Gerrit Oosterhuis & Greetje van Heezik, Partner & Counsel, BrusselsInterview with: Gerrit Oosterhuis & Greetje van Heezik, Partner & Counsel, Brussels

Houthoff | View firm profile

Clients expect cross-border advice and support across the globe. Houthoff is an independent firm that provides advice on Dutch law in an international context.

How do you stand out from the competition in an increasingly globalised environment?

Houthoff prides itself as an innovative law firm in many fields. Not only in the area of legal services but also in our personal dealings – we like to do things in a ‘Houthoff way’.

Over the past decades, Houthoff was formed as a result of mergers between smaller firms. As the firm is now, it is the sum of the specialist knowledge and visions of all of these firms. In the words of our managing partner Edward de Bock: “No matter how many years our firm has been in business, we are still as curious and enthusiastic as youngsters. This mentality has benefited us and our clients for decades and continues to do so today.”

Many international corporations are doing business or have offices in the Netherlands. Rooted in Dutch law, we are an independent and strong legal partner who understands our clients’ specific needs.

In this increasingly globalised world, our clients need us to assist them with matters on an international scale. We are committed to guaranteeing our international clients the same services and quality that we provide to our clients in the Netherlands. For this reason, we have opened hubs and appointed representatives in key economic centres.

As we grow alongside our clients, we always have a team ready to meet their new challenges.

The firm has a number of representatives in Houston, Singapore and Tokyo. What was the rationale behind this and what are the main advantages to this model? Conversely, what are the main challenges?

Instead of opening offices all around the world, we introduced our Global Representative Programme. Each representative is appointed to serve a strategically chosen economic hub. Their goal is to foster our international law firm network, stay close to our clients and create brand awareness. The representatives have profound knowledge of the local market because they have already lived in the cities for a long period of time.

In the last year, our Global Representative Programme has proven to be successful which has only made our international ambition grow. Globalisation requires more than being able to work remotely. Personal relationships are invaluable in our line of work; clients state that they appreciate the physical presence a lot.

One of the challenges we face is how to ensure that our representatives keep in close contact with Houthoff despite the physical distance. Twice a year we organise a homecoming week. During this week our representatives meet their colleagues at our offices in the Netherlands and share knowledge and accomplishments in person.

What are the key challenges in maintaining an integrated network as one firm and how do you adapt to this? How does legal tech assist with this?

We make sure our key values are represented at every Houthoff location. If you are working at our office in London, New York or Amsterdam, you’ll experience the same Houthoff culture. Our partners regularly visit our offices and colleagues abroad. In addition, we have different communication resources that we use to get in contact with our international colleagues. With videoconferences, Skype for business and telecommunication devices we can stay in contact with each other non-stop.

Increasing efficiency is at the core of what we do. We are a known leader and innovator in Legal Tech. For example, we were the first Dutch law firm to adopt Luminance, an AI platform for due diligence. We use this platform to secure file sharing and online collaboration, and our colleagues and clients have 24/7 online access on any device to critical project documentation.

How does the combination of domestic offices, international offices and representatives encourage innovation and entrepreneurship?

It is inspiring to learn from each other. Our representatives stimulate our resident partners and vice versa. Because we are well-connected, we spot cross-border opportunities others might miss. Our clients and friends benefit when we are able to connect organisations.

What do you see as the main challenges and opportunities in maintaining overseas offices in the next three years? Where do you expect to see growth and what will be the driving force behind this?

Globalisation provides both opportunities and challenges. Now more than ever, today’s clients demand that the law firms they work with have a global outlook and can assist them anywhere in the world.

The challenge is to keep the relatively small offices involved with our people in the Netherlands. We aim to achieve this by offering our colleagues in the Netherlands the opportunity to work temporarily at our foreign locations. Our colleagues abroad regularly return to the Netherlands.

Our unique positioning allows us to serve clients with agility and confidence in growing key markets. Houthoff’s presence abroad will allow us to deal with our clients in their relevant jurisdiction while opening up a gateway to opportunities.