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Ivo Verheijden

Why did you choose to study Law at Tilburg University?

I made my choice relatively late in my last year at High School. My father was a Mayor and his position partly spiked my interests in politics and public administration. I thought about studying public administration at Twente University, at the time a new multidisciplinary program. Critics weren’t undividedly positive on this program though and I decided on a more traditional program: Law. 

I chose Tilburg because of its good reputation, not because of its proximity to my parental home. 

My parents were acquainted with Professor Schoordijk and his advice made my choice for Tilburg an even more conscious one.

Who was your favorite professor?

That is a difficult question. A shared first place for Professors Schoordijk and Raaijmakers. First place for Professor Schoordijk for his intense and excellent teaching, by way of the Socratic Method or student dialogue. The Socratic Method, also used at the University of San Francisco School of Law (where I studied for a while), creates energy in courses and keeps students motivated and committed. First place also for Professor Raaijmakers, who could bring company law to life, for example by comparing company law and family law. He worked for Philips as a company lawyer and he would regularly discuss cases from real practice during his courses. Partly because of him I changed from my original interest in public and constitutional law to private and business law. He supervised my graduation thesis in the field of international business law (the European Company).

Can you share an interesting anecdote?

I will never forget the Friday-morning courses taught by Professors Deelen en Schoordijk. Even after a rough Thursday night, we would all be there on Friday morning at 9.30 am. Starting off with Deelen, a very courteous person. Always dressed like an English gentleman, outfits varying from a grey three-piece suit with bowler hat, to an English equestrian outfit with boots and colorful jacket. The microphone would be attached to his lapel and whenever he would suddenly come to a stop at the end of the cord he would shout out: “this bloody cord, let the Law run its course!” . Then we would move on to the course given by Schoordijk, who taught with intense focus and concentration. He used to be clearly irritated by some of the students from Limburg, when they would leave early to catch the late Friday morning train (he referred to this train back to Limburg with the funny word ‘limbo-express’)  home, and disrupt one of his brilliant speeches. Rightly so, it was not very respectful.

What does your career look like?

In my last year at the Law School, I had the opportunity to go for a traineeship at the European Commission. I was hired for 6 months and stayed for a year, to assist in finalizing the project of creating a truly  European Company.  Amongst others, I was responsible for summarizing national expert opinions and presenting these to a panel of experts of all nations. I learned so much during this internship. Back at  Law School I graduated on this same  topic of the European Company. After graduation, I applied at different law firms, to practice European Law. At that time however, none of the big law firms was prepared to hire a junior lawyer who would specialize in European Law. I was offered a job by an Amsterdam based firm to practice general commercial law. That same day however a friend called and asked me to apply for a position within the European Law Group of the  Philips Legal Department.. After 3 consecutive days of interviews  I was hired and stayed with  Philips for 20 years. I had a great time; I worked in high tech components and semiconductors (later NXP), did many M&A deals, and lived and worked for 5 years in Silicon Valley. I studied at the University of San Francisco  School of Law and was admitted to the Californian State Bar.  After 20 years with a listed multinational however, I felt it was time for a change. I worked for the relatively small Tendris Venture Fund for a year and was then hunted for my current position:  Chief Legal Officer with Pon Holdings, a very successful, family-owned trading and service company, present in 22 countries and employing 13.000 people. I really enjoy and learned a lot from the switch from a listed multinational via a small venture fund to a non-listed family owned trading company

What is your ambition?

I could have stayed with Philips for the rest of my career but I am glad to have made a career change. A new environment creates energy on different levels. After 20 years in a production company I now work for a company that mostly trades goods and services. I am in charge of a team of 7 excellent in-house lawyers. The issues we deal with are very broad and I still learn every day. The company culture at Pon Holdings is great: quick decisions and celebrations of success.  Next to my job I try to reserve time to teach , for example in the professional education program for young company lawyers organized by the Dutch Association of Company Lawyers. In this program I teach American contract law, together with the New York based lawyer Jan Joosten.

Did Tilburg University play an important role in your career or personal life?

Tilburg Law School definitely played a role in my career. I did not fully realize how fortunate I was to be able to study at a small Law School with direct communication to professors and staff. I thought this was normal, until I met people who studied at other Law Schools. 

They told me it can be massive. For example, I don’t think I would have gotten the recommendations I needed for my traineeship at the EC that easily in a big Law School. During my studies I was closely connected to professors and teachers, and you really get to know each other. Furthermore, you get very solid, high quality training in Tilburg. Courses were always challenging, never an easy ride. That prepares you for the labor market, especially in the initial years when you are being trained as a practicing lawyer. Tilburg provides you with a very strong basis to build your career on. Also, Tilburg allows you space for extra-curricular activities. I was a member of Student Association Olof and chairman of the Association of International Tilburg Economists and Lawyers

Does Tilburg University still feature in your life?

I hadn’t been back at Tilburg University for a long time. Lately, I enjoy being in touch again.  I became a member of the “Friends of Cobbenhagen” and I enjoy providing feedback on the Program LLB Global Law, a program that will start in September 2013. I anticipate that international companies will  find this an interesting program; next to a solid training in law, students get an international focus early on in their training. I would really enjoy teaching a master class in this program, and to share my experiences in an international in-house practice with students.