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There is more than one way of resolving a dispute. For example, you can reach a settlement, or you can take the matter to court, etc.

One way of resolving disputes is to refer them to arbitration. In case of arbitration, it is not a judge who solves the dispute and makes a decision, but an "arbitrator". There may be a single arbitrator, but there are normally three, known as the "arbitration panel".

When is arbitration used? It can be used if the parties to an original agreement (such as a sale) agree that, if any disputes arise, they will refer them, not to the courts, but to arbitration.

In addition, arbitration can often be used in disputes between lawyers and their clients over fees. Some Bars offer an option to refer matters to arbitration. To find out more, go to What if I disagree with my lawyer?

More information can be found at the VOBA website – the Flemish Association for Mediation and Arbitration, at

The professional association of French- and German-speaking lawyers in Belgium ( Formerly OBFG.


There are a number of obligations trainee lawyers (to find out more, see traineeship) have to fulfil during their traineeship. They are supervised in their day-to-day work by a supervisor (also known as a 'master'). Trainees have to attend lectures (professional training), sit examinations and assist with second-line legal assistance.

Once a trainee has completed their professional training and passed their exams, they are issued with a B.U.B.A. certificate.

'B.U.B.A.' stands for "certificate of competence to exercise the profession of lawyer" ("practice certificate" in English). This means that trainees do not obtain this certificate university (where they already studied for five years), but afterwards.


All lawyers must be registered to a Bar. The members of the Bar elect a President and Bar Council, who are in charge of the day-to-day operations. All 14 Flemish Bars are members of the Flemish Bar Association.

Bar Council

The members of the Bar elect a and the members of the Bar Council, who are responsible for the day-to-day workings of the Bar.

Go to President and Bar Council to see a list of current members of the Council of the Dutch Brussels Bar.

bar dues

Lawyers pay a yearly amount of bar dues to their bar. The amount differs from one bar to another, and depends on how long a lawyer has been a member of that bar.

These bar dues include professional liability insurance policies, which insure lawyers for any losses they may cause in the course of exercising their profession.

Bar of Cassation

To initiate civil proceedings in the Court of Cassation, the highest court in Belgium, a lawyer who is registered with the bar at the Court of Cassation needs to be engaged. There are currently 19 lawyers registered to this bar. Their names can be found here.

Lawyers at this Bar are not members of the Flemish Bar or the French- or German-speaking bars.

To find out more information, you can visit

conclusions or pleadings

In proceedings in court, lawyers defend their clients’ interests, orally and/or in writing. The oral defence is called "pleading". Often, lawyers use a written defence, called "conclusions". Lawyers draw up conclusions and send them to the other party and the court. The other party then replies to those conclusions, again, in writing.

The extent to which (oral) pleas are used varies, depending on the court and the nature of the proceedings.

confrater (colleague)

How fellow lawyers address one another ("confrater" in Dutch, "confrère" in French, "colleague" in English, "learned friend" amongst barristers in England and Wales).

court summons

This is a special letter which the clerk of the Court sends to claimants and/or their lawyers by registered post. This may order them to appear before a session of the Court or notify them of a judgment or order, etc.

deontology (or ethics of the profession)

There are a number of particular rules by which lawyers must live. These rules are issued mainly by the Flemish Bar Associations or his or her own Association. The Bar can sanction breaches of these rules through a disciplinary procedure.

disciplinary procedure

There are a number of particular rules which lawyers must follow: these rules are laid down by the Flemish Bar Association or lawyers' own Bars. The legal profession has its own procedure to sanction any vialotion of the deontological rules: we call these the 'disciplinary procedures' and they were overhauled in 2006.

In the first instance, the President of the Bar to which a lawyer belongs has the power to resolve disputes between lawyers and their clients.

More information can be found at What if I disagree with my lawyer?


This is a local government area, part of the territory of a state. There are two kinds of district in Belgium:

  • judicial districts
    Each judicial district has a number of courts. Each judicial district has a court of first instance, to which the criminal court, civil and youth courts, a commercial court and labour tribunal belong. Each judicial district also has its own Bar. There are 28 judicial districts in Belgium, and hence 28 Bars, 14 Flemish-speaking (belonging to the Flemish-speaking Bar) and 14 Walloons (belonging to the French- and German-speaking Bars).

