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‘Our new premises will be a place where talent is given full scope to thrive’

Loyens & Loeff on the move

These are exciting times for Sietske van 't Hooft. The Loyens & Loeff lawyer was made partner in January and has recently been working on planning the company's move to a new prime spot. In 2020, the law firm will be relocating to the stunning Hourglass building in Zuidas. Joined by fellow Loyens & Loeff partner and tax consultant Waldo Kapoen, she told Hello Zuidas about the firm's ambitious relocation plans: 'We want our new premises to be a place where talent is given full scope to thrive.'

You both started your careers at Loyens & Loeff and know the firm inside-out. What sets Loyens & Loeff apart from other firms?
Sietske: 'For me it's been 11 years - spent in Tokyo and New York City, and recently in Amsterdam. There's a vast amount of freedom within this firm to put forward your own ideas and to carry them out. You don't need to be a partner or to have worked here for ten years to be able to do that.' Waldo: 'I started out here in 1986, it was my first job. What sets this firm apart from others, is a healthy confidence in its own ability. We're not an organization with lots of rules and red tape; quite the reverse in fact. There's room to take initiative and develop your own projects, big or small, and ranging from junior to senior level.'

Why are you relocating from Frederik Roeskestraat?
Waldo: 'In a word: space. Over the last year and a half I've been involved in the selection process, which started out with assessing if we could stay at this location. After all, it's a lovely building. It has such a beautiful entrance. But it lacks flexibility and room to expand. And then one day we came across this stunning new-build location in a prime spot in Zuidas. Opportunities like this don't come around often. Over the next four years we'll have plenty of time to lay out the building in such a way as to suit our needs, and I'm enjoying that immensely.'

Both of you are on the relocation committee. What are the plans for the new office?
Sietske, 'Everything has to revolve around the people. Our firm is privileged in that it has lots of talented individuals. We want to foster that in an inspiring building where people truly feel at home and where they have the freedom to develop to their full potential. My motto is, "work hard, play harder". We put in long hours at the o ce. Wouldn't it be great to have a nice spot to enjoy a healthy dinner and relax for a couple of minutes? The work-life balance is important. We all love our jobs and work hard, but you need a counterweight. That also keeps you feeling inspired and energized.'

Sounds great! So what do you do to achieve that?
Waldo: 'In the months ahead we'll be asking everyone around us for their input. What issues do people see in the organization? How do they envision the future? We want to approach this relocation in such a way that everyone can contribute, instead of just dictating how things are going to be. We want to get the whole organization involved.'
Sietske: 'We've only just announced our approach within the firm, so I'm very curious what people will suggest. I've got extremely high expectations of our talented sta and hope we'll be bowled over by their ideas. Real out-of-the-box ideas that will make your jaw drop!'

Zuidas is building on a massive scale over the next ten years. Disruptions will be inevitable at your new premises. What's your take on that?
Waldo: 'Often, the initial reaction tends to be, "not in my backyard". People want everything to be better, but they don't want to deal with the hassle. But that's not how it works, of course. We're taking the long view. What's happening now is just a millisecond on the bigger clock, and ultimately the whole area will benefit from the change. Hourglass will be situated at a beautiful and lively square just seconds from a major railway station. Sure, there will be incon- veniences, but we've got nothing but praise for these plans. We are fully confident that the Amsterdam municipality will do its best to limit it. It's an amazing project and I am definitely in favour of it.' Sietske: 'All the changes that are taking place will benefit us in the long run. It's an investment in the future.'

Zuidas is sometimes called a 'miniature Manhattan'. You have both worked for Loyens & Loeff in New York City. Is it an apt comparison?
Sietske laughs: 'I wouldn't go quite that far, but there are similarities, sure. Zuidas, like Manhattan, is a very internationally oriented place with people from all di erent countries; people with lot of ambitions and talent, and that will generate a certain energy. Personally, Zuidas reminds me more of Canary Wharf in London, which has a similar concentration of heavyweights in one place.' Waldo: 'Zuidas is an incredibly dynamic location. It's like Manhattan, Madurodam-style. All those big players put together inject a certain dynamism into the place that works like a magnet.'

As well as being partners, you are both involved in the relocation. How do you ensure the right balance between work and private life?
Sietske: 'Working out is very important to me. Boxing, in particular. And making beautiful trips to places that are totally different. As to switching my phone o ... I do try, and I'm getting better at it. Obviously, you always want to be there for clients, but society is changing. With the arrival of the iPhone and Blackberry a few years ago, it became a foregone conclusion that you'd be available 24/7. But now, balance is becoming increasingly important. If there's no rush, that call can wait till tomorrow.' Waldo: 'I don't have a problem disconnecting... I like relaxing with Netflix or sitting in the garden. Good communication with clients is key, though. Make sure that you understand each other and things will run smoothly.'

Sietske, you co-authored the publication Building in the Netherlands. What were your findings?
Sietske: 'The book consist of contributions about legal and economic aspects of real estate finance. It was written in connec- tion with the third edition of a real estate conference, which is organized every four years. The first edition was held during the huge bubble - the sky was the limit. The second conference was at the height of the crisis where the whole real estate market had locked down. This year, the outlook is more optimistic. I discussed what, in my observation at least, has changed over time. For one thing, there's a bigger focus on structuring the transaction. There is also a bigger focus on documentation. In the past you could get away with a short contract; now agreements might number over 300 pages. Transactions are more complex now, and impossible to navigate without an adviser.'

You were recently named partner, Sietske, and Waldo is on the committee that assesses nominees. So what makes a good partner?
Sietske: 'You've got to be an all-rounder. It goes beyond advising clients; you're also involved in training other people, our premises, things like that. You work alongside intelligent, ambitious people all across the world and are constantly challenged and pushed to hone yourself. It can be tough at times, but above all it's exciting.' Waldo: 'A partner is an expert in his/her field - that goes without saying. But it's also about confidence. You've got to give people the sense that they can confide in you. You also have to be able to make the most of the potential around you. To enjoy opening doors for young people and nurturing talent. That's definitely something we'll be able to do more at the new o ce.'