Share Your Story

Elizabeth van Schilfgaarde, Managing Partner at NAUTADUTILH New York Office

<< Return to all personal profiles here

Where are you from and what was it like growing up there? I grew up in the Netherlands, with one leg in the US, spending many of my summers on Cape Cod. My parents were Dutch and American, so bridging the continents has been part of my life from day one.

What is your Hometown famous for and what do you think about it? The Netherlands is famous for being tolerant. The Dutch are starting to realize that this may not be entirely accurate. It will be interesting to see how this changes the country. What I love about the Netherlands is the shared sense of responsibility for the collective. Maybe that explains a bit its reputation of being tolerant.

Does your Hometown have a famous dish and do you like and why/why not? Cheese! Love it.

What brought you to NYC? I am doing Dutch law in New York. That is a pretty awesome set-up when you are trying to be on two continents at the same time. However, being able to work on those two continents as a lawyer could supposedly either happen in Amsterdam or New York. It rains less in New York and the sun is out much more often. Those are significant plusses

What inspired you to pursue your chosen career path? My aunt suggested that if I studied law, I could help her with real estate investments from the US into the Netherlands. A super bad idea, but it pushed me over the edge to study law. I think I was looking for an excuse. My dad being a lawyer, embarking on that path felt very close to home.

What was a defining moment in your career? When I made partner, I made a conscious choice to conduct business the way I want to lead my life: celebrating every day. That has been a good guiding principle, not always easy to follow, but a great way to check-in when tough decisions need to be made.

What about NYC has made you stay? My kids, the sense of freedom, the people and being close to Cape Cod. My kids, because when they were maybe 12 and 14, one wanted to be the head of the CIA and the other Rupert Murdoch, but nicer. I thought: “Only in the US would these thoughts even arise.” I love how unabashedly ambitious you can be here.

What’s the biggest cultural difference you’ve noticed between America and your home county? There is a big difference in what it means to “party” in the two countries. Have a party in the US seems to center around food (pizza!) when you are young, and something similar when you are older. The Dutch party to be together, have fun, and the food and drink is important, but that is not so much what it is about. I find that striking. We use this insight at NautaDutilh in New York and throw parties the Dutch way for our friends and clients. Worth getting on our guest list!

What do strong European-American relationships mean to you, your life, and your organization? Strong European-American relationships is what I live and breathe professionally. Answering this question reminds me of the David Foster Wallace story about the young fish swimming along who are asked by an older fish swimming the other way: ‘Morning, boys, how’s the water?”. The two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”.

Thank you Elizabeth for sharing your story !