by FEHN Legal.

Interview Highlights

Q. Dr. Fehn, to what extent is FEHN Legal innovative?

Innovative clients in rapidly changing business fields (for example, biotechnology or medical technology, for which very intensive research efforts are being made) need innovative lawyers. So, first of all, FEHN Legal does not only pay attention to the legal facts but also has an open ear for the needs of our innovative clients. Through process innovations, e.g. with the implementation of compliance instruments, processes in companies are made legally compliant and optimized in this way. We can adapt quickly and flexibly to new situations. We are fully committed to a Plan A, but always have a Plan B in our quiver. All the time we are on the cutting edge, which is essential, especially when providing legal services to the fields of medical, healthcare, and biotechnology. We adapt our strategy precisely to the requirements of our clients and their innovations, are open to new ideas in legal development, and promote young talents to provide our clients with the best possible services. That said, trainee lawyers are also very welcome to train at our firm. In the best case, trainees develop into excellent associates and stay with us. Innovation and youth are concepts that belong together. That’s why seniority must stay young in thinking and behavior.

Q. Dr. Fehn, what is the philosophy of FEHN Legal and how do you realize it?

It is summed up in the highest level of professional competence coupled with human integrity. We are conservative in terms of the high standards we set for ourselves, and despite our age (laughs), we are youthfully fresh in terms of the new paths we can take for our clients.

Because the law is becoming more and more complicated, specialization in certain areas of law is inevitable to represent and enforce the interests of the clients effectively. However, a too narrow portfolio is not in the interest of those clients, who prefer to be served from a single source wherever possible. This requires a certain expansion on the one hand and adherence to quality limits as well as cooperation with other specialized law, management consulting, auditing, and tax firms on the other hand. So, for example, we successfully cooperate with long-established and renowned firms in different subjects such as labor and civil law cases.

Q. What does your networking look like, Dr. Fehn?

Our network exists on a national, European, and intercontinental level. In particular, we maintain very close relationships with an outstandingly competent law firm in the U.S. and are very well-networked through the International Association of Defense Counsel in Chicago. On a national and European level, in addition to the membership at TLE, special mention should be made of our memberships in the German Defense Lawyers Association, the German Society of Tax Lawyers, the German Society for Medical Law, and in particular, in the European Criminal Bar Association as well as at the European Fraud and Compliance Lawyers (both in London). As you can see, we are very well connected. This is of great benefit to our national and international clients.

Q. What does your client base look like, Dr. Fehn?

We represent, among others, many physicians and dentists, large hospitals and internationally active biotechnology companies, major associations and interest groups, national and international financial institutions, as well as medium-sized commercial companies and individual persons. We can handle and accompany large-scale proceedings, as evidenced by prominent cases that have been in the press. This requires perseverance, networking, and scientifically-based knowledge.

Q. Dr. Fehn, do you continue to do scientific work?

I make my knowledge and experience available to a broad professional public using publications in recognized professional journals, legal manuals, or reference books, gladly also with Karsten or Professor Markus Thiel from the German University of Police in Munster/Westphalia or Professor Otto Lagodny from the Paris Lodron University Salzburg/Austria.

Currently, I would like to mention, in particular, the three most recent publications in the German journal “Tax Consultancy” (Stbg). Two of them will hopefully find attention in ongoing proceedings of the Federal Constitutional Court and one of them may even lead to a change in German constitutional jurisprudence on the issue of treaty override.

In connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is also a recent critical contribution on the legal restrictions in North Rhine-Westphalia in the expert journal “Sports and Law” (SpuRt).A critical report on a transnational case of detention for extradition in the triangular relationship between the U.S., Slovenia, and Germany has just been published in the online journal “Highest Judicial Jurisdiction in Criminal Law“ (HRRS).

Reference should also be made to the chapters “Crime Scene Investigation” in the “Munich Lawyers’ Handbook on Criminal Defense“ and “Police State and Surveillance Republic?” in the anthology “Administration - Ethics - Human Rights”, as well as the treatment of the War Weapons Control Act in the new “Practical Handbook on Foreign Trade Law”.

In addition, the North Rhine-Westphalian University of Police and Public Administration appointed me to teach administrative law subjects and made me an associated member of its Institute of History and Ethics.

Q. Tax law is often described as a boring and unpopular subject. Where does your enthusiasm for it come from, Dr. Fehn?

I had already come into contact with tax law as a young man since I had studied it as an elective subject. My teacher’s lectures were anything but tedious. His fascinating contextualization of tax law with constitutional law became known as the Cologne School. Moreover, tax law is not only under the regulatory regime of the constitution but often on the fringes of criminal law, too. So it is as diverse and interesting as life itself.

During my time as a civil servant, I was also seconded for one year as a judge by assignment to the High Tax Court of Baden-Wurttemberg. Here I was able to bring many tax cases to a good end. It was a great time, perhaps the best after becoming a lawyer, of course (laughs).

“We can handle and accompany large-scale proceedings, as evidenced by prominent cases that have been in the press. This requires perseverance, networking, and scientifically-based knowledge.”

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