Brussels employment boutique launched by Stibbe and FFW trio

A trio of partners from Benelux firm Stibbe and Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) have teamed up to launch a Brussels employment boutique.

Younity will launch on 1 October with a team of 13 lawyers. The boutique is headed by Stibbe’s pensions head Corinne Merla and employment partner Jean-Philippe Cordier, who have teamed up with the co-head of FFW’s Brussels employment team Olivier Rijckaert for the launch.

The trio will be joined by Stibbe counsel Sébastian Roger and Reliance senior associate Brecht Cops, both of whom also join as partners.

A further eight associates will also join Younity.

Rijckaert told The Lawyer that he, Merla and Cordier had been discussing the move since April.

“Having spent a lot of time in bigger, full-service firms we quickly realised that these firms don’t necessarily help us to get employment work,” he said. He said many employment instructions came from HR directors rather than general counsel and were not necessarily linked to instructions on general corporate matters.

“I also think there there’s a general trend in the market that companies don’t seek a one-stop firm. It’s not a problem for companies to have multiple lawyers as long as they’re good ones,” he added.

Rijckaert pointed out that Belgium has few employment-focused firms, with Claeys & Engels being the major player. “We all realised that there was room for an alternative,” he said.

He added that “nearly 100 per cent” of the lawyers’ clients were following them to the new firm.

In a statement Stibbe’s Brussels managing partner said the firm still had one of the largest employment teams in Belgium. He added: “We wish Corinne Merla and Jean-Philippe Cordier well. They are distinguished lawyers and good colleagues. We are grateful for the many contributions that they have made to the firm.”