Netherlands International Trade in Legal Services

Netherlands International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

The Lawyers Act (Advocatenwet) and Decision on legal requirements of lawyers (Besluit beroepsvereisten advocatuur)

Under what title do lawyers practise?


How does an individual lawyer obtain a "licence" to practise law? How often must this be renewed?



In order to obtain a licence to practise law in the Netherlands, an individual must have 1) a Bachelor's degree in legal studies, 2) a Master's degree in Dutch law 3) have completed three years of training at a law firm as an advocaat-stagiaire. The training period is accompanied by basic and further legal training (Beroepsopleiding advocatuur and Voortgezette stagaire opleiding).

Does this entitle the holder to practise throughout the country? If the law license only permits one to practice on a sub-national level, please explain the jurisdictional limits

The licence to practise in the Netherlands is national but discipline and supervision are conducted locally by court districts.

Are there certain activities that are "reserved" to those who are licensed to practise law in the jurisdiction?




The monopoly of Dutch advocates is limited to representation in Court and use of the title advocate.  The code of civil procedures stipulates in title 2, section 1, article 79 that it is mandatory for all parties involved in a civil litigation procedure to be represented by a lawyer in front of the court. An exception is made for the district court (kantonrechter), which decides on relatively simple and inexpensive cases (up to € 5000). Here citizens may representthemselves without lawyer. The financial limit may be raised to 25.000€ in the near future. In criminal cases in courts and appeal courts a lawyer is not required for representation.
Code on civil procedures: http://mijnwetten.nl/wetboek-van-burgerlijke-rechtsvordering/boek1

Do you need to hold local nationality to be eligible to practise law?


What legal forms can lawyers work in? (e.g. self employment, partnership, limited liability partnership, multi-disciplinary partnership, incorporation)

Dutch advocates may work in sole partnerships, in general or limited liability partnerships.  Under certain limited circumstances they may also work in partnership with some other specific quasi-legal professions.

What other ethical or regulatory requirements must a licensed lawyer comply with? 

The Netherlands Bar has produced a code of conduct and many other rules which can be found in the legislative databank on the Bar Association's website:https://www.advocatenorde.nl/advocaten/juridische-databank/wetenregelgeving/list/hoofdstuk

Do law firms need to receive a "license" (or permission/approval) to practice law?

There is a requirement for law firms to complete an annual compliance statement electronically and to appoint a representative to submit information on behalf of the firm.

Which authority issues licences? Are there different authorities for individuals and firms? 

The Netherlands Bar Association issues licences to practise in the Netherlands but disciplinary procedures are carried out locally by the Deans of the local bars of the district in which a lawyer is working.



Are there any explicit rules or restrictions other than visas on fly in fly out practice of law? Ie. Do you need to obtain a licence for temporary practice?

The provision of temporary services in the Netherlands by a lawyer from a non-EU Member State under his/her home title is not permitted. EEA lawyers may practise temporarily as a result of the Lawyers Services Directive (77/249/EEC).

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a visa to visit clients or to market but not to practice?









The Netherlands is one of the 25 countries in Europe that has signed the Schengen agreement. This allows a non-EEA national to obtain a visa to enter one or more of the Schengen countries for business or tourism purposes on a single visit of up to 90 days, or to make multiple entries to the Schengen area on any number of occasions over a 180 day period, provided none of these is for longer than 90 days.  A number of non-EEA countries are exempt from visa requirements. Business visitors. Temporary entry, stay and work limited to a three month period Business visitors - a) persons who are representatives of a service supplier and are seeking temporary entry for the purpose of negotiating for the sale of services or entering into agreements to sell services for that service supplier, where those representatives will not be engaged in making direct sales to the general public or in supplying services themselves. b) persons working in a senior position, as defined above, within a juridical person, who are responsible for the setting up in Norway of a commercial presence of a service supplier of a Party when: - the representatives are not engaged in making direct sales or supplying services, and - the service supplier has no other representative, branch or subsidiary in Norway. Unbound, except for the temporary presence of natural persons providing services without being employed by a juridical person who has commercial presence in Norway. Compliance with an economic needs test is not required. Access is subject to the following conditions: - A work permit must be obtained. A work permit must be issued to a natural person who is considered to be a higher-level skilled worker or to have special qualifications. During his/her stay in Norway, the natural person will have to be employed by the recipient of the service. The competence of the natural person must be deemed absolutely necessary for the recipient of the service.

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a licence to establish and practise as a foreign legal consultant and what is the scope of this limited licence?

Foreign lawyers may practise in the Netherlands under their home country title in the law of their home country or public international law.  EEA lawyers may establish under their home title and additionally practise local law in association with a Dutch lawyer.



Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled once a foreign lawyer has been granted a limited licence (e.g. residency requirement)

An EEA lawyer must register with the local Dutch bar, practise under his home title, comply with the Advocates' code of conduct and must maintain adequate professional indemnity insurance. 

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled for a foreign lawyer to qualify for a limited licence? (e.g. prior practice)

An EEA lawyer must hold EEA nationality and an EEA legal qualification.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation? Parties opting for international arbitration in the Netherlands are free to choose arbitrators of their choice. The Dutch Arbitration Law is currently under review.

Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances?

European Union/EFTA and Swiss lawyers may all appear in court provided they do so in association with a local lawyer. Other nationals are not permitted to appear in court.

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?

EEA lawyers may fully requalify as Dutch lawyers following the European Establishment Directive 98/5/EC, either by examination or by assimilation over a three year period of continuous and effective practice. Non EEA lawyers need to complete all the academic requirements of qualification (ie. a Dutch LLB or Masters in Law) but may be able to get some course exemptions.


Can a foreign law firm obtain a licence to open an office?

There is no separate law firm licensing regime for foreign law firms. Any US law firms that have established in the Netherlands have done so through their London LLPs. EEA law firms must register with the local bar in the district of the Netherlands in which they are established.

Even if a foreign law firm does not require a legal licence must they register in some form in order to set up an office? (e.g. with a ministry of company affairs etc)

All businesses and legal entities operating in the Netherlands must register with the Trade Register which can be done through a local chamber of commerce. There are a number of other formalities that must be undertaken.
Are there different types of foreign law firm 'licence'  (e.g. Joint Law Venture, stand alone foreign licence etc)


Is there a quota on the number of licences available?


Are there geographical restrictions on foreign firm licences or on the number of branches a foreign firm can have?


Are there "scope of practice" rules that apply directly to foreign law firms (as opposed to lawyers themselves)? (e.g. home, host, international law), if so, what are they? There are no scope of practice rules that apply to firms as opposed to individual lawyers.
Are there restrictions on the corporate form a foreign law firm can take? EEA law firms are subject to the same rules on corporate form as local law firms.
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? The Establishment Directive (98/5/EC) makes it clear that EU law firms may use the name of their law firm they use in their home country. The host Member State may require that, in addition mention is made of the legal form of the grouping in the home Member State and/or of the names of any members of the grouping practising in the host Member State.
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL Law firms from the EEA must register with the local bar association.


Are there restrictions on the ownership share of foreign lawyers in a law firm?

There are no restrictions on the ownership share of EEA lawyers in a Dutch law firm.

May a domestic lawyer be employed by a foreign lawyer or law firm?

There is no prohibition on employment of a Dutch lawyer by an EEA lawyer or law firm.

Can a domestic lawyer enter into partnership with a foreign lawyer?

A Dutch lawyer may enter a partnership with an EEA lawyer.

Can a domestic lawyer or domestic law firm employ a foreign lawyer?

Yes but only under their home title.



Other useful sources or comments or links

The Netherlands Bar Association: www.advocatenorde.nl