THE FIRM This specialist firm continues its reign as market leader, offering a sizeable team spread across six regional offices which covers all aspects of employment law, including contentious and non-contentious matters. The team advises major conglomerates from a broad spread of industries, and clients with international issues benefit from the firm's leading role in the Ius Laboris network. Recent mandates include complex pensions issues, and employment advice following cross-border mergers.
Sources say: "An exceptional firm." "Excellent to work with - friendly, approachable and experienced in global projects."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Chris Engels is a highly respected practitioner who covers topics including individual and collective dismissals, transfer of undertakings and outsourcing. One impressed source says: "He is at the top and will always be there."
The "outstanding" Olivier Debray specialises in international employment issues, including expatriation, social security and double tax treaties, as well as compensation and benefits.
Kortrijk-based practitioner Bart Adriaens advises on labour and social security law.
Patrick Maerten has expertise in areas such as outsourcing, mergers and restructurings, regularly advising on issues including working time, employee participation schemes and collective labour relations.
Bart Vanschoebeke's specialisms include issues relating to works council and social security legislation at the EU level.
THE FIRM This international powerhouse fields a strong employment team which is praised for its responsiveness and solution-driven approach. It advises on restructuring, outsourcing, benefits and pensions, as well as employment disputes. Recent work highlights include assisting Colgate-Palmolive with the restructuring of its Belgian operations, and advising Citi on the demerger of its Belgian pension fund following an M&A transaction. In addition, the team provides day-to-day HR advice to clients such as Amcor and McCain.
Sources say: "A personal and flexible approach, with a 'can-do' attitude."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Department head Pieter De Koster is respected for his extensive experience in employment, and his recent work includes advising Accenture on a series of outsourcing transactions. Commentators cite his "broad knowledge combined with fresh ideas and solutions."
Antwerp-based Christian Bayart advises on a wide range of employment issues, including workforce restructuring and optimisation of benefits. He recently supported Citi in the demerger of its Belgian pension fund.
THE FIRM Clients are attracted to this firm's employment practice due to its pragmatic advice and international capacity. The team's recent work includes major restructuring projects, and a number of individual dismissals. Key mandates include assisting a leading company with the dismissal of its head of European operations, and advising a leading consumer goods producer on negotiations with its European works council.
Sources say: "Timely and practical advice: I rely on the team heavily without hesitation."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Department head François Gabriel advises on a range of labour mandates, including high-level dismissals and employment matters stemming from M&A and corporate transactions.
Sources recognise Nancy Luyten for her "approachability" and focus on building long-term relationships with clients. She advises high-profile groups on issues including organisational restructurings.
THE FIRM This respected practice handles employment litigation, health and safety and general HR issues. It recently advised the Joint Labour Committee of the Chemical, Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences Industry in Belgium on the construction and implementation of an industry-wide pension scheme. The team has also been assisting a number of clients with restructuring mandates, including Thomas Cook and TomTom.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Department head Jan Hofkens represents both employers and senior executives. He specialises in restructuring and outsourcing, and advised Thomas Cook on a recent restructuring that included the outsourcing of a number of departments.
Alexander Vandenbergen heads up the pensions practice. His expertise extends beyond pensions alone, and he recently advised BAT on the employment aspects of the merger of its Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands entities.
THE FIRM This full-service firm's employment practice continues to go from strength to strength. The three-partner team covers both employment and pensions mandates, and offers day-to-day HR support to a number of significant clients. It recently assisted Belgian press distribution group AMP with a reorganisation and collective dismissal matter.
Sources say: "I am particularly impressed with the team's pragmatic and commercial approach." "All the lawyers are accessible anytime, and score highly for communication and management of the client's expectations."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Practice head Michaël De Leersnyder is regarded as an "expert in his field," and is noted for his broad knowledge of corporate employment law.
THE FIRM This independent Belgian firm's employment team climbs the rankings thanks to strong feedback from clients. It advises domestic and international companies from sectors including automotive, retail and energy, and is highlighted for its tailor-made service. Recent highlights include acting on major M&A transactions, and assisting an international group with the closure of its Belgian operations.
Sources say: "The team knows our business and really thinks with us. The lawyers are blunt and honest, and provide us with preventative advice."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The main contact is department head Vincent Busschaert.
THE FIRM This team is praised by sources for its excellent cross-border service and business-oriented approach. It provides employment support on corporate transactions, as well as advising on collective dismissals, plant closures and pension issues. The group recently assisted Renault with the closure of its operations in Vilvoorde, and advised Chevron Trust on a pan-European pension arrangement.
