Qui contacter pour des conseils juridiques ?

Who should you contact for legal advice?

There will always be a time during your self-employment when you will need the advice of a legal specialist. The pointers below will help you with your search for legal advice

1. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LEGAL EXPERT AND A LAWYER?

The term “legal expert” describes a person who has studied law, regardless of the career they pursue afterwards.

A “corporate legal expert” is a person who has a master’s degree in law and works as an employee in a private or public sector company. They have become specialists in a legal field as a result of their corporate experience and/or additional training (master's, LLM or other). They provide their services to their employer only and assist their company with the legal issues it faces (e.g. the marketing, sales, HR or other company departments).

Lawyers”also have a Master's in law (they are legal experts!), have registered with the bar association (the “bar”) and are required to comply with specific ethical behaviour. All lawyers are self-employed.
Lawyers generally specialise in a given field and, depending on their preference, will either advise clients or defend them in court. They usually work with a number of different clients, contrary to legal experts who work for their company (even when they are in contact with third parties).

2. WHO CAN BEST HELP YOU? HOW TO CHOOSE? A FEW TIPS…

Regardless if you contact a legal expert or a lawyer, your most important concern should be their competence. It will depend on their career, experience and knowledge. Lawyers and legal experts will usually only have in-depth knowledge of a single field (not of all fields, which is already an accomplishment!): the one they work in and continue to train in to stay up-to-date with the most recent changes, etc.

Law studies cover virtually all legal fields. After graduation, the legal expert will choose an area based on the field or fields that are interested in (corporate law, general commercial law, intellectual property law, family law, commercial lease law, environmental law, administrative law, criminal law, tax law, etc.). A criminal lawyer won’t be able to help you choose the best legal form for your company, despite being a lawyer.

IMPORTANT:

  • Check the field of specialisation of the legal expert or lawyer. 
  • You may have to consult with several people or assistance services if you have a number of different questions covering very different fields (e.g. commercial lease agreement law for your shop, tax law for the tax benefits of a given company form, and intellectual property law for your logo). 
  • Entrepreneur support and assistance services may have legal experts who have more multidisciplinary skills (BECI, hub.brussels, etc.). These legal experts work on issues in-house(monitoring legislation, interpreting laws, providing training, etc.) and for their clients, i.e.: you!

You must be aware of the fact that pricing methods and the amounts involved can vary significantly from one person to the next: some services are free, others are billable, with the application of a set fee (this is more common with the legal experts of business one-stop shops, unions, etc.), or an hourly rate depending on the time spent on your question (this is more common among lawyers).

 IMPORTANT:

  • Be sure that you know the pricing scheme of the legal advisoryou have contacted prior to agreeing to work with them. 
  • The legal services of unions for the self-employedcover the key areas of the life of an entrepreneur and can provide a good quality/price option for someone with many questions.

3. PREPARE THE WORK IN ADVANCE! AND BE ABLE TO MAKE A DISTINCTION BETWEEN LEGAL AND NON-LEGAL ISSUES

In other words: there are things that you may be able to do or start to do yourself which don’t have to be written up by a legal expert. Contracts often consist mostly of clauses which are not specifically legal in nature.

For example, for the provision of services (healthcare, coaching, website creation, etc.), you can already start by thinking things through before making an appointment: what do you want to commit to? What are the obligations and responsibilities of each party? How long will the collaboration last? Can the collaboration be ended early? Pricing? What is the description of the mission? Changes? Location? etc.
See also: important points for general terms and conditions and for commercial lease agreements.Another must: the six essential clauses.

A major portion of the actual content of a contract will cover the requirements of the two parties to the contract. A legal expert/lawyer can help you check to make sure that you have covered the important points, tell you if it is worthwhile/permitted to include a specific clause or clauses (e.g. non-compete, confidentiality, the competent courts in the event of a dispute, a public order clause which can’t be waived) or draw your attention to the legislation applicable to your situation or to crucial points (strategy, contract termination terms, etc.).

If you want to keep a written record of the agreements (which is generally recommended), you can include what has been agreed on in a collaboration contract. However, in some circumstances, the commitments can be sent by email and have the same legal value as a more formal contract!

IMPORTANT:

  • Conduct case-by-caseresearch into whether or not you will need a legal document/formal contract depending on the sector or specific situation. It may be better to be advised throughout the entire contract preparation process or it may be sufficient to have the document you prepared/wrote with the other party carefully reread by a professional. 

4. DELEGATE? YES, BUT...

...stay involved and ask all of your questions until you have fully understood the advice given and the documents you will be signing. The legal world sometimes appears very abstract and you may be tempted to delegate everything to a legal expert without really understanding what you are committing to or the consequences of a given clause or law.

