Lawyers in Netherlands

Lawyers in Netherlands

Legal Professionals

Types of Lawyer

There are several professions involved in distributing legal services in the Netherlands. These are, to some extent, in competition with one another. Theadvocaat is the only one mentioned in the 1977 Legal Services Directive. Most advocates are also procureur, the exercise of which profession is compatible with that of advocate. The function of the procureur is explained below. The notaris and to a lesser extent the belastingadviseur must also be taken into account. There is also a brief description of the deurwaarder and the Rechterlijk Ambtenaar.

Legal professionals are, then:

  • ADVOCAAT (advocate): see below.
  • NOTARIS (notary): see below.
  • BELASTINGADVISEUR/FISCALISTEN (tax adviser): Advocaten may specialise in tax law. Other tax advisers may be university-trained fiscal experts, but they do not comprise their own separate profession. Tax specialists, including those who have the fiscal law Mr degree (fiscalisten) or the Drs fiscal economist degree may join the Nederlandse Orde van Belastingadviseurs (NOB). This is a voluntary organisation. It maintains training for its trainee (i.e. new) members which is compulsory (but not examined). The title fiscalist (tax lawyer) and belastingadviseur (tax adviser) are not protected titles and consequently anyone can so style themselves, subject to their professional rules on advertising (if they belong to a professional organisation).
  • DEURWAARDER (bailiff / process server): see below.


There are several professions involved in distributing legal services in the Netherlands. These are, to some extent, in competition with one another. The advocaat is the only one mentioned in the 1977 Legal Services Directive. Most advocaten are also procureur, the exercise of which profession is compatible with that of advocate. The function of the procureur is explained below.

Dutch lawyers are either advocaten or procureurs. Some are only an advocaat and some are only a procureur, but the bulk are both. On January 1, 1989 there were 5,655 advocates, of which 1,311 were trainee advocates. There is compulsory liability insurance for this profession.

The role of the procureur is to sign documents in civil cases. The procureur deals with formal aspects in civil procedure. It is the procureur that is known to the court and he can introduce the advocaten from different districts.

For example an advocaat in Rotterdam acting in a divorce case in Amsterdam is able to prepare the documents but cannot exhibit these before the Amsterdam court. The local procureur must be in the court and it is he that must sign and send the documents to court. During the oral procedure the Rotterdam advocaat can appear even without the assistance of the local procureur, after a, usually written, introduction by the local procureur.

In criminal cases there is no division of labour and no procureur.

The intending Advocaat will have to complete a law degree (see below) and a professional stage (see below).


The judicial officer is a public civil servant, appointedby the Crown, who has the care of supporting the execution of the judgment. On the other hand the judicial officer is a independent entrepreneur. In this capacity, the judicial officer advises his/her employers, executes legal and collecting missions and can offer support with the whole debt management.

Information about Bailiffs in the European countries is provided here.


Notaries (notarissen) in the Netherlands have large practice of law as well as notarial functions (registration and creation of certain essential documents). In the world of legal professionals the notaris occupies a very special position. This appears firstly in the method of his appointment and secondly in the performance of his role.

Information about Notaries in the European countries is provided here.

Other Issues


New regulations (see relevant legislation below) were drawn up in September 1996. They provide a great deal of discretion to the General Council of the Orde. In some circumstances the Bar Council will grant exemptions to applicants with appropriate knowledge and experience, on application by the candidate.

Applications should be made to the General Council of the Dutch Bar Association. Applicants should include the following documents:

  • an extract of the population register showing the applicant’s nationality,
  • complete documentation proving the applicant is a fully qualified lawyer of a Member State (ie. proof of graduation and professional training), and
  • Information (proof if possible) of any knowledge or experience of Dutch law.

Applicants should request exemption if relevant. Applicants will receive a list of relevant literature for each required subject.

The applicant must sign up for the aptitude test at least one month before it is to be held and pay the exam fee at least two weeks before the examination is held.

Once an applicant has passed any necessary tests s/he can apply to the General Council of the Dutch Bar Association for an EC Declaration which costs 350fl. This will entitle to applicant to admission to the Dutch Bar.

