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Last update: 16-04-2007
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Legal professions - Netherlands



1. Judge 1.
2. Clerk 2.
3. Public Prosecutor 3.
4. Lawyer 4.
5. Civil-law notary (notaris) 5.
6. Bailiff (gerechtsdeurwaarder) 6.


1. Judge

The task of the judge is to give an unbiased decision in legal disputes, i.e. also in cases to which the government is a party. To guarantee that impartiality in respect of the government, a special selection and appointment system is in place and the legal status of judges is different to that of other government officials.

Anyone who wants to become a judge needs at least seven years of professional experience. This experience can be obtained via an internal training course with the judiciary or by obtaining legal experience elsewhere. The judiciary system will provide the necessary training.

Judges are appointed by the Crown, under the aegis of the Minister of Justice. Only Dutch nationals can be appointed to the office of judge. Moreover, the candidates must have a law degree from a Dutch university.

Individuals can only be nominated for appointment to the judiciary after a recommendation from a national selection committee, made up of members from the various courts, the public prosecutor’s office and individuals that are active in society. The judge will be appointed to administer justice at a specific court. Such appointment is not possible, unless the court in question has nominated the prospective judge. Thanks to these conditions, the appointment system is as objective as possible. The judge is a government official with a special status. After the initial appointment, the judge need not accept an appointment elsewhere.

Judges can remain in office until the age of 70. At a younger age, they can only be removed from office against their will by the highest court in the Netherlands, the Dutch Supreme Court (Hoge Raad der Nederlanden), at the instigation of the Procurator General (procureur-general) of this Court. This system provides adequate protection against political influence on appointment and removal from office.


The Dutch Constitution instructs the judiciary to render decisions on disputes and it contains provisions regarding the legal status of members of the judiciary.

With due observance of the prevailing legislation, judges may, at their discretion, hear cases; they also determine, to a large extent, the practical progress in the proceedings, for instance the length of certain parts of the proceedings. If a party to proceedings has doubts about the impartiality of the judge during the proceedings, the law provides for possibilities to object to that particular judge hearing the case.

Sometimes, one party to a lawsuit is dissatisfied with the work of the judge. A distinction is made between the decision rendered by the court and the behaviour of a judge. If the dissatisfaction relates to the judgment, the party complaining usually has the option of lodging an appeal. Complaints about behaviour of a judge may be filed with the board of the court where the judge in question holds office. Every court has a complaints procedure providing for the rules on dealing with complaints.

There are statutory provisions on the behaviour of judges. The purpose of these provisions is guaranteeing that judges do their work impartially.

Judges work in District Courts (rechtbanken). The District Courts have four sectors: the civil-law sector, the criminal-law sector, the administrative-law sector and the sub-district court sector. Judges working in the latter sector are called: kantonrechter, the others are referred to as rechter. The judges working in the courts of appeal and the Supreme Court are called raadsheer.


Judges are usually required to hear cases in one field at the time, after which they switch to another field. They need to have expertise in at least two fields. This rule is designed to prevent judges from focussing for too long and too much on one area of expertise.

Kantonrechters hear cases on their own. The District Court judges usually hear cases on their own, but some cases must be heard by a three-judge panel. The judges in the courts of appeal hear cases with a panel of three, unless such case can be heard by one judge. The law provides rules for this. The Supreme Court hears every case with five judges.

2. Clerk

Judges are always assisted by a clerk (griffier). One part of the clerks looks after the paperwork side of cases. Another part, with more legal training, assists the judge in preparing the hearing, draws up the official report of the hearing and drafts decisions on the instructions of the judge.

More practical information on the judiciary can be found on is the official web site of the judiciary system. The site includes data on where correspondence must be sent, the physical address of the court, e-mail details, business hours, how to get there, complaints procedure etc.

3. Public Prosecutor

The principal task of the public prosecutor (Officier van Justitie) is instituting criminal proceedings against people. However, the public prosecutor can also act in civil cases, for example regarding petitions for placing someone under guardianship, compulsory admission of a citizen in a psychiatric hospital or applications for amending official documents from the registry of births, marriages and deaths. The public prosecutor is part of the public prosecutor’s office. The minister of Justice is responsible. The Public Prosecution Department (Openbaar Ministerie or OM) has a National Office (parket-generaal) which is the national board and each court has its public prosecutor’s office (parket), in which the public prosecutors work. At the courts of appeal and the Supreme Court, the public prosecutors are called Advocaat-Generaal. The public prosecutor’s office of the Supreme Court has an independent position and its manager is called Procureur-Generaal.


See also Deutsch (in Dutch only)

4. Lawyer

The task of the lawyer is to guarantee that the legal position of their clients is not prejudiced. To that end, lawyers provide legal opinions and represent their clients in legal disputes and in court.