The material covered by the legal expert intrinsically involves your business or activity and will impact the way in which it will change, can be terminated or grow.

IMPORTANT:

  • Understand what you are signing and what involves your business. Find a person who will explain things in simple terms (yes, yes, those people are out there!).

5. ADDITIONAL TIPS

  • Investigate the consultancy grantavailable from Brussels Economy and Employment to hire a legal expert or lawyer for a specific business management or development question. You can receive up to 60% of the fees incurred if you meet the conditions.
  • Why not get some training?
    • 1819 information session: “Establishing a business in Brussels: 10 keys for a successful project”(3h): this session is held twice a month. It will provide you with first-line information on administrative formalities, legal aspects, the different subsidies and public loans available, support organisations, etc. This (free) session includes a segment on the legal forms of companies provided by a legal expert from impulse.brussels. It’s free, but you will have to register ahead of time on the website. Information and dates in the agenda on this website
    • EFP Passeport Réussiteholds short training sessions on a regular basis (2-3h). 

6. Where can you go for assistance ?

The 1819 service is the leading information contact point in Brussels. It will provide answers to a series of legal questions by telephone, email or in person at a business office. For more information see (non-exhaustive list):

Advice from a lawyer

  • Concept: A lawyer can provide tailored advice in a number of different legal areas: commercial law, tax law, etc. They set their fees freely within the limits of fairness based on various criteria, notably the financial situation of the client, their own experience, their level of specialisation, the scope of the dispute, etc. The www.avocats.be website provides information and help to find the right lawyer for your needs. The website also provides a directory.
  • Benefits: lawyers are legal professionals who are often referred to as the most specialised and expert references in the subjects they handle. They also have an understanding of case law (the decisions rendered by the courts) and of doctrine (articles, books, written commentary on issues).

If you don’t have the means to pay a lawyer:

  • Legal aid: the lawyer’s services are partially or entirely free. Contact “Télé-barreau” at 02 511 54 83 
    • First-line legal aid: accessible to all with no conditions related to income Offices with lawyers available to provide a first legal opinion or information. 
      Contact the Commissions d’Aide Juridique for their offices throughout Belgium and in Brussels. Information available here
    • Second-line legal aid: access based on income.
      Depending on the situation, a lawyer may be appointed to provide assistance within the context of a legal or administrative procedure, for more in-depth advice or for mediation.
      Contact the Bureaux d’Aide Juridique
  • Legal aid: legal fees (court, registration, bailiff, notary, expert, translator and other fees) are partially or entirely free

Are you searching for legislation ?

Lex.be is the legal information equivalent of Google, a website for (law) professionals which provides easy access to relevant legal information.

Consultation with a lawyer - 1819's “Parlons de droit” (let’s talk about the law) sessions

  • Concept: When issues go beyond the knowledge or competence of 1819’s advisers, they will propose other options and, in some instances, a free 30-minute consultation with a lawyer (general law or intellectual property law). The sessions, called “Let’s talk about the law”, take place every month (about 20 people can attend per session). Given the limited time allocated for each session, it is advisable to have just a few questions and to provide them to the lawyer ahead of time so that they can prepare their answers. Sessions are free but registration is required.
  • Target audience: the future self-employed/SMEs in Brussels
  • Benefits: lawyers are available free of charge
  • Information available: in the agenda of this website

Consultation with a lawyer - with BECI

  • Concept: Consultations of one hour and thirty minutes with a lawyer from the Brussels’ bar for both simple and complex issues. Recurring topics: commercial leases, receivables collections, contracts, court summons, etc. The first consultation is free.
  • Target audience: the self-employed - small and medium size companies in difficulty in all sectors in the Brussels-Capital Region.
  • Benefits and specificities: high frequency and long meetings.

 BECI's CED CONTACT INFORMATION

LEGAL EXPERTS AT BUSINESS ONE-STOP SHOPS AND SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICES

  • Concept: All business one-stop shops and social security offices have in-house legal experts who provide assistance to the customer managers who are in contact with you. They help with general and basic legal issues (professional qualifications, corporate status, social security contributions, etc.).
    Some of the shops require a fee (per service or a subscription or a set monthly/annual fee) for more complex legal issues (business plans, market studies, taxes, etc.).
  • Target audience: the self-employed and companies in Belgium
  • Benefits and specificities: very practical for basic issues. It can be advantageous to subscribe to the for-fee services if you have a number of issues in which they are competent.
  • Contact:

Notaries

  • Concept: If you are creating a limited liability company, you will have to contact a notary to prepare the articles of incorporation of the company. They include the company’s articles of association, i.e. a complete description of the entity: type of company, corporate name, duration, purpose, registered office, capital, general meetings, etc. It can also be helpful to consult with a notary during the planning stages for advice before starting to write the document.

