There has been a marked increase in demand for UK and EU qualified competition lawyers in Brussels over the last couple of years.
This increase has been driven in part by the crowded Brussels competition market with Magic Circle, US, international and local law firms all competing for expertise. These firms are generally involved in all areas of competition law, as well as state aid and regulatory matters.
Law firms in Brussels offer lawyers exposure to top tier EU and international competition work, which in turn attracts lawyers from multiple jurisdictions. With the ongoing uncertainty around the amount of EU competition work law firms in the UK will be involved in post-Brexit, Brussels also appeals to many UK qualified lawyers.
Magic Circle, US and international law firms in Brussels will consider European and UK qualified lawyers, especially those with a post graduate competition focused degree and fluency in two or more European languages. Firms are most keen to speak with lawyers within the NQ to 5PQE range. Local law firms tend to recruit Belgian or other European qualified lawyers.
The interview process in Brussels varies from firm to firm. For lawyers that are not based in Brussels, a first stage interview can be set-up via VC or Skype. It is recommended that candidates visit Brussels at some stage of the process to meet interviewers in person and familiarise themselves with the office environment and location.
Most firms have a two-stage interview process which often involves a case study/technical test. Once the process has been completed and a firm has made an offer, the firm will typically expect a response within a week or two.
Brussels is now becoming a more appealing option for UK qualified lawyers.
Law firms in Brussels usually pay slightly less than London. In the last few years, a handful of firms have increased their salary bandings to match London rates. For lawyers looking to relocate, most firms will offer a relocation package which typically includes a flight/Eurostar ticket, accommodation for a month and a sum towards the relocation of furniture etc.
Most lawyers in Brussels are self-employed. It is a legal requirement for anyone who is self-employed to apply for a professional card at the Belgian embassy in order to work in Brussels. European qualified lawyers can practise in Brussels by registering on the Brussels Bar E-List, which incurs an initial registration fee and an annual membership fee. Bar fees and funds towards accounting costs are usually covered as standard by most law firms.
It is also common for law firms to offer a benefits package to self-employed lawyers which includes medical and dental cover. Most lawyers will fall into the 50% tax bracket, however living costs in Brussels are lower in comparison with London and most other European cities.
For a confidential chat about the Brussels market, please get in touch with Manisha Vegad on Manisha.Vegad@robertwalters.com or 0207 509 8236.
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