Legal counsel jobs in Belgium
Do you want to be close to businesses and give practical advice that has an immediate impact where you work? Then a job as a legal counsel in a company is an excellent option. A legal counsel in Belgium is a dynamic profession in which you work closely with management and Human Resources.
As an in-house lawyer, you are a real jack-of-all-trades. You know something about each relevant branch of law and can do targeted research to quickly formulate clear and useful advice. Another name for this profession is legal counsel. An appropriate name, because the vast majority of your day consists of providing a legal dimension and perspective to important decisions of the company you work for.
Unlike the lawyer, the corporate lawyer does not have to go to court. In principle, he can carry out his work as a lawyer remotely, or work from home for part of the time. For many law masters, this freedom makes a job as a company lawyer more attractive than one as a lawyer.
The most important asset you can have as a legal counsel is a specialisation in company law. During the day-to-day operation of a company, one is constantly confronted with company law rules.
The legal counsel is the very first person who is asked for advice when something is going to change in the company's statutes. He or she is also the most important link in ensuring compliance with the legal and statutory provisions that govern the organisation of the company. Think about the shareholders' meeting, the distribution of dividends, the voting rights, the regulations of the board of directors, etc. These are all matters on which you, as a corporate lawyer, have a direct influence with your advice and analysis.
Depending on the size of the company, knowledge of European company law is a great asset when you want a job as legal counsel. Since the job description of in-house counsel is so broad, no real specialisation is expected. You do need to have the urge to keep educating yourself and keep abreast of current legislation.
Another important specialisation for the legal counsel is contract law. As a legal counsel you must not only be able to draw up and analyse a conclusive contract, but in many cases you are also the company's negotiator in terms of the legal aspect.
When you start out as a legal counsel, one of your first tasks is often to familiarise yourself with the company's obligations. You must quickly familiarize yourself with the many clauses in the law of obligations. The NDA, the lion's share clause, options, etc. all come up on a daily basis.
Legal drafting - the ability to draw up contracts and other legal documents - is second nature to an experienced corporate lawyer. If you already have experience with this, it is a big plus when you apply for a job as a company lawyer.
Depending on the company you are working for as a lawyer, a good knowledge of commercial law is very useful. As a legal counsel it is best to be aware of the current rules of this branch of the law. After all, they regulate a large part of the B2B relations of companies.
As legal counsel, you are expected to be familiar with drafting invoice conditions, to be able to challenge them and to negotiate with the other party. You must also be able to strictly separate this law from consumer law, which governs B2C relations. The credits, debts and interest on both are also largely
When a company sells goods or services to consumers, it is guaranteed to come into contact with consumer law and related rules of the Economic Code.
Being aware of these rules and being able to apply them is very important if you are a legal counsel in a company that has B2C activities. Not complying with these rules can have major legal consequences. It is also useful that you know the boundary of consumer law well, so that you can draw up contracts that are favourable for the company.
This is a branch of law that is constantly changing. That is why it is important that you, as legal counsel, give yourself sufficient training and keep abreast of changes in legislation. Another important element here is that consumer law is for the most part regulated on a European scale. Belgian law is rather an addition. That is why it is useful, as a corporate lawyer, to have the necessary knowledge of how European law works and its applicability in Belgian but also pan-European situations.
Privacy & GDPR
For companies, one of the biggest concerns is the GDPR legislation. These privacy rules do not only apply to visitors on websites, but to almost every action the company takes that requires personal data.
The legal counsel must be able to provide conclusive advice on this, and know when the privacy legislation, and GDPR, is in force. Thus, you often work together with the Human Resources department in terms of legally storing and processing personal information of employees and applicants. Likewise, you will advise the marketing department on what information they are allowed to collect from (potential) customers. If you work in an international company, it is important that you have a good knowledge of European and international law.
A company has various insurances. The legal counsel understands their content and can give specific advice on choosing or negotiating new insurances.
In addition to good legal knowledge, it is important that you are a good negotiator in case the company wants to negotiate the insurances on an individual basis. You must also be proactive in order to renegotiate or discontinue insurance if circumstances change.
