September traditionally sees many new trainee lawyers starting at Nelissen Grade. Law students fresh from school head to the Brussels Courthouse to take their oaths. But the step into the legal profession comes with a host of questions. What are the duties of an accomplished lawyer? How do you acquire the necessary legal skills? And what is the added value of a law firm like Nelissen Grade? We spoke to Sofie Schepens and Benjamin Pauwels, lawyers specialising in company law at Nelissen Grade, and presented them with some dilemmas. Find out more!
Niche or variety?
Benjamin: “Both. You start within a certain expertise group, which means you acquire niche knowledge about a certain branch of law. During your internship, however, you are given a wide range of case files within that branch of law. That variety is an asset.”
Sofie: “It is important for trainee lawyers to get a ‘taste’ of all kinds of case files. After a while, you will discover which area of law you prefer. That doesn't just apply to the content but also to the form. During my internship, I discovered that I preferred negotiating to arguing a case in court.”
Supervised or independent?
Sofie: “The advantage of Nelissen Grade is that, as a trainee lawyer, you get to handle files from A to Z. So you get plenty of independence but also have a safety net there for you. Also, our doors are always open for a brief consultation.”
Benjamin: “From day one, you are thrown into things. That starts with the basics of the legal profession, like writing letters or drafting briefs. Then you shift your focus to the substance of a case, with tasks ranging from collecting small invoices to facilitating international acquisitions. Training at Nelissen Grade is an amazing advantage for trainee lawyers.”
Personal or impersonal?
Benjamin: “Personal. Nelissen Grade focuses on you as an individual. You are not just a number and do not receive standard training. They tailor the training to your needs and areas of expertise, always with the aim of making you better at your job as a trainee lawyer.
Sofie: “That's right. I was given the opportunity to take a post-master's degree in company law during my internship. The same applies after completing the internship. I have been a lawyer for seven years and am now pursuing an additional LL.M. in competition law. Nelissen Grade really watches over your personal career path, looking at how you can grow further as a lawyer and what knowledge could enrich the team’s performance.”
Social or serious?
Benjamin: “Social and serious. We are serious in the workplace and in our job as lawyers, but we can also have fun. Nelissen Grade's many team events are living proof of that.”
Sofie: “I totally agree. A few years ago we took part in a sailing race for lawyers in Marseille. We had an experienced captain and the rest of the lawyers were hanging from the ropes. Fantastic!”
Benjamin: “This year's trip to the Champagne region was also a hit. The atmosphere was great. And I recently signed up to take part in the Legal Run for lawyers. From 0 to 5 kilometres: I have already started training!”
Generalist or specialist?
Sofie: “Specialist. As a lawyer, you acquire a certain expertise in your branch of law, which you keep expanding on. I prefer to focus on difficult acquisitions (M&A), contracts or discussions on competition law. Always within company and business law, of course.”
Benjamin: “The longer you work at Nelissen Grade, the more you specialise in certain areas of law. As a trainee lawyer, I am focusing on company law in the broad sense for now, with a variety of case files. But that does not mean that I will suddenly start focusing on family law or criminal law. Other colleagues specialise in those areas.”
Theoretical or practical?
Benjamin: “Practical. You assist clients with problems that arise in everyday life and look for legal solutions that really help. That unburdening aspect is very evident.”
Sofie: “Exactly. It really is ‘Nelissen Grade in any case’. Whenever a client has a question that lies outside my legal domain, I refer them to my colleagues. We sometimes have entrepreneurs who are faced with situations in their private lives. Our family lawyers then advise and assist them. So we function as a kind of home base that clients can turn to in any situation.”
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