Mirjam Lommel Mirjam Lommel

Advocate of tea

In Alumni
Written by  Hans van Vinkeveen Wednesday, 17 September 2014 10:05
Maastricht University graduate Mirjam Lommel worked in corporate law, advising on mergers, acquisitions and the formation of limited companies. After suffering a burnout – "I missed the contact with people" – she took a surprising turn in her career. She now runs the teahouse 't Bluk in Laren.
Are you really happy pouring tea when you could be working on a company merger? This was the scornful response by one legal colleague to Lommel’s unusual career switch. As a corporate lawyer, she spent years advising on million-euro transactions. Until last year, that is, when she decided to take over a teahouse.
In hindsight, the step is not so radical. Lommel was raised in a family of entrepreneurs. "From a young age I was familiar with the spirit of entrepreneurship; the perseverance and courage involved in taking responsibility." Moreover, this wasn’t just any old takeover: 't Bluk was founded long ago by Lommel’s own grandparents.

Big party

Lommel comes from Het Gooi, near Hilversum. The choice to study in faraway Maastricht was one of pure chance. She came along to an Open Day to accompany a friend, who was thinking of starting Health Sciences. She herself was on the fence: economics or law? "Then I discovered that Maastricht was the only place that offered European Law. The chance to travel and study abroad also really appealed to me." Ultimately, Lommel opted for Dutch Law with an international twist: European Law and Language Studies.
She looks back on her student days as one big party. "It was a wonderful, carefree period. I found the programme easy; I didn’t have to spend weeks hitting the books. I just did a lot of partying at Circumflex." She has good memories of the boozy songfests that the student association organised there. And of her part-time job at the café De Lanteern: "My friends hung out there all the time; you’d stay there the whole evening and end up spending all the money you’d just earned." Her time with the student association came in handy later. "It makes you very social. You don’t easily feel lost in a big group."

Million-euro deals

Lommel specialised in corporate law and, in 2000, landed a job at a big law firm. "It was really just a continuation of my studies. Lots of new graduates started together, all of them around my age. It was hard work, but also lots of drinking, a very social environment. I thrive in an environment with lots of people." It wasn’t overly hierarchical. "Law forms are often flat organisations where you can be quite informal with your supervisor."
The research involved in legal work can be exciting, Lommel explains. She advised on everything to do with corporations: foundation, organisation, mergers and acquisitions. "It’s a nice game, getting to know a company inside out before the acquisition. Then comes the negotiation process and drafting of documents, so precisely that the contract covers everything. Meanwhile the deadline is getting close and closer; will you make it or not? That can be a lot of fun." The transactions could involve anywhere from €50,000 to tens of millions. "The numbers never really impressed me."

Doing things

Eventually, Lommel realised she was feeling uneasy. Was this really the career for her? She decided to do temp work, but the feeling wouldn’t go away. In 2008, she suffered a burnout. "I went travelling around South America. I was running away, but I didn’t know what from." In retrospect, she thinks the lack of human contact played a role. "Legal work is very intangible, business-like."
She now enjoys the daily interaction with people in the teahouse. "I do the purchasing, receive customers and jump in everywhere: from waiting tables to washing up. When it’s busy I help set things up. It’s great to be able to fill the day with concrete things." Most of her legal colleagues were enthusiastic about her change of pace. "I think many lawyers secretly want to do something else."

Mirjam Lommel (1975) studied European Law and Language Studies at Maastricht University. She worked as a senior legal adviser, initially in various corporate law firms and later as a temp. With her brother, she has run the teahouse 't Bluk in Laren since last year.

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