This page gives the following information on lawyers in the Netherlands:
In the Netherlands, 'jurist' is a basic Dutch term referring to any person who practices law. In general, the term 'jurist' in the Netherlands refers to a person who has successfully completed university studies in Law (bachelor and master). Upon completion of these studies at a Dutch university, the title 'master in law' ('mr.') may be used.
In the Netherlands, as in other jurisdictions, there are different types of lawyers, such as:
So, an 'advocaat' in the Netherlands is always a lawyer; however, a lawyer in the Netherlands is not always a Dutch 'advocaat'. Each type of Dutch lawyer has its own qualifications and knowledge of parts of Dutch law.
In the following (as is actually common in day-to-day practice, although not entirely precise), the generic English term 'lawyer' will be used for a Dutch 'advocaat', the sworn lawyer whose actions are regulated by all kinds of legislation and who is supervised by the Dutch Bar Association (in Dutch: 'de Nederlandse orde van advocaten', 'NOvA').
A person who has completed a law degree at a Dutch university and wants to work as a lawyer (as in: 'advocaat') in the Netherlands must be sworn in by a Dutch court to be a lawyer in the Netherlands. This is followed by a three-year internship period at a law firm, under the guidance of an experienced lawyer (advocaat), the patron. During this training period, the Dutch lawyer is not allowed to practice law independently. From the moment a lawyer is sworn in as a lawyer in the Netherlands, he or she may use the title of 'advocaat' protected by the Dutch Law on Advocates (even though he is also often referred to as a 'trainee lawyer' during the internship period).
Under the provisions of Article 9a of Dutch Lawyers Act (in Dutch: 'Advocatenwet'), only a person who is registered as a lawyer under Article 1(1) or 2a(1) of that Dutch law is entitled to use the title of 'advocaat'.
During the apprenticeship, every lawyer in the Netherlands must take the Professional Training Programme for the Legal Profession and pass six exams, including in the subjects 'Alternative Dispute Resolution' and 'Dutch Disciplinary Law'.
The professional training to become a lawyer in the Netherlands takes exactly two years. Trainee lawyers who started the training before September 2020 are 2 years and 3 months into the professional training.
After professional training, the Dutch trainee lawyer has to take numerous courses as part of the so-called Continuing Trainee Course. Even after completing the traineeship, every Dutch lawyer has to undergo annual retraining.
By operation of Dutch law, every lawyer in the Netherlands is automatically and compulsorily a member of the Dutch Bar Association. The Dutch Bar Association is the public law professional organization of the legal profession (a Dutch public body). The Netherlands Bar Association was established under Dutch law (in Dutch: “Advocatenwet”) on 1 October, 1952.
The Dutch Bar Association's search engine allows you to search for a lawyer in the Netherlands, by name, city, jurisdiction and Dutch government-funded legal aid.
The Dutch Law Institute has compiled a list of lawyers in the Netherlands specializing in civil litigation.
Although the Institute cannot vouch for these listed lawyers, it has the impression that these lawyers in the Netherlands are among the top in their field of law. The Dutch Law Institute is not responsible for the quality of services provided by the Dutch lawyers or law firms listed here. Inclusion in the list does not mean that the Netherlands Law Institute endorses them. The Netherlands Law Institute has no connection or relationship with them. The order of the names is arbitrary. If you use one of the Dutch lawyers or law firms on the list, it would be helpful if you provide the Institute of Dutch Law with feedback on the services provided.
The website of the Dutch Bar Association lists all lawyers registered in the Netherlands, which together form the Dutch Bar Association (NOvA). These Dutch lawyers are allowed to use the title 'advocaat'. This is a title protected by Dutch law.
The Dutch Law Institute is regularly approached with the question of how to find the best lawyer in the Netherlands.
However, there is no fair, sensible and objective way to answer this question of who is the best lawyer in the Netherlands. It depends on too many subjective assessments and variables. However, it can often be said which lawyer is likely to do a decent job in a particular legal case. This depends on education, experience and fees, among other things.
In any case, a Dutch lawyer can at least be expected to follow Dutch professional standards, and thus:
Occasionally, the Dutch Law Institute refers companies and individuals to lawyers in the Netherlands who are alleged to be suitable. In making such a referral to a Dutch lawyer, the Dutch Law Institute assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional competence or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the Dutch lawyer referred. Such a referral to a Dutch lawyer in no way constitutes an endorsement by the Dutch Law Institute from which rights may be derived. The Dutch Law Institute cannot vouch for the information provided by lawyers in the Netherlands about their practice.
Lawyers in the Netherlands generally work for an hourly fee. The sum of the hourly fee varies from lawyer to lawyer. The hourly fee of a Dutch lawyer in consumer law cases is on average € 190. For commercial cases, Dutch lawyers generally charge rates between € 150 and € 350 per hour.
Some Dutch lawyers charge even higher rates. These hourly rates have to be increased with 21% VAT. Some law firms also charge 'office expenses' of 5 or 6% on top of the hourly rate.
