Andersens forms first Belgian link

Arthur Andersen's Belgian arm is forming the country's first formal alliance between an accountant and a law firm.

Arthur Andersen Bedrijfsrevisoren has agreed in principal to link up with Caestecker & Partners. It has had an informal alliance with the firm since its inception in 1997.

A formal relationship bet-ween lawyers and non-lawyers had been outlawed in Belgium until 6 February when the Institute of Corporate Auditors and the French Order of Lawyers in Brussels drew up an agreement to allow partnerships between accountants and lawyers.

The agreement allows both parties to jointly manage material assets including IT, buildings, administrative personnel and furniture.

While Caestecker is still waiting for formal approval for the alliance from either the French or Dutch section of the Brussels bar, the firm is drawing up its final proposal to become a member of the Andersen Legal network of law firms.

Steven de Keyser, a partner at Caesteckers, says the five-partner firm first applied to the Dutch section of the Brussels Bar more than two years ago in an attempt to link up with Garretts, the UK firm which is a member of Andersen Legal.

However, he says: “The Brussels Bar concluded that such a move would bring us into a relationship with non-lawyers in Brussels because Garretts has a relationship with Arthur Andersen. This relationship is permitted by the Law Society in the UK.”

Commenting on the recently signed agreement with Arthur Andersen Bedrijfsrevisoren, de Keyser says the firm is concerned about ensuring there are Chinese walls in place when dealing with clients.

But he adds: “We have been waiting for three years to get a set of rules drawn up by the bar on this issue. Ignoring the issue is the wrong approach.”