Lawyers have an obligation to observe confidentiality vis-à-vis their clients and can claim privilege. In other words: lawyers need not disclose any information obtained from clients to the court. Lawyers primarily work within the district in which they are registered, but they are authorised to work in every district court and court of appeal.

People that have civil cases heard by the sub-district court (kantonrechter) need not retain the services of a lawyer. In all other civil cases, (before a district court, court of appeal or the Supreme Court), citizens have to be represented by counsel. This is referred to as mandatory legal representation (verplichte procesvertegenwoordiging).

People with relatively little income qualify for legal aid (see legal aid fact sheet). A lawyer will be assigned to them. That means that the lawyer’s fee will be paid by the government. The person seeking justice merely pays a contribution, the amount depending on the person’s income and other assets.

Anyone who has obtained a law degree from a Dutch university may be admitted to the bar.

During the first three years of being admitted to the bar, lawyers are obliged to practice law as a trainee under supervision of another lawyer. This means that you cannot become a lawyer unless you find another lawyer who is prepared to train you. Lawyers from other EU countries may apply for admission to the Dutch bar, if they comply with the relevant European directives. Lawyers from another Member State who occasionally render their services in another Member State may do so, provided that they work together with local counsel.


The lawyer is an independent professional (vrije beroepsbeoefenaar).

Rules governing the profession, their powers, appointment and disbarment are provided for in the Dutch Act on Advocates (Advocatenwet) and several decrees and by-laws, including the 1998 By-law on Bookkeeping (Boekhoudverordening 1998), the By-law on the Financial Contribution (Verordening op de financiële bijdrage) and the By-law on Professional Practice (Verordening op de praktijkuitoefening).

Pursuant to the law, every lawyer practising in the Netherlands is a member of the Dutch Bar Association (Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten or NOvA). The lawyers are subject to disciplinary proceedings.

The tasks of this professional organization defined by law are to ensure the quality of the services rendered by its members. This includes:

  • An extensive training programme for bar members
  • Drawing up by-laws and other binding rules for lawyers
  • Disciplinary proceedings
  • Information and services to its members
  • Recommendations to the government on policy plans and bills

Apart from membership of the Dutch Bar Association, many lawyers are also a member of a professional association specializing in a specific legal field. These lawyers have specialized in a particular field of law, such as family law, social-security law, employment law, criminal law or tenancy law.

These experts usually join forces in an association, which can be found on Nederlands


More information on the legal profession can be found on

If you live abroad and have trouble finding a lawyer in the Netherlands, you can contact the Legal Aid Council (Raad voor rechtsbijstand) in The Hague. Details are listed in the legal aid fact sheet under 6.

5. Civil-law notary (notaris)

The civil-law notary’s task is to draw up documents, called deeds (akten), which can be relied upon by citizens and the legal practice in terms of their accuracy. The civil-law notary makes sure that these deeds are an accurate representation of the relevant facts and reflect the agreements made between the parties correctly. Under Dutch law, deeds drawn up by a civil-law notary are given special evidential weight.

Civil-law notaries work in particular in the fields of family law, corporate law and (immovable) property law. The law has provided that a large number of acts intended to have legal effect can only be established by a deed executed before a civil-law notary: incorporating legal entities, such as associations, foundations, private and public limited companies and amending their articles of association/ charter, transferring registered property such as immovable property and registered vessels, drawing up last wills and testaments and pre/ postnuptial agreements.

The civil-law notary is the custodian of the original copies of the deeds drawn up by him, so that they can always be consulted at a later date. The parties obtain certified copies from the civil-law notary. A good example is the last will and testament. After a person’s death, the civil-law notary will hand over a copy of the original will to the heirs. The civil-law notary may also perform certain tasks in settling estates.


The civil-law notary holds public office, and by virtue of that office has the authority to draw up officially certified deeds (authentieke akten). Such deeds have more evidentiary value than private deeds. Although civil-law notaries practising in the Netherlands hold public office, they are at liberty to determine their own rates. They bear the financial risk of their firm, and are, more or less, independent professionals. Under and by virtue of Dutch law, there are rules that aim to allow the civil-law notary to exercise his office independently and impartially and with due care promote the interests of the interested parties.

Civil-law notaries are appointed by the Crown under the aegis of the Minister of Justice. Only Dutch citizens are eligible for appointment. Moreover, the candidates must have obtained a degree in notarial law from a Dutch university or have completed training that is considered to be similar pursuant to the implemented EU directives. Before a person can be appointed to the office of civil-law notary, the jurist in notarial law must have completed at least six years of traineeship as a junior civil-law notary with a civil-law notary’s office established in the Netherlands. During the first three years of this traineeship, the junior civil-law notary has to follow professional training courses. The application for appointment to the Minister of Justice has to be accompanied by a business plan.

