The “outstanding” Hakim Boularbah is highly praised for his “sharp legal mind” and adept handling of cross-border litigation involving large corporate and government entities.
Hakim Boularbah is partner at Loyens & Loeff (Brussels office) where he heads up the international litigation and arbitration practice. He is recognised as an expert in civil, commercial, and corporate litigation and arbitration at national, European, and international levels (Legal 500, Chambers, Who’s Who Legal). He frequently acts as counsel or as (sole, chair or co-) arbitrator in national and international arbitrations (CEPANI, ICC, OHADA, ad hoc, ...), especially in contract and corporate disputes.
Did the end of COVID restrictions influence commercial litigation cases you worked on subsequently?
Yes, because the activity of the commercial courts has been strongly affected by the period of restriction. The backlog before some courts has grown. Where before you had to wait a few months before you could plead a case, now you must wait between 13 and 15 months. On the other hand, many covid-19-related disputes have also reached the commercial courts, particularly due to problems in the supply chain or price inflation.
You enjoy a great reputation domestically and internationally. How important is it for a commercial litigator to have a wide network of contacts? Does an international network help in handling cross-border cases
A reliable network is essential in a globalised world. Whether it is a question of obtaining an expert opinion on a foreign law, defending a client sued in another country or enforcing an attachment or a judgment abroad. Clients nowadays expect you to have trusted contacts in the main business centres to assist them very quickly and efficiently.
You will soon be speaking at the conference in Dublin about the impact of the Russian war on asset recovery cases. Did you notice an impact on commercial litigation? What has changed?
On the one hand, sanctions have certainly added an extra layer of complexity to the enforcement of judgments and arbitral awards against sanctioned entities. In addition to the classic problems of alter ego, immunity, or international service, it is now also necessary to request the lifting of sanctions in order to obtain the final product of enforcement measures. On the other hand, in some respects, sanctions remove certain obstacles related to the sovereign or legal immunity of certain assets since they are no longer held for public purposes or in a specific protection regime.
With more emphasis on sustainable development and the green transformation coming from the EU level, do you see more litigation related to climate change? What does it mean to you?
A global spike in court cases over climate change demonstrates the increasing role of litigation in addressing the climate crisis. Governments, banks and large corporations around the world are confronted with a rapid increase in climate litigation cases and Belgium is not being left behind. Climate litigation is being used as a tool to advance climate action or to challenge the way in which climate policy is being implemented. In recent years, a specific increase can be noticed in climate cases involving corporate defendants in the energy (oil, gas and coal) sector as well as in other sectors.
You are active in many fields, from your legal practice, through academic and institutional roles and speaking at conferences. What do you enjoy most about your professional activity?
I am very lucky to be able to combine all these activities. What I enjoy most is dealing with an urgent file with important issues where you have to be efficient, pragmatic and to the point, and then being able to immerse myself for several days in a fundamental reflection on more theoretical and academic issues.
What are the main challenges facing litigators when it comes to enforcement of judgments today?
It depends on the party against whom you are enforcing the judgment. Against companies, it is certainly necessary to take precautionary measures to prevent insolvency and to pull the right levers to obtain voluntary payment as soon as possible. If the enforcement is pursued against a sovereign entity, it is to have the benefit of intelligence to identify the assets and their nature to demonstrate that they are not protected by immunity and therefore obtain judicial authorisation to seize them.
Is there something you want to achieve professionally in the coming year?
I would like to further develop my team and help the talents born there to develop professionally and personally to become the thought leaders of the next generation.