Sources say: "The performance is excellent - the advice is timely, complete and expressed clearly." "I appreciate the team's client orientation. There is always someone available to help, and the solutions are practical and ready to be implemented."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Individual and collective labour law specialist Luc Vanaverbeke is praised for his "wealth of experience" and ability to "immediately cater to the needs of clients." He recently advised Sanofi on a collective dismissal related to a larger reorganisation, and assisted HSBC with a number of employment terminations.
Elke Duden is described by sources as "an expert who is a delight to work with." Her recent work includes advising on pension schemes for Alcatel-Lucent and Tessenderlo Chemie.
THE FIRM This team offers a wide range of employment support, with notable recent activity involving restructurings and collective dismissals. It advises on a number of contentious and non-contentious issues centring around employee packages, including compensation, benefits and pensions. Pioneer, Goodyear and BNP Paribas Fortis are notable clients.
Sources say: "High-quality work delivered on time, and a personal approach with lots of partner contact."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Department head Christian Willems is respected by sources for his expertise and "hands-on approach."
THE FIRM Despite some recent departures, this team continues to be recommended by sources for its experience and no-nonsense approach. Notable recent highlights include advising Anheuser-Busch InBev on trade union opposition to a collective dismissal, and assisting Atenor Group with the closure of a hotel.
Sources say: "I appreciate the team's human contact: the lawyers will pick up the phone and explain issues in clear and easy-to-understand terms." "The team looks after you as a client, and everyone is always very courteous and hospitable."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Practice head Herman Craeninckx is known for his experience in complex restructuring negotiations. He recently advised Johnson Matthey on the high-profile closure of the Belgian emission control technologies division of the company.
Newly promoted partner Jérôme Aubertin recently supported Sabena technics in a collective dismissal as part of a wider restructuring process. Sources say he has "a great business focus and a good knowledge of what happens in practice."
THE FIRM This Belgian firm fields an experienced employment team, and the group collaborates closely with tax boutique Tiberghien to give clients the benefit of integrated advice across the two areas. The team provides HR support to Marco Polo and Levi Strauss, and recently advised Siemens on an outsourcing project.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Sylvie Dubois heads the department. She recently represented Otto Christ in a successful termination of employment case.
THE FIRM This nine-strong employment, pensions and benefits team advises a number of notable domestic and international clients. Key recent matters include assisting Livingston International with the employment aspects of its acquisition of JPMorgan's customs and trade compliance services, as well as acting on a number of disputes, collective dismissals and restructurings.
Sources say: "The team builds outstanding relationships with its clients thanks to its confidence, reliability and thoroughness." "It provides advice in a very timely manner, concise and applicable to our needs."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Eddy Lievens heads the practice. He advises on all aspects of employment law, including organisation closures and restructurings, and his in-house experience brings a practical understanding to his advice.
THE FIRM This employment, pensions and benefits team profits from the firm's close collaboration with Deloitte, enabling it to provide an integrated service to clients. The team regularly advises the City of Antwerp on HR issues; other clients include Brazilian IT group Stefanini and global infrastructure support supplier Doosan.
Sources say: "We appreciate the fact that the lawyers do not hesitate to give a firm position on complicated legal issues."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Department head Renaat Van den Eeckhaut is the key contact.
THE FIRM This employment and pensions team handles transactions, restructurings and contentious work. The practice also covers HR issues, such as recruitment, redundancies and health and safety, as well as trade union negotiations and industrial action. Its clients include AstraZeneca, FedEx and Jet Airways.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Philippe François heads the department. He is appreciated by sources for his pragmatism and commitment to understanding the client's business, and has particular expertise regarding the employment aspects of corporate and M&A activity.
THE FIRM This Belgian employment boutique is well known for its local practice and has a strong domestic client base. It has offices in Antwerp and Brussels and acts for both employers and employees.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Market observers recognise Herman Van Hoogenbemt as a well-known name in employment law and cite his long experience.
THE FIRM This firm specialises in employment and social security law. It is a key player on the domestic arena, with offices in Brussels, Ghent and Liège. Litigation is a strong point, and the team has considerable experience handling disputes before the Belgian Supreme Court.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Ghent-based Willy Van Eeckhoutte is considered an "incredible lawyer" and a notable academic. He regularly pleads cases before the Belgian Supreme Court.
Claude Wantiez operates from the Brussels office, and focuses on individual and collective employment law.
THE FIRM This corporate and employment boutique has niche experience of employment issues in the public sector, and its clients include state-related groups such as Belgacom, Bpost and SNCB Holdings. The team has a strong litigation practice, regularly handling a number of dismissals and discrimination cases. It recently assisted a large pharmaceutical multinational company with the international transition of employee benefits following an acquisition.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Respected practitioner Chris Van Olmen is managing partner and head of the team. His specialisms include reorganisations and restructurings, collective dismissals and closures.
