Thought leadership from our experts

Q&A with Mirjam de Blécourt

What do you like about your practice area?

Basically, it combines all my interests and passions: It has a tough business aspect to it, as you have to take into account the interests of large multinationals. At the same time, it requires a sense of humanity, as I always try and take the interests of the employees to heart. Also, it appeals to my ability to bring order and calm to often chaotic situations and to really partner on this with the client. My job and expertise at the same time allow me to bring about real change and make a difference. This is what I felt I did when I actively lobbied for and co-drafted the law on the equal representations of men and women in boards of directors and supervisory boards of directors. I believe this was yet again a small step towards creating a more diverse environment and helping women break through the so-called glass ceiling. Also, I am in the fortunate position to be able to give back to the community and use my organizational knowledge for causes I believe in, e.g. the Female Cancer Foundation, for which I serve on the advisory board.

What would you say was one of your most interesting cases?

Having practiced law for over two decades, I have handled many interesting cases over the years. Almost all cases have some interesting aspect to it, really: It can be the size of the matter or the personal involvement of the client. What I find particularly enjoyable is getting groups of people - often with seemingly contradictory interests - around the table. That's why I quite like handling collective dismissals where companies, unions, works councils, supervisory boards of directors and sometimes even governments need to be brought together. This not only challenges me on a personal level, putting my negotiating skills to practice, it also requires a decent amount of technical knowledge and insight. During one of these processes I came up with a method, which gives companies an alternative to the age-old 'last in, first out' principle. The method was precedent-setting and was named after me: The Method de Blécourt. I am very proud that it is still regularly applied, allowing companies to make a fairer cut when entering into a collective dismissal procedure.

Another case that springs to mind is the Cruyff case, in which we represented the famous football player, Johan Cruyff, and 14 trainers of the renowned football club Ajax against this very same football club and against the other supervisory board members (Johan was a supervisory board member at the time). This case was an interesting experience, because we worked closely together with Johan, who was quite a legend and a remarkable individual. Also, I got to see and have first-hand experience of the amount of media attention it generated and the impact that had on the case. There is really nothing that can prepare you for that. I took on this case together with a corporate lawyer and a litigator of our firm and we became close friends in the process, as we were jointly dealing with the huge interests that were at stake. When the judge ended up ruling in our favour the sense of gratification, victory and relief was enormous.

More recently, I helped one of ours clients, whose employees had threatened to go to strike after voting against a new CLA. Together with the client, I managed to dismantle the situation, bringing all the stakeholders together and successfully prevented the pending strike, whilst still cutting a good deal for the client.

Whom do you consider to be your role model–legal or otherwise?

On the legal side, that would most definitely have to be Christine Lagarde whom I have personally worked with and for me has it all: Tough, but always a friendly touch. Other than that I really admire Neelie Kroes, as she is still going strong and taking on new challenges.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?

Do want you think and feel is best. Ask for advice, but at the end of the day you yourself know what is the best way forward. Challenge yourself at times, even if you feel that what you want to achieve may be out of your reach.

What advice would you give to young lawyers?

Never think others are better than you, just concentrate on yourself. Help others grow. If you want to have children don't let your career get in the way, just make sure you manage things at home.

What are the biggest changes you've seen in the practice of law during your career?

I have always seen laws being implemented countries outside of the Netherlands, of which we no one would think they would ever be implemented over here. But they were. So never concentrate on the country you practice and live in only.

What do you consider your most significant accomplishment?

My answer to this question would have to be two-fold. First our children. Our two boys, 21 and 19 are absolutely fantastic and are doing well in every aspect of life. I am very proud of them. Secondly, workwise I very much enjoy seeing that we have managed to build a solid employment law practice in Amsterdam with a dedicated team of highly skilled and - most importantly - nice people that work both nationally and internationally in close collaboration with every other field of law within the firm. We all truly love guiding our clients through any and all storms they encounter.