Rules regarding the office, the powers, appointment and removal from office are provided for in the Notaries Act (Wet op het notarisambt or Wna) and in various decrees and by-laws, such as the Junior Civil-Law Notary’s Professional Requirements Decree (Besluit beroepsvereisten kandidaat-notaris), the By-law concerning professional rules and rules of conduct (Verordening beroeps- en gedragsregels) and the Collaboration between different disciplines By-law (Verordening interdisciplinaire samenwerking).


On the one hand, the civil-law notary is obliged to carry out all the work assigned to him by the law or required by any party, but on the other hand also obliged to refuse to render services where this would be incompatible with the law or public order, where this would result in acts that have an apparently illegal aim or consequence or where they have other valid reasons to do so.

The obligation to render services does not preclude civil-law notaries from specializing in a particular field. There are several associations of civil-law notaries and junior civil-law notaries that have specific expertise in one or more aspects of the notarial law practice: Association of Notarial Law Experts regarding Agricultural Businesses (Vereniging voor Agrarisch Specialisten in het Notariaat or VASN), the Estate Planners Association (Vereniging van Estate Planners or VEP), the Civil-Law Mediators Association (Vereniging van Mediators in het Notariaat or VMSN) and the IT Civil-Law Association (Vereniging voor Notariaat en Informatietechnologie or VNI).

Pursuant to the law, every civil-law notary and junior civil-law notary practising in the Netherlands is a member of the Notarial Professional Organization (Koninklijke Notariële Beroepsorganisatie or KNB), a public body incorporated under Dutch law. The main task of this organization is to promote the proper exercise of the office. In addition, the organization offers a wide range of products and services to its members.

The statutory duties of the organization are:

  • drawing up by-laws and regulations; 
  • promoting the proper exercise of the office;
  • promoting professional expertise;
  • guarding the honour and prestige of the office.

The civil-law notaries and junior civil-law notaries are subject to statutory disciplinary rules, which are applied by Disciplinary Boards (covering the same geographical area as the court districts), each with five members, of whom the chairman is the president of the district court. Decisions handed down by these Disciplinary Boards can be appealed against with the Amsterdam Court of Appeal.


More information on the notarial practice can be found on: Nederlands

6. Bailiff (gerechtsdeurwaarder)

The Dutch bailiff is entrusted with official tasks which cannot be entrusted to anyone else. They are in particular entrusted with:

Serving writs of summons and other documents, to commence legal actions or to give instructions in lawsuits;

Serving court orders, announcements, protests and other writs;

Evictions, attachments, sale of property by court order, commitments for failure to comply with a court order and other acts being part of or required for the enforcement of warrants of execution or for the securing of rights;

The official supervision of voluntary sale of movable property in a public auction.’

By virtue of the law, these tasks, insofar as they pertain to civil law, must be performed by bailiffs.

The bailiff is an unsalaried public officer appointed by the Crown. They bear the financial risk of their firm. Apart from their official tasks, bailiffs are also authorized to perform side activities, provided that this does not harm or impede the proper and independent execution of their office or its reputation. Bailiffs practising in the Netherlands have been granted the authority to act as representative ad litem before the sub-district court, to act as receiver or administrator, to make inventories and valuations, to collect money for third parties and to draw up official reports ascertaining certain facts.

The rates of the official bailiff work that need to be paid by the debtor are laid down in the Bailiffs’ Fees Decree (Besluit tarieven ambtshandelingen gerechtsdeurwaarders). The costs the bailiff charges to his client are to be decided by the bailiff and should be set in mutual consultation between the bailiff and his client. This also applies to assignments the bailiff receives from abroad.


Rules regarding the office, the powers, appointment and removal from office are provided for in the Bailiffs Act (Gerechtsdeurwaarderswet) and in various decrees and by-laws, such as the bailiff training and traineeship Decree (Besluit opleiding en stage gerechtsdeurwaarder), the Business Plan Decree (Besluit ondernemingsplan), the Accounting By-law (Administratieverordening) and the By-law concerning professional rules and rules of conduct (Verordening beroeps- en gedragsregels).

Pursuant to the law, every bailiff and junior bailiff practising in the Netherlands is a member of the Bailiff Professional Organization (Koninklijke Beroepsorganisatie van Gerechtsdeurwaarders or KBvG). The main task of this organization is to promote the proper exercise of the office and proper performance and expertise of its members. In these fields, it may impose obligations or rules upon its members. A Disciplinary Board will decide on disciplinary measures; against its decisions, an appeal may be lodged with the Amsterdam Court of Appeal.

If you need to retain the services of a bailiff, it is best to choose one in the municipality where the work has to be done. The European judicial atlas of this website ( lists the addresses of all bailiffs in all European countries under the heading “serving documents” and next under “bailiffs”.

More information and addresses can be found on the web site of the Bailiff Professional Organization:

« Legal professions - General information | Netherlands - General information »


Last update: 16-04-2007

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