  • administrative districts
    Within each province, a number of parishes constitute an administrative district. This is an administrative unit, which is relevant during elections, for example. There are 41 administrative districts in Belgium.

first-line assistance

Each Bar has a BJB (see legal aid office) which organises second-line legal assistance, and each judicial district (see district) has a Legal Aid Board, or 'CJB'.

The CJB handles the organisation of first-line legal assistance. There are a number of places (justice centres, courts, OCMWs, etc.) where the CJB holds open sessions ('jours fixes') where any citizen, regardless of their income, can receive free initial guideline legal advice from a lawyer.

To find out more (addresses and what topics information is available on), go to First-line legal assistance.

Flemish Bar Association (OVB)

The Flemish Bar Association (OVB) represents all 13 Dutch-speaking Bars in Belgium, with over 9,800 lawyers in total.

All lawyers in Belgium have to be registered to a local bar.

honorary fees

Lawyers charge honorary fees for their provided services. There are no fixed fees for proceedings of different kinds. Fees may be based on hourly rates, the value of the case, etc.

To find out more, go to Costs and honorary fees.

honorary lawyer

"Honorary lawyer" is a title which may be conferred on an ex-lawyer. It is granted by the Bar Council.


Lawyers are independent professionals: they are not dependent on the government, the courts, or even their clients. As far as clients are concerned, this means they can rely on lawyers to defend their interests without having any personal interest in the matter.

Independence is one of the pillars of the legal profession. Lawyers stand up for people against ‘power’ (formerly the sovereign, now the State and the courts). This means lawyers must be independent of the authorities. The independence of the legal profession is an essential part of a democracy; and to preserve this independence, lawyers need a Bar.

judicial leave

The judicial leave starts on 1 July and ends on 31 August. There are only a limited number of sessions during these months, mainly urgent cases.

judicial year

The judicial year starts on 1 September and ends on 31 August. The new judicial year starts after the judicial leave. The calendar or civil year runs from 1 January to 31 December.

Legal aid board (CJB)

Each bar has a BJB (see BJB) which organises second-line legal assistance; and each judicial district (see district) has a Legal Aid Board, or "CJB".

The CJB is responsible for organising first-line legal assistance. There are a number of places (justice centres, courts, OCMWs, etc.) where the CJB holds open sessions ("jours fixes") where any citizen, regardless of their income, can come for free initial exploratory legal advice from a lawyer.

More information (addresses, and precisely what questions you can ask), can be found on First-line legal assistance.

Legal aid office (BJB)

Each bar has a Legal Aid Office, or "BJB" in Dutch (formerly "pro bono office"), where citizens who are on a limited income can find a lawyer to assist them.

This arrangement is called second-line legal assistance. All information, such as addresses, who is eligible and what documents you need to bring with you, can be found on Second-line legal assistance.

There is also first-line legal assistance, see first-line legal assistance and Legal aid board (CJB).

liberal profession

Lawyers practice a liberal profession: an independent professional activity, providing services which are not of a commercial nature. The profession is supervised by a Bar or institute which lays down its own professional regulations. The liberal professions include such people as lawyers, doctors and architects. Someone who practices a liberal profession is paid honorary fees based on fee notes or debit notes, unlike businesses which issue invoices.

litigation costs

In principle, the losing side in a case is liable to pay the counterparty's legal costs. This is an amount defined by law, depending on the nature of the case (the court hearing it and the amount claimed).

Costs are a flat-rate contribution to the successful party’s lawyers’ costs and fees. They may not be regarded as fee rates, as they are not intended to recover the full costs and fees.

The winning party cannot claim costs unless they engaged a lawyer to act for them.

The lawyers for the party receiving this amount may reduce their fees accordingly.


There is more than one way of resolving a dispute: you can reach a settlement, for example, or you can take the matter to court, etc.

Mediation is one way of resolving disputes. Used in everyday language, "mediation" takes on many different meanings, but in this context it relates specifically to mediation under the law of 21 February 2005 (B.S. 22 March 2005).

With mediation, the parties call in an independent third party, the ‘mediator’, whose job is to help the parties to find a solution themselves that is acceptable to both of them with full knowledge of the facts.

Lawyers are not the only people who can act as mediators. Chartered mediators are always specially trained, and are recognised by the Federal Mediation Committee. There are also non-authorised mediators.