Legal Education

Higher education in the Netherlands is currently a two-trunk system consisting of higher education in the University sector, and vocational higher education. There are currently active debates and legislative proposals (published in 1988) to alter the funding basis of higher education, admission requirments and to grant more autonomy to it, including the abolition of central curricula guidelines and rules. See the law degree below.

The law degree

Article 2 of the Advocatenwet specifies the alternative types of Dutch law degree that are neccesary in order to apply to become an advocaat. Such a degree is sufficient provided that they have taken an examination in Dutch civil and commercial law, and criminal law, as well as in one of the following three subjects: Dutch constitutional law, administrative law or taxation law.

The law degree lasts for four years. It is not uncommon for it to take longer (but not more than six years). There are seven models of law degree available at Dutch Universities, according to the Academisch Statuut. After a common first year, and passing the propedeuse exam, the student must choose one of the seven models. Within each model there are a core of compulsory courses, together with optional topics.

The first model is the Dutch law (Studie Nederlands Recht) model. The intending advocate must ensure that he has taken this option. The second is the notarial option . The intending notary must choose this degree (emphasis on natorial law, family law, law of succession, business law, property law and tax law). The third option is fiscal law. Other courses are law-political science , law-governmental science, law-international, and finally Antillian law. The above types of law degree give rise to the title Meester in de Rechten (Mr). The final model is the so-called free course which gives rise to the degree of doctorandus (Drs).

If accepted by a supervisor, a degree-holding candidate may take a doctorate degree (Doctor of Legal scholarship). This too is an acceptable degree in terms of Article 2 of the Advocatenwet. The average time to complete this degree is four years.

Legal Training

The Advocatenwet specifies the requirements necessary prior to being registered as an advocate on the tableau. After completion of an appropriate law degree, being approved by the Law Society, and having taken an oath, the law graduate can register conditionally as an advocaat. Registration becomes unconditional after passing the professional examination (Beroepsopleiding).

Traditionally Dutch advocaten must go through a post-admission article clerkship (stage), the exact content of which depended on the local Law Society rules. They are advocaten at this stage but are not allowed to practice alone, but only under supervision. Now they must also pass the beroepsopleiding (professional training) examination.

The patroon introduces to and advises the stagiaire in legal practice, including dealing with the judiciary, professional colleagues and clients and must give him appropriate work. He must allow the stagiaire the opportunity to fulfill all the training and educational requirements necessary to pass the stage and beroepsopleiding. The patroon must send an annual written report to the “mentor” of the stagiare (a member of the Council) about development of the stage.

At the end of the stage, the Council, having heard from the patroon and stagiaire judges that the stagiaire has met the requirements of the stage and has received adequate practical experience will declare the stage to be ended. It will however only do this if the stagiaire is shown to have completed the educational requirements of the stage.

Both the General Council and the Council of Supervision can require educational measures including the taking of exams and tests, but the General Council has the power to establish the beroepsopleiding which all stagiaires must follow during their first year of their stage (lasting about nine months in total).

The professional training requires twenty days devoted to theoretical learning and twenty-five practical training days. The beroepsopleiding organised by the General Council takes priority over local training requirements.

If the stagiaire has followed the beroepsopleiding courses then s/he is permitted to take the exams.

Governing Bodies

These include:

  • The Netherlands Order of Advocates.
  • The Koninklijke Notariele Beroepsorganisatie.
  • Koninklijke Vereniging van Gerechtsdeurwaarders.

Relevant Legislation

This includes:

  • Bulletin of Acts Stb. 1994, 30 – The recognition of EC Higher Education Diplomas Act. Stcrt.1994, 249 – Advocatenblad 1995, page 79
  • Aptitude Test Regulation of 25 November 1994 as amended (for example, in September 13th 1996) Stcrt. 1996, 197. (see below)
  • Rules of Procedure for the Aptitude Test (14th October 1996) (see below)

Author: J Lonbay (A), 2008, many changes

Rules of Procedure for the Aptitude Test (14th October 1996)

