Lagarde, Christine

Lagarde, Christine
▪ 2008

born Jan. 1, 1956, Paris, France

 In June 2007 Christine Lagarde, one of France's most talented and eminent lawyers, was appointed finance minister by newly elected right-of-centre Pres. Nicolas Sarkozy. She was the first woman in the Group of Eight (G-8) countries to hold this influential position. The Wall Street Journal Europe rated Lagarde as the fifth most successful businesswoman in Europe, while Forbes magazine ranked her the 12th most powerful woman in the world. For Lagarde this remarkable appointment marked a final break from a glittering career as a lawyer in the U.S., where she had defended the interests of American corporations to the detriment of French companies; for France it reflected the end of a political leadership dominated by antiglobalization and a tacit acceptance of the unpleasant measures needed to revitalize its increasingly uncompetitive and flagging economy. In contrast to her predecessors, Lagarde held the controversial view that France's 35-hour workweek was a symbol of the right to be lazy. She wanted the country to work harder and play less, and the French business community welcomed her appointment.

      Lagarde was educated in the U.S. and France. After graduating (1974) from the prestigious Holton-Arms girls' college-preparatory school in Bethesda, Md., she studied at the Law School of the University of Paris X-Nanterre, where she lectured after graduation before going on to specialize in labour law, in which she obtained a postgraduate diploma (DESS). She also acquired a master's degree in English. In 1981 Lagarde joined the international law firm Baker & McKenzie in Paris. She was made a partner in 1987 and became the first female member (1995–99) of the executive committee. She was made chairman of the executive committee in 1999 (reelected 2002) and moved to Chicago. At Baker & McKenzie, she implemented a “client first” way of thinking whereby lawyers anticipated clients' needs rather than being reactive, and profits at the firm rose strongly.

      As a member of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), Lagarde led the US-Poland Defense Industry Working Group, advancing the interests of aircraft companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin against those of Airbus and Dassault Aviation. In 2003 she was a member of the CSIS commission that culminated in a $3.5 billion contract for the sale of 48 Lockheed Martin jet fighters to Poland. Despite what struck some French observers as a conflict of interest, Lagarde in March 2004 received France's highest honour, the Legion of Honour, from Pres. Jacques Chirac, who described her as a role model and a “charismatic leader of the largest law firm in the world.”

      Lagarde returned to France in June 2005 to join Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's government as trade minister before becoming (briefly) minister for agriculture and fisheries in 2007. As trade minister she encouraged foreign investment in France and the opening of new markets for French products, particularly in the technology sector, helping exporters though the Cap Export mechanism, which she launched in September 2005.

Janet H. Clark

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▪ French lawyer and politician
born Jan. 1, 1956, Paris, France
 
 French lawyer and politician who was a noted figure in international law before holding a series of ministerial positions in the French government. In 2007 she became the first woman to serve as the country's finance minister.

      Lagarde was educated in the United States and France. After graduating (1974) from the prestigious Holton-Arms girls' college-preparatory school in Bethesda, Md., she studied at the Law School of the University of Paris X-Nanterre, where she lectured after graduation before going on to specialize in labour law, in which she obtained a postgraduate diploma (DESS). She also acquired a master's degree in English. In 1981 Lagarde joined the international law firm Baker & McKenzie in Paris. She was made a partner in 1987 and became the first female member (1995–99) of the executive committee. She was made chairman of the executive committee in 1999 (reelected 2002) and moved to Chicago. At Baker & McKenzie, she promulgated a “client first” approach whereby lawyers anticipated client needs rather than solely reacting to exigent situations. As a result, profits at the firm rose strongly.

      While a member of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), Lagarde led the U.S.-Poland Defense Industry Working Group, advancing the interests of aircraft companies Boeing (Boeing Company) and Lockheed Martin (Lockheed Martin Corporation) against those of Airbus (Airbus Industrie) and Dassault Aviation. In 2003 she was a member of the CSIS commission that culminated in a $3.5-billion contract for the sale of 48 Lockheed Martin jet fighters to Poland. Despite what struck some French observers as a conflict of interest, Lagarde in March 2004 received an appointment to France's highest order, the Legion of Honour, from Pres. Jacques Chirac (Chirac, Jacques), who described her as a role model and a charismatic leader.

      Lagarde returned to France in June 2005 to join Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin (de Villepin, Dominique)'s government as trade minister before becoming (briefly) minister for agriculture and fisheries in 2007. As trade minister she encouraged foreign investment in France and the opening of new markets for French products, particularly in the technology sector, helping exporters through the Cap Export mechanism, which she launched in September 2005.

      In June 2007 Lagarde was designated finance minister by newly elected Pres. Nicolas Sarkozy (Sarkozy, Nicolas). She was the first woman in the Group of Eight (Eight, Group of) countries to hold this influential position. Her appointment reflected the end of a political leadership dominated by antiglobalization and the burgeoning (if tacit) acceptance of the unpleasant measures needed to revitalize France's increasingly uncompetitive and flagging economy. In contrast to her predecessors, Lagarde held the controversial view that the country's 35-hour workweek was a symbol of indolence. She advocated a stronger work ethic, a sentiment mirrored by the French business community.

Janet H. Clark
 

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Universalium. 2010.

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