A lawyer among pipettes

In September, IRB Barcelona recruited Bibiana Cervelló Jager (Barcelona, 1970) to occupy the newly created post of Head of Legal Services. “I have been here only a few weeks, and there is already a lot of meat to get into in a legal sense. I am looking forward to supporting researchers with all their legal questions,” she tells in vivo.

A lawyer by training, Cervelló—as her second surname suggests—has a German mother, and thus dual nationality. “Just imagine the situation,” she says cheerfully, “my mom, a German woman driving her car all the way to Spain from Trier in Germany in the sixties. At the time, in Spain, it wasn't common to see a woman driving a car by herself.” Her father met her mother speaking French in a restaurant, and it was also uncommon for a Spaniard at the time to speak foreign languages.

With this international background, she lived with the excitement of a teenager the time when Spain joined the European Union. Hence her attraction to European institutions. She studied law at what is today known as the International University of Catalonia (UIC), where she got her degree in 1994. “My dream was to become a diplomat,” she recalls, “but that was a difficult career to pursue. So I wanted to learn more about EU law and went to Germany to study for a master’s degree in the field instead.”

But by 1992 she had started to work in the prestigious Jausas Law Firm in Barcelona, and when she completed her master’s, they called her back to head the department of corporate law. “That is when I started to work in pharmaceutical law,” she recalls. In the following years she gained extensive experience in contracts, mergers and acquisitions, environmental law, research and development, working for EY, BASF and finally for Almirall, where she was a corporate lawyer for six years. “My language skills have always helped me to find good positions because of the connection these companies had with German counterparts,” she says.

“Research and development are fields that have always attracted me,” says Cervelló. “When I found out about the position at IRB Barcelona, it looked like a perfect opportunity for me. The Institute is international, which is what I have always looked for in a job. Plus, I don’t like working among lawyers, I’d much rather be with diverse people. I feel much closer to reality than when I have to discuss obscure technical details of a sentence in legal jargon,” she adds. “At IRB Barcelona, it’s like ‘applied law’, which is more fun.”

Why is a legal expert important for a research institute? “I think that a big institution like IRB Barcelona needs to have an in-house corporate lawyer. I will have full knowledge of our activities, and I will be able to give specific legal advice whenever needed. It is going to be a very transversal position, and I will be supporting a number of departments and labs on a diverse range of corporate disciplines. It is going to be fun!”