GO TO THE WEBSITE

 

Online legal platforms

  • Concept: These Internet platforms put companies with legal questions in contact with legal experts and lawyers, in Dutch or in French. Some have standard legal documents which are useful for companies: standard legal and administrative contracts, standard letters, general terms and conditions of sale, etc. Depending on the formula, either the platform selects the offering that best answers your question(s) or you choose your lawyer.
    The services are billable. Companies can submit occasional requests (writing standard terms and conditions of sale for a website) for a set fee or subscribe to a recurring aid service by paying a fixed or temporary monthly amount.
  • Target audience: the self-employed and start-up companies (small- and medium-size companies) and non-profits in Belgium.
  • Benefits and specificities:
    • A number of processes are automated/digitalised to make work as efficient as possible.
    • Prices are often standard for specific services/documents, which reduces surprises.
  • Examples:

THE ADDE NON-PROFIT LEGAL SERVICE (ASSOCIATION POUR LE DROIT DES ÉTRANGERS - ASSOCIATION FOR THE RIGHTS OF FOREIGNERS)

  • Concept: This research centre studies the issues related to migration and cultural diversity, promotes the rights of foreigners and provides first-line legal advice. Legal experts provide advice by telephone on general questions (residence, employment, social assistance rights). Following a review of the situation by telephone, a meeting will be scheduled, if required.
  • Target audience: primarily foreign nationals
  • Benefitspractical information is available on the website 

GO TO THE WEBSITE

THE "ATELIER DES DROITS SOCIAUX" LEGAL SERVICE

  • Concept: The purpose of the Atelier des droits sociaux is to fight economic, legal and political exclusion, notably with respect to work, housing, health, social security, social assistance and legal aid. As a (future) self-employed person, the legal service will be of particular value for your questions about self-employment/salaried employee status, employment in general and unemployment.
  • Target audience: accessible to all
  • Benefits: legal information on a wide range of topics available on the website

GO TO THE WEBSITE

Union Legal Services

ORGANISATIONSDI

  • Concept: The SDI provides a legal service to its members. It provides personalised advice for a range of fields (contract preparation, general terms and conditions of sale, management of disputes that can be settled amicably, etc.). Contact with lawyers, accountants and tax experts). Billable services. Annual membership costs about €190/year.
  • Target audience: the self-employed - SMEs in Belgium
  • Benefits and specificities: legal, accounting, social and tax information by telephone, consultations and correspondence. Good file follow-up.

SDI CONTACT INFORMATION

ORGANISATION: UCM (UNION DES CLASSES MOYENNES)

  • Concept: The UCM is a union for the self-employed which, in addition to providing company and social security services, provides legal advice. Its legal experts answer questions on all topics related to company life: civil and commercial law, company law and tax law (share disposals, brand registration, writing of general terms and conditions, subcontracting contracts, legal form, etc.). Annual membership in “UCM Mouvement” provides access to the legal service.
  • Target audience: the self-employed - SMEs in Brussels and in Wallonia
  • Benefits and specificities: the annual membership includes the legal service as well as eight other benefits (e.g. collective defence, receivables collection, insurance in the event of a tax audit, access to workshops (e-commerce, financing, transfer), etc.).

UCM CONTACT INFORMATION

SNI (NEUTRAL TRADE UNION FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED)

  • Concept: The SNI is a “neutral” union organisation which represents the self-employed and knowledge workers, as well as SMEs throughout the country. Membership in the SNI provides access to 24 services, including legal ones such as legal aid, receivables collection, standard contracts, mediation, etc.
  • Target audience: the self-employed - SMEs in Belgium
  • Benefits and specificities: no affiliation to a given party or political tendency or specific sector.

SNI CONTACT INFORMATION

UNIZO “ONDERNEMERSLIJN” AND UNIZO LEGAL SCAN

  • Concept: Unizo (“De Unie van Zelfstandige Ondernemers”) is the largest assistance organisation for entrepreneurs in Flanders and Brussels providing advice to entrepreneurs in all aspects of their business field, notably via the “Ondernemerslijn” information line. In addition, the Unizo Legal Scan service provides assistance for more complex legal issues (contracts, advice on involved issues, mediation services) for Unizo members at special rates.
  • Target audience: the (future) self-employed and SMEs, primarily Dutch-speaking, in Flanders and in Brussels
  • Contact:

UNIZO CONTACT INFORMATION

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