I Definitions

Article 1. In these rules of procedure the following shall be understood to mean:

a. Act: the Counsel Act;

b. Aptitude test: the aptitude test as referred to in Article 10, paragraph 3,

of the Recognition of EC Higher­Education Diplomas Act;

c. Exam(ination): examination, as part of the aptitude test, of an applicant’s professional knowledge relating to the subject concerned;

d. Bar Association: the Dutch Bar Association

e. General Council: the General Council of the Bar Association

II Structure of the aptitude test

Article 2

1. The aptitude test shall relate wholly or in part to the following subjects:

1. Civil Law (including its relative procedural law)

2a. Criminal Law (including its relative procedural law)

2b. Administrative Law (including its relative procedural law)

3a. Divorce Law

3b. Employment Law

3c. Bankruptcy Law

3d. Company Law

3e. Tax Law

4. Rules of Conduct

2. If, in accordance with Article 3, second paragraph under b, of the Regulation EC Declaration for Advocates, the General Council decides that a complete aptitude test must be taken, the subjects specified in the first paragraph under 1 and 4 are obligatory. One item each must be chosen from the subjects mentioned under 2a and 2b, and 3a to 3e (inclusive).

3. Upon an applicant’s request, the General Council may grant exemption from parts of the aptitude test on the grounds of knowledge and experience.

4. All parts may be examined orally, in writing or in any other way, as determined by the General Council for each subject.

III Organisation

Article 3.

1. The Bar Association ensures that the exams in respect of the different subjects may be taken at least once a year.

2. Persons taking an exam are obliged to pay an examination fee. The General Council will determine its level.

IV Admission

Article 4. Applicants must sign up for an exam not later than one month before it is held. The examination fee must be paid to the Bar Association not later than two weeks prior to the date of the exam.

V Assessment and result

Marking of written examinations

Article 5. The marking of the written examinations will be carried out by two revisers, appointed by the General Council. The General Council determines the result of each examination and advises the applicants accordingly.

Article 6 Oral examinations

Oral exams are held in the presence of two examiners, appointed by the General Council. The General Council determines the result of each examination and advises the applicants accordingly.

VI Re­sitting of examinations

Article 7.

1. In the event of failing one or more subjects of the test, the applicants will have the possibility to take the relevant exams again. Exams passed will remain valid for a period of five years.

2. Entry for a resit will be in accordance with the provisions of Article 4. An examination fee is once more due.

VII EC Declaration

Article 8

1. If an applicant can submit the complete set of documents attesting that all subjects of the test imposed by the General Council have been satisfactorily passed, the General Council will issue an EC Declaration, subject to the applicant having paid the expenses referred to in the third paragraph of this Article.

2. An EC Declaration is issued by or on behalf of the General Council and contains at least a specification that it constitutes an EC Declaration for the profession of advocate and/or procurator. In addition, the declaration states the subjects of the aptitude test that have been successfully completed by the applicant. The EC Declaration shall be dated.

3. The cost for issuing an EC Declaration amounts to f 350.=

VIII Objection and appeal

Article 9. The ‘Algemene wet bestuursrecht Awb’ (Dutch General Administrative Law Act) shall apply to all decisions taken in accordance with or by virtue of these rules of procedure.

RECOGNITION OF EC HIGHER ­EDUCATION DIPLOMAS: Aptitude Test Regulation of 25 November 1994 as amended

Text of the Regulation amended in September 13th 1996. Stcrt. 1996, 197.

Article 1 In this Regulation the following shall be understood to mean:

  • EC Declaration: the declaration within the meaning of Article 8, second paragraph, of the Recognition of EC Higher­Education Diplomas Act;
  • Aptitude test: the aptitude test within the meaning of Article 10, paragraph 3, of the Recognition of EC Higher­Education Diplomas Act.

Article 2 The General Council shall rule on:

a. the composition of subjects for the aptitude test;

b. the contents of such subjects;

c. the scope of the exams and the way in which they shall be taken;

d. the level of the examination fees;

e. the period within which all parts of the aptitude test must be successfully completed.

Article 3

1 The General Council shall rule on further regulations relating to the form and content of the EC Declaration.

2 The General Council may decide that a fee shall be charged for issuing the EC Declaration and, in that case, shall determine its level.

Article 4

This Regulation may be referred to as the Aptitude Test Regulation

Lawyers in other European Countries



See Also

Further Reading

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