The Franco-Luxembourgish lawyer Jackye Elombo specializes in labor law and business litigation, she likes to anticipate disputes for her local and international clients. In this article, she comes back to us on the challenges of her daily interventions.
How do you see your profession?
I have been a lawyer for almost twenty years and if at the beginning I had a very contentious vision of the law, a passion for the procedure and a desire to align myself with what seems fair, experience has shown me that the lawyer can especially bring added value, if he understands the challenges of his clients and is kind enough to avoid conflicts when possible.
Also, my appetite for litigation preventionI explains it above all by a desire for efficiency. In Luxembourg, as elsewhere, the procedures are long and grueling. There is also a big difference between law and justice, which can sometimes be difficult for our clients to accept. Likewise, there is a difference between “winning” and “winning”.
In my opinion, winning a trial after several years of proceedings, but being faced with an insolvent person, is not really “winning”. My experience has proven to me that it is sometimes preferable to find an agreement in the event of a dispute. Directing myself towards advice and the prevention of disputes is therefore a path that seemed natural to me, because I prefer to prevent my clients from running out and incurring significant costswithout having the guarantee of actually emerging victorious from a trial. Of course, when it comes to defending my clients and when conflict is inevitable, they can count on my assertiveness as well as my fighting spirit.
Who are the clients you assist in preventing disputes?
SMEs represent my favorite clientelebecause I like to bring solutions, lift people up, and help them achieve their goals. This personality trait fits perfectly with my job. Moreover, since I opened my firm, I support startups in their development as a mentor at the University of Luxembourg. It got me like this pushed to offer a lot of advice and prevention.
I am thinking in particular of one of my clients, who decided to start his headhunting business during the Covid. He himself came from a large international group specializing in this sector. However, it wanted to differentiate itself on the market, through its contracts and general conditions, which are more “fair” and transparent. A challenge that was not without risk. It should be noted that the remuneration of recruitment firms often depends on the opportunity and the connection which is the main source of conflicts and disputes.
In our ultra-connected world, the client or the candidate may feel that they have concluded the contract without the help of the headhunter. My role was therefore to support my client in his desire to innovate, while anticipating with him what could secure his contract to protect himself from a maximum of clauses subject to interpretation in the event of disputes.
No prevention ensures zero risk of litigation, but helping the parties to be clear on the terms and conditions of a contract, collaboration, association or simply a common project and to avoid giving way to uncertainties or multiple interpretations, makes it possible to limit risks and anticipate them.
Whatever the type of partnership, it is indeed when the parties get along best that it is necessary to anticipate possible problems and to ensure that there is an agreement of will on all points of the relationship. .
What challenge do you face as an independent lawyer?
The same as those of any entrepreneur (laughs). At the beginning of our career, we learn to manage cases and resolve legal issues. However, we have no information on the management of a company and its accounting. And for good reason, working in a law firm, the whole structure works without you needing to worry about it. There is a dedicated person to take care of invoicing, IT, sending mail…
However, all this structure rests on our shoulders when we are independent. Many tasks are added to services that we have to ensure. You have to stay efficient and maximize your time as much as possible. Nevertheless, this status of entrepreneur brings us closer to our customers. They too have to juggle several responsibilities. This makes it easier for us to understand why, for example, a customer wants to talk to us on the phone after sending them a 10-page review. He doesn’t have time to read it, but he needs to understand quickly what the added value of our work is.
Personally, I have abandoned the traditional scheme of the lawyer who forwards letters and information. I call my client directly to inform him of the timetable and discuss the various steps in concrete terms (whether procedural or advice) so that he can control the consequences of his case. I avoid unnecessarily increasing my contribution, so that our collaboration remains appreciable.
The impact of digital is becoming stronger and stronger in law firms: what do you think?
The digitization and automation of contract management are now a must. New technologies allow us to save time, and therefore, to favor a better relationship with our customers. Sharing information via a secure platform, secure messaging are all tools that allow you to communicate and manage faster and more efficiently. However, artificial intelligence does not replace this human relationship and this proximity. It is essential that our clients understand that we act only in their interest. To do this, transparency is essential to create and maintain this bond of trust.
Are you having any particular difficulties?
Luxembourg still and always wrongly suffers from an image of a tax haven. Nevertheless, this country has started a huge job to successfully comply with the standards. In the past, this desire for compliance only impacted lawyers specializing in business law and tax law. Today, all lawyers are concerned, including the litigation lawyer. Before accepting a client, or assisting a client in a transaction, I must therefore comply with numerous checks.
It’s an extra workload, and an obligation that may be difficult to get former clients to accept. It is in addition to our professional ethics, other ethical obligations and the GDPR standards with which we must comply.
In France, the courts are crowded, and even more so since the pandemic. Is it the same in Luxembourg?
Luxembourg has improved civil procedure during the health crisis! It is constantly evolving to combat court congestion, but it is still there. Some of my cases started in July 2021 will for example be fixed in January 2023. To avoid certain frustrations, it is essential to consider other solutions to resolve conflicts, whether preventive or alternative. Mediation or arbitration can in particular help relieve the courts and resolve cases more quickly.