Brussels Experience Week: Exploring International Law from the heart of the EU
One of the highlights of the International Business Law program for many is the Brussels Experience Week, a unique networking and learning experience where our students travel to another country for an intensive week-long trip to explore international law, and future career opportunities, in an international context and through an immersive experience.
During the first week of April, students of the Master in International Business Law (LLM) traveled to Brussels to visit European Institutions, companies and law firms, meet international lawyers and learn from their experience. This immersive week is a great opportunity for students to continue building their global network and reinforce the strong connections within their cohort.
At IE Law School, we aim to equip our students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in their chosen career in a competitive global market. In order to accomplish that, our students have access to different immersive experiences that expands students vision and exposes them to the reality of legal practice in different sectors and different cities, from London to Brussels. Blanca Ponce, a student of the Master in International Business Law (LLM), narrates the experience.
We had the chance to visit international Law firms, organizations and multinationals, from a whole new perspective. This experience also gave us an opportunity to network with lawyers and recruiters. As a cosmopolitan city, Brussels offers many job opportunities for foreigners.
During the first day, we visited the Brussels Court House, which is thought to be the largest building constructed in the 19th century by Joseph Poelaert. One of the judges working there explained that it has 27 large courtrooms and 245 smaller courtrooms. We had the chance to feel the atmosphere and the way that judges, lawyers and other administrative staff, impart justice.
Next stop was at Baker Mckenzie, the second largest International law firm in the world with 13,000 employees. The office in Brussels focuses on Competition Law and in Belgian cases. We met three partners from different countries of the EU (one of them from Spain) who explained the main cases that they were working on. One of them was Jozef Slootmans, a senior partner who talked about the most important cases of the firm.
After lunch, we visited Clear Gottlieb and White & Case. At Cleary Gottlieb, where there are many European and American young lawyers working on competition, we had a coffee with the lawyers and with the Human Resources team. The Brussels office has approximately 85 lawyers that come from a wide range of countries; most of them work mainly in antitrust, corporate, litigation, international trade and regulatory work. At Clearly Gottlieb, we had the opportunity to network with the team, which was very curious about our backgrounds.
In White & Case, Pontus Lindfelt explained to us that they complemented their department of competition law with expertise in M&A, international arbitration, and project finance. He explained that they are mainly focused in international M&A because those cases can be subject to prior review and approval under EU Merger Control Regulation.
On Tuesday, we visited the European Parliament, the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union, that, along with the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, exercises the legislative function of the EU. The visited lasted two hours. During the first hour, EU deputy Teresa Jiménez-Becerril, showed us their meeting rooms and offices of the deputies and their assistants (5000 public servants work there!). Then, an EU public servant gave us a tour and talked about the institution itself and its legislative power. During the tour, we were lucky to meet many EU deputies in the hallways (that day many comities were approving their strategies).
During the afternoon, we went to the International Trademark Association, which is a worldwide not-for-profit advocacy association of trademark owners and professionals dedicated to supporting trademarks and intellectual property in order to protect consumers and to promote fair and effective global commerce. We met one of its advisors, Milesh Gordhanda, who is in charge of its Public Policy, Communications and Committee liaisons. He exposed many examples of their work with IP rights and food companies, such as Toblerone, Milka, and KitKat (at the end of the discussion we got some samples of those products!).
The last visit of the day was to Hogan Lovells, which was a very interesting one. During our visit he had the amazing opportunity to attend a conference given by Richard Susskind called “The future of the Corporation: Law and A.I”. As many of you may already know, Richard Susskind is a very well-known British author, speaker, influencer and independent adviser to international professional firms and national governments about the challenges of technology in the legal field and society. In fact, within his role of advising the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, he has recommended the establishment of Her Majesty’s Online Courts (HMOC) which will have 3 tiers, Online Evaluation, Online Facilitation and Online Judges. He taught us many things about the future of our profession, the interaction between robots and humans and the risk of losing many jobs in a short-term.
On Wednesday, we visited the European Commission, where we spent the whole morning attending conferences and debates of public officials of the EU as well as diplomats. We discussed the main challenges that the EU is facing, such as immigration, nationalism, protectionism, the economic and the social crisis. It was instructive because the image that we receive from the media is not very accurate comparing to the functioning of the EU institutions.
After that, we went to Amcham Belgium, a non-profit organization that supports American companies with activities in Europe regarding the EU legislation. We discussed about the new tax that would drastically change how and where top digital companies—such as Facebook, Google or Instagram— are taxed.
Chiara, the Associate Program Director who is a Belgian-Italian citizen and knows much all the secrets of the city, showed us the main monuments, told us many myths and legends of the city, and explained the main points of its history (one of my favorite activities of the week!)
On Thursday, we visited Google where we met the Head of Legal and Public Policy of Google in Belgium. We talked about their issues regarding data protection and the latest scandals the company faced. We had the opportunity to see the offices and learn about the latest innovations that are being developed, such as a map of Mars.
We then visited Hill+ Knowlton Strategies, a lobbing institution that is in charge of the defense of interest of many EU companies, and that played a role on behalf of agricultural companies when the phytosanitary law was implemented in Europe.
Our last visit was to Uria Menéndez, a great one thanks to Edurne Navarro, who was very kind to put us in touch with lawyers from the Madrid office.
We wrapped up the trip in a typical Belgian restaurant called “Les petits Oignons”, where we met with IE´s International Relations students.
It has been an unforgettable experience which I recommend to future IE students: you will not only be exposed to different work opportunities and meet international lawyers (which expands your network a great deal), but you will also enjoy the amazing environment of the firms and will have a great time with your classmates.
*Experience written by Blanca Ponce, International Business Law student