Denis Philippe is co-founder and managing partner of Philippe & Partners, a Belgian law firm that has offices around Europe such as Luxembourg, France, Germany and the UK. He explains to Leaders League how his law firm has handled the pandemic, its approach to new technology, and the issue of gender equality.
"The pandemic has unearthed many new opportunities and perspectives for lawyers"
Leaders League: How did Philippe & Partners handle the pandemic? What measures were put in place, and what longer-term changes may have been induced?
Denis Philippe: We put in place a Covid-19 team, and substantially improved our remote communication. The pandemic is an extraordinary event that has unearthed many new opportunities and perspectives for lawyers – for instance, when new laws are issued, how fundamental rights and constitutional principles like the freedom of enterprise or non-discrimination should be applied
What kind of work have you been handling since the virus hit?
We received numerous new cases concerning force majeure, hardship and coronavirus. We also put together a conference on this topic for the Cham-ber of Commerce in Brussels, for in-house counsel and for the academic world.Currently we are representing a group of commercial lessees with a view to nego-tiating their rents in commercial malls; we are also handling numerous cases linked to the incentives to be given by the state to the horeca [hotels, restau-rants and catering] sector. In addition, we represent the gaming industry, which faced a hard lockdown, and have been analyzing all opportunities to rescue their business.We also examined the relation between owners, principal contractors and subcontractors in case of lockdown, and have been assisting a client that received a social inspection visit in respect of co-ronavirus rules on work premises.Last but not least, we continue to receive many demands concerning data privacy in the context of the Covid crisis.
The Belgium market is truly international. What makes Philippe & Partners unique in its positioning in the Belgium market?
I agree that the Belgian market is truly international today.Firstly, our firm is transnational: we have offices in five countries. Secondly, we can manage cases in ten different lan-guages and have an excellent network of lawyers all over the world. We have also specialized sectors of activity, like ener-gy and insurance, and we deal with mat-ters in these sectors on an international basis. We also have very strong, widely recognized specialisms in international contracts and arbitration.
What is your strategy when it comes to implementing new technology?
We have improved our office digitally on a wide variety of fronts, from files and databases to Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams meetings.We have also launched YouTube confe-rences on insurance, arbitrage, general terms in contracts, and tax proceedings. We will launch a new video on new le-gislation or new case law every month. Through these YouTube videos, we have been reaching – and will continue to reach – people all over the world.
“Our main goal is to develop our expertise in the new technology sector”
How has Philippe & Partners been addressing gender equality at the firm?
Women represent more than 50% of our staff. More and more law firms have fe-male partners, a development we welco-me. We believe that women can shed new light on, and bring new perspec-tives to, our profession.