You started as an intern at Monard Law. When was that?
Kristof: In September 2005 after I did a summer internship at Monard Law. The dynamics and open culture really appealed to me, so I immediately applied.
When I got the news that I had the job, I was really happy.
You chose to develop your entire career within Monard Law, which is quite unique. Why that choice?
Kristof: Long term thinking. I had a career path in mind and I was willing to go all out for it. In addition, from day 1 I was given every opportunity to develop myself.
On the other hand, you immediately have a lot of responsibility.
We still try to do that with trainees: go along to plead in court as soon as possible or go along with clients.
That way you learn the fastest.
So you were regularly pushed out of your comfort zone?
Kristof: continuously. Certainly as a intern, literally everything is outside your comfort zone. You have to be able to handle that because the legal profession is very demanding.
You have to deal with unexpected assignments, tight deadlines, urgent tasks, etc.
In addition, you must continue to study and specialize yourself.
I remember my mentors Nicole and Erik always telling me, “Kristof, you have to read, read, read.”
Monard Law offers many specializations. What are yours?
Kristof: I am active in commercial law, in which I am involved in:
- Contract work in a commercial context: helping companies to prepare complex commercial contracts in the context of the purchase of machine lines, sale of goods, setting up distribution networks, franchise systems, production agreements, e-commerce, etc. Often in an international context.
- Everything about IT law: setting up software development collaborations, SaaS agreements, SLAs, hosting, legal guidance of ERP implementations …
- And a special passion of mine is data protection. With the rise of the internet and new technologies, data protection is more important than ever. People often don’t realize how much information they share. We have also noticed this in the number of requests for advice we receive over the past 10 years. We now have a strong team that works almost exclusively on data protection.
“Know which personal data you process!”
Privacy and data protection are indeed a hot topic. What challenges do you currently see in this area?
Kristof: First and foremost, creating awareness among companies.
The rules are there and they are already strictly controlled.
To give you an example: every company is obliged to maintain a processing register. I always call that privacy accounting. You provide an overview of all personal data that your company processes. And that’s often more than you think.
Many companies still think that it is extremely expensive, but in practice it is very easy to get the basics right.
How have you seen Monard Law evolve over the years?
Kristof: We are highly professionalized as an office.
For example, a few years ago we chose to appoint an external CEO (Karen Braeckmans). She is not a lawyer.
Since then I have noticed that the office has made great progress in the field of organization.
In addition, we increasingly work for internationally active companies, in addition to our service for SMEs, governments, institutions and start-ups that are only active on Belgian territory. The wide range makes it very interesting.
In this way we have been able to grow to 140 professionals.
And how have you seen yourself evolve since you started at Monard Law?
Kristof: I’ve gotten older and wiser (laughs).
In addition, I dared to choose my passion.
In the beginning I worked different branches of law such as tax law, corporate … but gradually I started to do more and more commercial/corporate law, IT law and data protection. And that suits me very much.
“Do a lot of what you love to do.”
This is one of the quotes in our mission statement for a reason. (ed.)
I specialize in the matters in which I am interested. Because by doing what you love every day and following your gut feeling, you will become successful. Otherwise you will burn out quickly.
Failing every now and then is part of becoming successful. What mistake can you still remember?
Kristof: In my first year I once forgot to submit a collection of documents to the court. Because I didn’t know that I had to.”
You only make such a mistake once!
Fortunately it was easily resolved. But I did get a serious scolding. And rightly so!
But that is also part of the journey.
How do you deal with such errors?
Kristof: By communicating as quickly and transparently as possible and by rectifying mistakes as quickly as possible. And if you don’t know the solution yourself: ask for help. Otherwise the problem will only get worse.
“Everyone makes mistakes.”
We are all human and everyone makes mistakes. The most important thing is that you take your responsibility.
If you could describe your Monard Law colleagues in 3 words, which would you choose?
Kristof: Communicative, solution-oriented and analytical.
We have a strong analytical capacity to process complex cases and to draw the right conclusions.
We’ve talked about the past few years. But what do you think the future of Monard Law looks like?
Kristof : I think we have a very exciting time ahead of us. We will continue to focus on professional specialization and on internal and external communication.
We want to be able to inform our clients better and better. Digitization also fits in with that strategy.
“Everything revolves around unburdening the customer.”
And we do this together with colleagues who breathe the Monard Law culture.
What are your ambitions for the coming years?
Kristof: Retiring is too early for me (laughs).
I hope to be able to contribute to the growth of the office for years to come, together with my colleagues. And to further expand the commercial law team I work in.
A personal ambition is to find a slightly better balance between work and private life. For example, I would like to do some more sports and get my racing bike out of the dust.
Other colleagues do inspire me to focus more on work-life balance. For example, every day between 6 pm and 8 pm I spend time with my children. That is really sacred to me.
Do you have a personal message for young, ambitious lawyers?
Kristof: Read and study!
Continuing education is an absolute must. I still do that to this day. When you get out of school you have a good foundation, but the greatest knowledge will be gained during the early years of your career.
Dare to come out of your shell, dare to take initiative, dare to share ideas.
You have a no, you can get a yes.