More information can be found on the page Mediation.

model contract

This is a document between a lawyer and a private individual which the Flemish Bar Association has prepared, setting out the terms and conditions under which lawyers and clients are to work with one another and on the fees. The Flemish Bar Association urges everyone to use this document.

National Bar

The Belgian National Bar Association existed from 1967 to 2002, as the umbrella organisation for all 28 Bars in Belgium, headed by a Dean. On 7 February 1998, the Flemish Bars founded the Vereniging van Vlaamse Balies (Association of Flemish Bars) which changed its name to the Orde van Vlaamse Balies (Flemish Bar Association) on 1 May 2002 (the date the Royal Decree of 17.02.200w came into effect), to which all 14 Flemish Bars belong. The French- and German-speaking Bars belong to

Order of Lawyers (Bar)

See bar.

The word "Order" means that the profession sets its own rules and sanctions. This is essential due to the necessary independence of lawyers. A lawyer is the contradictor of authority: they can help individuals and groups defend themselves against the authorities. An independent legal profession is a vital part of a democracy.


This is a document stating specific details to bring an action (claim) in court – which is why anyone applying to the courts is called a "petitioner". There are other ways, such as a writ of summons or court summons. A petition is less expensive than a summons, but in some cases a summons must be used.

preferred areas of law

Lawyers can indicate to their Bar what area of law and so what kind of cases they would rather handle. These preferred areas then appear on this website, for example, if you search for a lawyer.

Some lawyers do not indicate any preferred areas and deal with all kinds of different cases. You can always ask a lawyer if they have the experience required to take on your case and/or whether they are willing to take it on.

Lawyers are free to state what their preferred areas are: this is entirely their liability, and is not binding on the Bar.


The members of the Bar elect a President and the members of the Bar Council who are in charge of day-to-day business. The President is the head of the Bar.

Patrick A. Dillen was elected President of the Dutch Brussels Bar as of 1 September 2016 for a term of two years.

pro bono

A pro bono lawyer can be appointed for someone on a limited income. A pro bono lawyer can assist his client with in-depth legal advice or in court proceedings.

To find out more, go to second-line assistance.

professional confidentiality

Professional confidentiality is one of the foundations of the profession of lawyer. Information entrusted by clients to their lawyers is confidential, and lawyers may not disclose it, unless it is necessary in order to defend their client’s interests, for example in proceedings.

professional training

Trainee lawyers must attend training courses. Several bars cooperate in organising courses for their trainees, mainly in practical matters, such as communication, office organisation etc.

Once a trainee has completed their professional training and passed their exams, they are issued with a B.U.B.A. certificate.

second-line assistance

This used to be called "pro bono" work.

Second-line assistance refers to providing a lawyer for those on a limited income, which can be done for detailed legal advice or when appearing in court.

To find out more, go to second-line assistance.

third party account

All lawyers must keep a separate account to use in financial transactions for clients or third parties. These are known as third party accounts. The Flemish Bar Association (OVB) has drawn up rules for these accounts.


This is the lawyer’s 'uniform', which they must wear when pleading in court. It consists of a long black woollen 'garment', with broad sleeves and with a white folded jabot in front, a piece of black woollen material on the left shoulder, folded over the shoulders with a white fur at each end. The headwear, the 'baret' or wig, is not worn anymore. Magistrates (judges) wear togas which are slightly different from those of lawyers. Their togas are glossy at the front.


All new lawyers must undergo three years of training. This involves a number of obligations. First of all, a lawyer with many years’ professional experience supervises their daily practice. This lawyer is known as their supervisor or master. Trainees can handle all cases themselves during these three years. 

Trainee lawyers attend courses (or professional training) and handle cases in second line assistance.

young bar

Each Bar has its own Young Bar Conference. At the Dutch Brussels Bar, this is the Vlaams Pleitgenootschap. At the bars of Ghent and Antwerp, this is called the Flemish Conference, other Flemish bars use the name "Young Bar Conference".

Young Bar Conferences organise a wide range of activities. They organise the opening session of the Bar and organise discussion evenings, training activities and activities of a socio-cultural nature.

(writ of) summons

Issuing a summons is one way of bringing a claim before the courts. Court bailiffs will then arrange for the summons to be made on the person concerned. Other means of summoning people are the petition and court summonses. In some cases, the use of a summons is obligatory.