Administrative work by a lawyer is sometimes done free of charge. Travel time is sometimes charged at a lower fee, such as half the hourly fee.
If a Dutch lawyer litigates in the Netherlands, there are additional costs (on top of the hourly rate). These include court fees and costs for experts and witnesses. Court fees are costs for handling the case by the Dutch court. These court fees depend, among other things, on the type of case and the amount of the claim. If one wins a lawsuit in the Netherlands, often only a small part of all actual costs will be reimbursed. This is different if, among other things, the losing party has abused his right to litigate, or if he has acted unlawfully in some other way, such as when the case is clearly hopeless from the outset. In all other cases, the legal costs are reimbursed on the basis of a scale. This means that the amount depends on the amount of the claim and the work performed by the Dutch litigation lawyer, such as filing a written procedural document with the Dutch court. Sometimes a litigant in Dutch court proceedings does not recover any of the costs. For example, if it does not come to a final judgment after all, and (or) if parties agree to bear their own lawyer's fees.
To control the cost of hiring a lawyer in the Netherlands, it is wise (for individuals, not companies) to check whether one is eligible for subsidized legal aid in the Netherlands.
It should then be checked whether one has legal expenses insurance that will cover the costs. This should be done at the earliest stage of a case. Legal expenses insurers often object if they are approached too late by an insured. In principle, under Dutch law, insured persons have a free choice of a lawyer in the Netherlands.
Dutch lawyers are allowed to set their own fees. It is therefore important to properly negotiate the level of lawyers' fees and make satisfactory price agreements.
Before instructing a lawyer in the Netherlands, always ask the Dutch lawyer for an itemised quote that includes all possible cost items, such as office fees, VAT, other surcharges, administration and travel expenses.
Furthermore, it is wise to agree in advance on interim updates on the time spent and associated costs, and of course on the lawyer's billing for them.
To further reduce legal fees, it is wise to document all the facts and gather all the evidence yourself, so that the lawyer has as little work as possible in this regard.
There are now (2023) about 18,340 lawyers working in the Netherlands, and there are about 4,900 law firms in the Netherlands. The number of lawyers within the Netherlands has grown in recent years and more than doubled in the last decade.
Of the 18,340 lawyers in the Netherlands, about 9,860 are male. So about 8,140 are women (45% of Dutch lawyers).
There are about 1.8 million court cases per year in the Netherlands. Most lawsuits are so-called subdistrict cases, which usually deal with employment agreements, rental agreements, consumer purchases and family law cases.
The number of subdistrict cases is about 1.12 million per year.
In criminal law, there are about 203,000 court cases per year in the Netherlands.
Most law firms in the Netherlands have one to five lawyers. About 610 law firms have more than 20 lawyers. About 24 law firms in the Netherlands have more than 60 lawyers.
The Dutch Bar Association must ensure that Dutch lawyers comply with a number of professional rules. The Dutch Bar Association is authorised to issue regulations that are binding on its members.
The Dutch Bar Association exists alongside local Bar Associations, which are also regulated by the Lawyers Act and one of which can be found in each district. The bodies of the Dutch Bar Association include the General Council and the College of Delegates. At the head of the Dutch Bar Association is the Dean. The local Bar Associations are similarly divided. They are relatively autonomous and each has its own Dean, who chairs the Local Council.
The Lawyers Act contains rules on Dutch lawyers, their powers, their legal duties and the requirements a Dutch lawyer must meet. In addition, the Advocates Act defines the core values of a Dutch lawyer, such as partiality and confidentiality. Under these, a Dutch lawyer has a strictly regulated duty of confidentiality. Finally, the Lawyers Act also regulates disciplinary law with regard to Dutch lawyers.
Section 10a of the Advocates Act reads, loosely translated:
'1. In the interest of the proper administration of justice, a lawyer (advocaat) ensures the legal protection of his client. To this end, the lawyer (advocaat) is in the exercise of his profession:
a. independent in relation to his client, third parties and the matters in which he acts as such;
b. biased in the representation of his client's legitimate interests;
c. knowledgeable and able to dispose of sufficient knowledge and skills;
d. incorruptible and abstains from any act or omission not befitting a proper lawyer; and
e. trustworthy and observes confidentiality within the limits set by law and the law.
2. The General Council and the councils of the orders in the districts shall, in the interests of the proper administration of justice, promote the proper practice of law and take all measures that may contribute to it. They shall stand up for the rights and interests of lawyers and perform the duties assigned to them by regulation.'
A lawyer in the Netherlands who fails to comply can be brought before the disciplinary court under Dutch law. If you have a complaint about your own lawyer in the Netherlands, it is advisable to first discuss the complaint with the lawyer concerned (or his/her complaints officer). Information on this can be found in an office complaints procedure that every Dutch lawyer should have and publish.
If talking to your Dutch lawyer does not lead to a solution, there are several options.
In some cases, you are at the right place with the dean and board of discipline (the disciplinary route), sometimes you can achieve a better result with the disputes committee or the Dutch civil court.
