Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2013
In Belgium, lawyers who are admitted to the Bar are subject to a duty of professional secrecy (also known as the attorney–client privilege). Only lawyers who are admitted to the Bar are entitled to appear in court (with a few exceptions). Such lawyers are self-employed, although they can be partners or associates in a law firm. They must comply with the Bar's code of ethics. In Belgium, there is a bar association in each judicial district (arrondissement judiciaire/gerechtelijk arrondissement), which comprises a court of first instance, a commercial court and a labour court. In total, Belgium has twenty-seven bar associations, each of which is presided over by a bâtonnier or stafhouder (hereinafter referred to as the ‘president of the bar association’).
Lawyers who work for a company (in-house counsel), the state or a public organisation are not members of the Bar. They can, however, join the Institute of Company Lawyers (Institut des juristes d'entreprise/Instituut voor bedrijfsjuristen), in which case they are authorised to use the title ‘company lawyer’. Written legal advice prepared by company lawyers is deemed confidential (confidential/confidentieel) by law.