So this week, I got an e-mail from Corporate INTL, congratulating me that I won the award for ‘International Litigation Law Firm of the Year in Belgium‘. Apparently my ‘colleagues’ and ‘clients’ estimated that my firm beat all the Allen&Overy‘s and Baker&McKenzie‘s this year.
As that might not come a surprise, I am still surprised that people/clients/companies actually value these awards. In recent years – and much against the will of the Belgian Bar – legal awards have taken the Belgian legal market by storm. Some colleagues’ e-mail signature is twice as long as the actual contents of their e-mails with all the .jpgs of their awards.
Is there any client out there who really believes these awards mean anything, and are not just marketing-tools-to-buy?
Acclaiming my prize would cost me between 360 and 1.200 euros, depending how big I wanted my picture in the winners book.
Twenty minutes after me, my partner Christoph Kocks ‘won’ the award for ‘Distribution Law Firm of the Year in Belgium’. His award came for the same price.
So we shook hands and congratulated each other, after which we both deleted the e-mails.
Every (insolvency) litigator knows that if the opposite party of your client goes bankrupt, you can only hope that party was not incorporated outside the bigger Belgian territorial jurisdictions. Otherwise it will not only be difficult to actually find the address of the Court, but moreover you will be up against the Last Emperors: the local insolvency administrators, crowned by the local Court.
Under the Belgian Insolvency Act, the Court of Commerce which decided on the bankruptcy, will also appoint the insolvency administrator and will act as the Court in first degree for all disputes concerning the bankruptcy. If you take into account that in the smaller jurisdictions, the Court almost always appoint the same ‘selected few’ lawyers as insolvency administrators, you will understand that the moment you walk into the Court room, anything can happen but often it will go like this.
In general, the insolvency administrator in your case is one of those people not wearing the robe but still sitting behind a pile of files. If you are lucky, he will be there when the hearing starts. If you are unlucky, you will have to wait till he feels like its time to show up.
One by one the administrators go in front of the Judge and start working down their pile of files in close cooperation with the Judge while the occasional joke is cracked between the two. This machine is only stopped shortly now and then, when somebody from the audience turns out to be actually involved in a file.
Suddenly, silence in the Court room! A lawyer from another jurisdiction is representing an involved party! And he is even from Brussels! And he is representing a foreign company! Following sentences will come in random order from either the administrator or the Judge: ‘we do it differently here’; ‘don’t think they only make the law in Brussels’; ‘your client better elects domicile at your office because my clerk is not going to translate all the letters she has to send to your client’; …
The Judge postpones your case to a later date as he and the administrator still have to finish the rest of the pile to together. There is still time enough to show the big city boys that in this insolvency land the Emperor is not to be disturbed.
“Listen, we all have to agree that there is too much litigation going on in this world. But every year it seems to multiply tenfold. Why can’t we stop it? Well, it’s because the lawmakers in Congress and the Senate are almost all lawyers, too!”
– James Belushi