Cabinet tightens supervision of the legal profession

The Netherlands Bar Association will have a new, independent Supervisory Board that will be ultimately responsible for the supervision of lawyers. The three members of said board may not be lawyers themselves and they will not be elected by lawyers. The supervisor will report on its activities each year. This is evident from a legislative proposal from State Secretary Teeven of Security and Justice to which the Council of Ministers has agreed.

The object of the regulation is to tighten supervision of the legal profession, because it no longer complies with contemporary requirements. Lawyers have a special position within our legal system. They have various privileges, such as a (limited) exclusive right to plead in court. Whether they properly comply with their regulations and do not abuse their privileges is therefore checked.

In future, the local deans will primarily exercise supervision, under ultimate responsibility of the board. The deans will not be dependent on prior assignment or instructions of the Supervisory Board in specific cases. They can, in principle, start work independently within the national uniform supervision policy developed by the board. The board will be able to issue instructions, which must be followed by the deans. It will also be authorised to request an independent judge - Disciplinary Appeals Tribunal - to suspend or dismiss a dean, if said dean does not exercise supervision properly.

The board is furthermore charged with supervision focusing on money laundering, as referred to in the Act for the Prevention of Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism (Wwft). Neither the Financial Supervision Office nor any other external supervisor will play a role in this Wwft supervision of lawyers.

In order to be able to perform their work properly, a duty of confidentiality must apply to lawyers. This duty is laid down in the law. Deans are authorised to break the duty of confidentiality within the context of the exercise of their supervisory duties. Members of the board cannot, and nor are they allowed to take note of the content of lawyers' files.

Lawyers who violate professional rules or standards of conduct can be dealt with under disciplinary law. Currently, disciplinary complaints can only be submitted to the disciplinary court via the local dean. In future, clients of lawyers will be able to do so directly.

The cabinet has agreed to the bill being sent to the Council of State for its opinion. The text of the bill and the advice from the Council of State will be published upon submission to the Lower House of Parliament.