The managing partner of employment boutique Sotra shares how a fully digital and paperless law firm offers increased efficiency in legal work, and the next key topics for employers in labor law.
Leaders League: What is special about the way Sotra provides services?
Olivier Rijckaert: As a niche firm, we only recruit and train attorneys with a high level of specialization in employment law. Our team of 14 lawyers is one of Belgium’s largest and most experienced in this area of law.
In addition, we always ensure that a maximum of two attorneys (one senior, one junior) are dedicated to each client. This guarantees fast and easy communication, while avoiding excessive costs related to sub-delegation.
Technology and digital tools are transforming the way law firms work; this is true for Sotra, one assumes?
From the very beginning, Sotra was conceived and founded as a fully digital and paperless law firm. We are currently the only Belgian law firm to have pushed the concept of paperlessness to the maximum 100%: there is no paper at all in our office.
This offers numerous advantages to our lawyers and staff, but also to our clients: they can access the entirety of their files and data anytime, wherever in the world they are, in an easy, secure fashion. This considerably reduces attorney and administrative costs for our clients given the increased efficiency offered by paperless work.
Furthermore, as a top-technology firm we have also developed new and original tools like an app dedicated to employment law, a Netflix-like platform where all our seminars and webinars are available on demand.
You are part of the ELLINT international network. What is its added value?
ELLINT is a fantastic network of boutique employment-law firms of the highest quality. By being part of this network, we have access to the best employment lawyers throughout Europe to assist our clients in multi-jurisdictional projects. When we refer a client to a member of the network, we are sure that they will receive the best possible service. All this, while maintaining our independence as a national firm, gives us the best of both worlds.
You advise major companies, SMEs and startups. What are their growing concerns and requests in term of labor advice in recent months?
The Covid crisis has caused profound transformation at work: health & safety issues, travel issues, GDPR and processing of employee medical data, temporary unemployment systems, state aid, collective dismissals and restructurings… as advisers, we had to quickly adapt and learn new regulations, often written in a hurry and written badly.
Clients needed an emergency response 24/7, and we had to be extremely creative since the situation was not anticipated.
We coped very well, thanks in part to our reliance on technology, which allowed us to shut down our premises immediately while maintaining client service around the clock.
Flexible and remote working will certainly be key topics for months and, probably, years to come. These areas are not very well regulated yet and we can certainly show a lot of creativity to assist our clients and help them build the best company policies and systems.
Electronic monitoring of employees will require attention since lots of companies will want to introduce monitoring systems for remote work. This will raise issues in terms of privacy, GDPR, availability of staff, etc. Finally, we expect lots of companies will be forced to restructure. It will require a lot of work and assistance in terms of negotiation with the works councils and employee representatives.
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