THE FIRM This dedicated employment and pensions boutique was recently established by a number of hugely respected lawyers from Stibbe and Field Fisher Waterhouse. Clients so far include the Belgian Financial Services Markets Authority, SportsDirect.com and INNO, a member of the METRO Group.
Sources say: "The team combines a high level of expertise with a sense of initiative and creativity."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Jean-Philippe Cordier is managing partner at the new firm. He counts ArcelorMittal, GSK Biologicals and EDF Luminus among his clients.
Corinne Merla's specialisation lies in pension funds and social security benefits, on which she has written a number of academic articles. She acts for the likes of Chevron and Carrefour Belgium.
Olivier Rijckaert is recommended for his "deep knowledge" of employment legislation.
THE FIRM This firm's employment, incentives and pensions practice covers both Belgian and EU law and regulation. It recently advised the Benelux subsidiary of the Israeli Delek Group on the internal reorganisation of marketing operations acquired from Chevron. Further clients include Expedia and Pfizer.
Sources say: "Great international experience. The team has really exceeded our expectations."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Carl Bevernage commands significant respect among market commentators. He has a wealth of experience, and is appreciated by clients for his extensive network.
THE FIRM This global giant fields a compact employment team that handles restructurings and operation closures for clients such as Nokia and Reader's Digest. It also provides pension advice, and recently assisted the UK trustees of the Belgian Alcatel-Lucent Pension Fund with its conversion into a Belgian pan-European pension fund (PEP).
KEY INDIVIDUALS Partner Xavier Remy is the main contact.
THE FIRM This newcomer to the rankings is particularly praised by interviewees for its capacity to field experts in multiple jurisdictions. In a standout recent mandate, the team provided BAA Aviation with advice on new working schedules compliant with working time regulations. The group also handles individual and collective dismissals, as well as employment litigation.
Sources say: "Excellent and without fault at all - the team is very quick at picking up issues that we had not previously considered."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Department head Stefan Corbanie impresses sources with his "significant knowledge and experience, and an attitude which is geared towards working in partnership with the client." He provides employment advice to major players such as HJ Heinz and DuPont.
Talented associate Sylvie Cousin specialises in pension law, with notable experience regarding the optimisation of schemes.
THE FIRM This full-service international firm fields a four-person employment and benefits team. The main areas of work covered include contract drafting, reorganisations, employee rights and tribunal litigation, as well as the tax optimisation of employee benefits. The team additionally provides day-to-day employment assistance to long-term clients.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Impressed sources describe Stefan Nerinckx as "responsive, pragmatic, down to earth and to the point."
THE FIRM This firm's employment practice enters the rankings this year thanks to excellent client feedback. The expanding team provides HR and employment support, with particular expertise in international business migration. It also works closely with the firm's sports law practice to provide niche advice on employment issues in this area.
Sources say: "The firm puts the client first and the advice is very pragmatic." "The lawyers' advice is meticulous but not overly elaborate. The firm is a centre of expertise and highly client-oriented."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Clients are full of praise for practice head Bertold Theeuwes, noting his ability to "combine an extensive knowledge base with excellent strategic and operational planning skills in order to comprehensively deal with issues."
THE FIRM A new entry to the rankings, this boutique provides integrated advice on HR and tax law. The team has a strong contentious practice, recently handling a number of litigations involving pensions and employee transfers. Other work includes representing both employers and employees in terminations of contracts, and assisting clients with the optimisation of HR structures.
Sources say: "The team goes beyond just legal advice: the lawyers try and understand you as a client by putting themselves in your shoes."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Department co-head Edward Carlier is praised by clients for his ability to "help foresee issues thanks to his broad experience."
Koen De Bisschop co-heads the practice, and has recently advised on a number of executive dismissals. Clients say: "His work is of excellent quality, and he offers good business insight."
heads the practice at Eubelius, and covers collective and individual labour law, social security and benefits. Her specialisms also include restructurings and employment issues in the public sector.
Clients note that Chantal Biernaux
of Jones Day is "very personable and good at finding practical solutions when things are ambiguous.
" She recently advised ACI Worldwide on executive terminations and a wider redundancy process.
of Crowell & Moring LLP impresses clients as "a high performer who is very responsive and detail-oriented.
" His work of late has encompassed general employment support, restructuring and litigation.
Recently promoted partner Christophe Delmarcelle
heads the employment department at Bird & Bird. He provides corporate employment support to clients such as Nokia Siemens Networks and AirMalta.
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