The dean of the local bar association can inform you about the possibilities in this regard; he performs what is known as a counter function for complaints about lawyers in the Netherlands.
By law, the dean informs everyone about the possibility of complaint and dispute resolution and the possibility for parties to turn to the courts. If necessary, the dean refers to other bodies. This therefore also applies if you do not have a complaint about your own lawyer in the Netherlands, but about the other party's lawyer, for example.
If you choose the disciplinary route, the following applies. A disciplinary complaint must be filed with the Dean of the Bar Association in the district in which the lawyer complained about is based. There are 11 districts in the Netherlands.
The dean investigates the complaint and mediates if he sees opportunities to do so. If the treatment by the dean has not resulted in a solution, the dean shall, if the complainant so wishes, forward the complaint to the competent Supervisory Board ('Raad van Toezicht).
Jurisdiction lies with the Supervisory Board in whose jurisdiction the accused lawyer holds office.
Foreign lawyers can also work in the Netherlands if they meet certain conditions. These conditions depend on how many times one wants to work as an attorney at law in the Netherlands and in what specific capacity.
If one is registered as an attorney at law in an EEA country or in Switzerland, one can establish oneself as an attorney at law in the Netherlands, if the conditions of the establishment directive for attorneys at law are met. One can then work as a lawyer in the Netherlands under the so-called original professional title of the home country.
However, one must register with the Supervisory Council of the Dutch Bar Association. For this, one needs, among other things, proof of registration as a lawyer with the competent authority in the home country.
You can apply to the Supervisory Council after 3 years for a certificate showing that you have been working in the relevant legal capacity in the Netherlands. With this declaration, you can register as a lawyer in the members’ list of the Dutch Bar Association (in Dutch: the “Tableau”). You will then no longer have to take a professional competence test or work as an apprentice.
Under the Services Directive for lawyers, if a lawyer qualified as such in an EEA country or Switzerland wishes to work incidentally in the Netherlands, he or she can act as a lawyer in the Netherlands under the qualifications of the country of origin (the 'home title').
One must then meet certain conditions. For example, one must cooperate with a lawyer registered in the Netherlands.
A lawyer from other countries (e.g. the United States of America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand), who has studied law in a country outside the EEA or Switzerland, must retake the law degree at a Dutch university to work as a lawyer in the Netherlands. However, if the degree from abroad is accredited, some exemption may be granted in this regard.
Jan Willem de Groot is a distinguished legal expert who serves as the editor for this page, as well as various other pages on this website that focus on Dutch law and legal professionals in the Netherlands. With a 34-year career as a lawyer in the Netherlands, Jan Willem brings a wealth of expertise to his editorial role.
Upon completing his law studies in 1984, Jan Willem embarked on a diverse and enriching career path that led him to work at multiple law firms in both the Netherlands and England. During his time in England, he was part of a reputable law firm located in the City of London, where he honed his skills in maritime law.
While practicing law in the Netherlands, Jan Willem’s area of expertise expanded to encompass a wide range of Dutch and international commercial contracts and liability issues. He offered legal counsel on numerous facets of conducting business in the Netherlands, such as the process of establishing companies, and expertly navigated a variety of proceedings in Dutch courts and arbitration settings.
As an English-speaking international lawyer in the Netherlands, Jan Willem amassed a wealth of experience in preventing and resolving legal dilemmas, with a particular emphasis on settling commercial disputes that often had international implications. His areas of expertise include:
Throughout his tenure as a civil litigation attorney in the Netherlands, Jan Willem successfully represented clients in a number of high-profile cases before Dutch courts. In addition to his litigation experience, he has acted as an arbitrator and mediator, further contributing to his extensive skill set.
Jan Willem is regarded as an expert in Dutch civil law and is considered a leading authority on civil litigation under Dutch law. He is also recognized as a prominent practitioner of contract law in the Netherlands. Though he has retired from his practice as a Dutch ‘advocaat,’ Jan Willem remains active in the legal community by occasionally providing consultation services on Dutch civil law matters, primarily for attorneys in the Netherlands and abroad. He also shares his knowledge and insights through articles and blog posts on Dutch contract law.
As a key initiator behind the Dutch Law Institute, Jan Willem played a crucial role in its inception. In recognition of his contributions, he was appointed CEO upon the Institute’s founding in May 2021. In his capacity as CEO, Jan Willem oversees the daily operations of the Dutch Law Institute, ensuring that the organization runs smoothly and efficiently. He is responsible for making key decisions and setting the strategic direction of the Institute, with a focus on promoting its mission, expanding its reach, and enhancing its impact on the Dutch legal community.
Jan Willem’s leadership is crucial for the continued growth of the Dutch Law Institute. His vast experience and deep understanding of the legal landscape in the Netherlands enable him to guide the Institute in its pursuit of excellence and its commitment to providing valuable resources and support for legal professionals, scholars, and policymakers.
Under Jan Willem’s direction, the Dutch Law Institute is poised to make a lasting and significant impact on the Dutch legal landscape by fostering collaboration, promoting research and innovation, and contributing to the development and understanding of Dutch law and its applications.