The Dutch Bar Association (Nederlandse orde van advocaten - NOvA) was established by the Act on Advocates (Advocatenwet) on October 1st, 1952. The Dutch Bar Association is the regulatory body responsible for overseeing the legal profession in the country. Established to maintain high professional standards and ethical conduct among lawyers, the association ensures that legal practitioners adhere to rules and regulations in the interest of justice and client protection.
Additionally, the Dutch Bar Association provides guidance, support, and resources to its members, fostering continuous improvement and development within the legal community. By fostering a culture of professionalism, the Dutch Bar Association plays a crucial role in upholding the integrity of the legal system in the Netherlands.
The Dutch Bar Association represents all lawyers (i.e. advocates, members of the bar) in the Netherlands. Unlike many other legal organizations, the Dutch Bar Association does not receive any government funding and is, therefore, entirely financially independent.
The Dutch Bar Association is a public-law professional organization that serves all lawyers in the Netherlands. The organization is divided into 11 judicial districts, each with its own local bar and local bar president chosen by the advocates in the district. The daily management of the Dutch Bar Association is handled by a secretary general, while the general council provides support and oversees four departments within the Dutch Bar Association office: Communications, Finance and Organization, Policy and Regulations, and Supervision.
As a lawyer (advocaat) in the Netherlands, you are automatically a member of the Dutch Bar Association. The yearly financial contributions to the organization helps cover its costs and maintain its independence from the government. By being a part of the Dutch Bar Association, the Dutch lawyers (advocates) have a voice in the regulations and rules that govern their profession and can participate in the yearly elections for the local bar president and board of representatives.
The Dutch Bar Association is responsible for drawing up and enforcing regulations and rules for the legal profession in the Netherlands, including the Legal Profession Bye-law and the Legal Profession Regulations. These regulations are adopted by the board of representatives, consisting of 54 deputies chosen by advocates in their own judicial district.
If you have a complaint about your Dutch lawyer, it’s a good idea to talk about it with them first. By doing this, you ensure that your lawyer is aware of the issue, and perhaps you can resolve the complaint together.
If that doesn’t work, ask about the internal complaint procedure and submit your complaint to the complaint officer.
Every law Dutch firm has an internal complaint procedure, which includes:
You should receive a response to your complaint within a month. It might take longer, but only if the lawyer has a valid reason for the delay.
If you don’t get a satisfactory resolution through the internal complaint procedure, you can take different actions. Check the internal complaint procedure first, as it may refer to a specific process.
Lawyers must behave properly. If they don’t, a disciplinary complaint can be filed with the Dutch Bar Association. Such complaints may involve:
A disciplinary complaint can be filed against your own lawyer or the opposing party’s lawyer.
To file a disciplinary complaint against a lawyer, you should send a letter to (the office of the Dean of the) local Bar Association.
Once your complaint, written or translated in Dutch, has been submitted, the Dean of the local Bar Association will investigate the matter. An assistant or a member of the Oversight Council of the local Bar Association (in Dutch 'Raad van Toezicht') may be assigned to investigate on behalf of the Dean. You will receive confirmation of the complaint, including the contact person for any questions.
To ensure clarity, the Dean or the assigned individual will contact you if the complaint is unclear. It is important to note that the legal language is Dutch, and translations of any documents may be requested. The lawyer named in the complaint will receive a copy and have an opportunity to respond in writing, typically within three weeks, but the time frame may vary.
You will receive a copy of the lawyer’s written response. If further clarification is needed, the Dean may request additional information from both parties or invite both parties to a meeting. All correspondence between you and the lawyer must be sent to the Dean to guarantee a fair hearing.
The Dean will attempt to mediate between you and the lawyer whenever possible. If mediation is unsuccessful or undesired, your complaint will remain open. Once the investigation is complete, the Dean will inform both you and the lawyer of the findings. If you disagree with the outcome, you can request that your complaint be presented before the Disciplinary Order.
Following your request, the Dean will forward your complaint and all related evidence to the disciplinary committee of the (local) Bar Association. If the case is handled by the president of the disciplinary committee, you will be notified of the court session by the court clerk, which you may generally attend. It may take four to six months from the time the complaint is forwarded to the disciplinary committee until the court session takes place.
The disciplinary committee of the Bar Association can impose sanctions on the lawyer, such as:
If your complaint is only about the size of your bill, it is not a disciplinary matter. For complaints about the quality of service, the size of the bill, or damages due to a mistake, you can go to court. Alternatively, you can go to the Dispute Resolution Committee for Lawyers (Geschillencommissie Advocatuur), but the lawyer must be a member. Check the internal complaint procedure for this information. If a lawyer is not a member, you may still be able to go to the Dispute Resolution Committee in some cases, such as:
The Dutch Bar Association and the Dutch Law Institute are independent and separate organizations and do not have any form of partnership, joint venture, agency, employment, or any other type of formal relationship. They each have their own statutory goals, and neither one controls the other. As such, they are solely responsible for complying with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations that apply to their own respective activities.