Real estate law
Almost every company in Belgium large enough to hire a legal counsel has contracts or assets where real estate law is relevant.
Many companies diversify their portfolio with real estate investments. As an in-house lawyer, you will ensure that purchase and sale deeds are arranged in a legal manner. You also follow up on mortgages and mortgage mandates, and make sure that everything runs smoothly.
The legal counsel is also often asked to draw up and follow up the company's rental and leasing contracts. A good knowledge of special agreements and real estate law is a great asset here.
Although advice and the application of tax law is often outsourced to external parties or to specialists within the company, you should at least be aware of the most important rules. That way, you can give good advice when asked.
A legal counsel with a specialisation in tax law has the job opportunity at hand. It is a highly sought-after profile for companies. In this function, you often work together with bookkeepers and accountants. It is therefore useful if, as a specialist but also as a generalist, you know accounting jargon.
Together with human resources, a legal counsel arranges the employment contracts of employees and often has an important role in the legal framework of the recruitment procedure.
Together with HR, you are also closely involved in possible conflicts on the shop floor, both between employer and employee and between employees. The legal counsel often has a crucial role in the restructuring of the company or the dismissal of an employee.
Besides good legal knowledge, the social aspect is often important as well. You have to transform your advice from legal jargon into understandable language. Your advice between employees should be aimed at conflict avoidance and not always be a purely legal solution.
When you do your job as legal counsel, you will guaranteed be in demand for advice on permit applications and disputes. A good knowledge of real estate law combined with environmental law ensures that you can give specific advice to a company. Knowledge in this area is therefore definitely an asset to have on your CV if you intend to apply for a position as company lawyer.
In many cases, you also have to play a liaison role as in-house counsel. If, for example, a new building has to be constructed, the in-house counsel will often inform the neighbouring residents and the municipal authorities of this as a preventive measure and act as a point of contact for possible complaints.
As an in-house lawyer, you play a proactive role. You follow up the permits from application to granting and expiration. You also contest permits from other companies if they turn out to be detrimental to the company.
Intellectual property law
Another important task for the legal counsel is to manage and defend the intellectual property of the company. The counsel often works proactively with engineers to find opportunities to expand the company's IP portfolio.
Another task is to defend the company's existing intellectual property rights. The lawyer checks if the company's patents are not being infringed, and keeps patent trolls at bay. The company's copyright and trademark rights are also protected by the company lawyer. He or she checks if there are no infringements and takes action if this is the case. This is done by registered letters, warnings and settlement proposals.
The legal counsel is also in charge of keeping track of the limitation periods of intellectual rights. He or she keeps track of when patents expire and when a trademark must be re-registered. It is therefore important to keep abreast of changes in current legislation and to be able to deal with deadlines.
An important task for the in-house lawyer is risk management. You look for the legal risks that a company runs and see if these correspond to the benefits.
An example of this is mergers and acquisitions. The company that takes over the other company must be aware of all the existing contracts, outstanding debts, possible legal disputes, etc. It is the task of the in-house lawyer to do a thorough due diligence, and together with accountants and other experts, to see if the costs are worth the benefits.
Closely related is legal compliance. A legal counsel looks at the laws and regulations and follows up on their evolution. This allows the company to avoid possible sanctions and seize opportunities when certain rules become more favourable.
Interim legal counsel
The average legal counsel must be able to do everything and is often specialised in only one subject. Trying to specialise in all the branches of law in which you have to advise a company as legal counsel is impossible.
That is why for lawyers who specialise in, say, intellectual property rights or tax law, there are many opportunities to work as an interim legal counsel. An interim legal counsel will work together with the existing permanent legal counsel of the company for a certain period - usually a few weeks - on a specific assignment. After this assignment has been completed, this interim legal counsel goes to another company that has a similar assignment for his specialisation.
If you are looking for a challenging job where every day is different and where you get a lot of responsibility, in-house counsel is the perfect choice. On Legaljob.be you will find the most recent vacancies from companies all over Belgium. Subscribe to our JobAlert and never miss a new job opening!
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