Anne-Sophie Tshilembe

Company Lawyer, FedEx Express

Anne-Sophie worked for 8 years as an employment law attorney in the law firm Stibbe. She also occupied positions of scientific researcher, teaching assistant and part-time lecturer in several Belgian universities. Willing to embrace new challenges at an international level, she joined FedEx Express in 2016 and is the L ead Legal Counsel in charge of all legal matters related to FedEx Express European Air Network.

Could you describe the development of your career so far? Why have you found this work so interesting?

I started as an employment law specialist in a big law firm in Brussels where I worked hard and seized many opportunities, e.g. publications, secondment in London and New York. At a senior associate level, I realized that although I loved the job, I was craving for expanding my profile and my matters of expertise at an international level. As a Belgian woman with Congolese roots, I also felt that I would fit in even better in an international corporation or organization. It took me some time to take the leap but I chose to believe in myself regardless, counting on the skills that I had developed over the years. I’m so glad I did and entered the exciting world of express transportation and aviation at FedEx Express where I could further expand my horizon.

How has your role in your current company developed over time?

It has been an exciting journey.  FedEx Express is specialized in the transportation of goods and offers its customers the largest worldwide express air network, coupled with an unparalleled European road network. Present in 220 countries, including Belgium, FedEx Express employs around 50K people in Europe.  

I started as an international legal advisor advising mainly on Belgian employment law.  But as part of the Benelux legal team, I had to dive in very fast in many other different legal areas.  Aviation and air network legal matters stood out. Visiting our air hub in Liège and regularly meet with operations colleagues helped me understand the business needs and conveying my message in a pragmatic way. Along the way, I always felt that I was part of a global company: with a European scope and beyond, colleagues sometimes located on different continents, business travels in Europe and at our global HQ in the US. I’m currently temporarily seconded in our Geneva office.  Since 2020, I was promoted to Legal Counsel Lead fully dedicated to all aviation and European Air Network related legal matters.  I am also the data protection lead for Benelux.   

What is a typical day/week like for you? What are your favourite types of tasks?

Each day differs, depending on the questions coming from the business.  I like that I am part of a global team pursuing the same goal regardless of the function, i.e. transporting packages to their destination on time.  At FedEx, I love that the legal department has a seat at the table which translates in many ways: review and approve high value air transportation contracts, attend strategic business videoconferences with management from several locations, being physically in the negotiation room along with our management and partner airlines, giving a webinar about international cargo claims to 100 FedEx lawyers worldwide, advising on flight permits and licenses, without counting the many calls with my peers in the US as FedEx is an American company.  The only constant in my day is that I pick up my 2 years-old son at day-care then embracing my most important role: being a mom.  What happens before is a large spectrum as you can see.

What are the major challenges you currently foresee on the horizon?

I would say all the international crises and conflicts affecting unfortunately so many people in the world and the global economy. Those kinds of global events are difficult to predict and require a lot of adaptability from all businesses in the world. My optimistic nature sincerely hopes for the best of course.

In addition to being a company lawyer, you have just been awarded a literary prize. Could you tell us more about this award?

In January 2023, I won a prize for a short story I submitted to a writing contest in the Geneva area.  My text was selected in the 10 best short stories and is now published in a book available in Switzerland at the bookstore Payot. The theme imposed was “A night out” (“virée nocturne” in French) and I can proudly say that I am a published writer.  An inner child’s dream came true.  I’m happy I allowed myself to develop a passion even if I embarked late on my creative journey, two years after I left the law firm.  I initially shared my writing pieces on a blog I created to empower other young women professionals.  Later on, I started following a writing workshop to develop fictional writing and still love it.  The rest is history…I’m excited about what’s next.

You are one of the organisers of the STEP UP initiative. Could you explain to our members what STEP UP does?

STEP UP is a nonprofit program to build a new generation of legal talent, promoting diversity and inclusion. Successfully launched last summer 2022 by FedEx legal department with 17 other international companies, STEP UP offers a two-month full-time remunerated summer internship in the in-house Legal Department of two reputable international companies.  For the summer 2023 edition, STEP UP is open for law students in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK.  We are glad of the support of the IJE/IBJ for its successful promotion towards its members.  We are 26 companies this year.

It is a beautiful opportunity to make a difference in the future career of motivated students who were not given the chance to show their potential or sometimes do not feel they belong to big corporations due to their diverse background.  We got a lot of positive feedback (see STEP UP success stories).  If interested, for future editions, company lawyers can check our STEP UP website and contact the STEP UP team (