The legal profession under supervision of independent national regulator

The legal profession will be supervised by an independent national regulator. Minister for Legal Protection Franc Weerwind has sent his plans for such a national regulator to the House of Representatives. The legal profession is currently supervised by the 11 deans, lawyer-administrators, of the local Bar. Minister Weerwind moves this supervisory task to a new to be established Independent Regulator for the legal profession. This regulator will exercise and maintain supervision on all Bar-registered lawyers in the Netherlands, independently from both the government and the legal profession.

Minister Weerwind: “Lawyers have an indispensable role in the rule of law. They constitute essential access to the law. As a society we must be able to rely on lawyers fulfilling this special role, including all associated rights and obligations. Adequate supervision of the Bar is important, therefore. Moreover, current events make it clear that the profession is under great pressure. With the Independent Bar Regulator, there will be central and clear supervision. A careful balance in the organisation of the Regulator between an independent Bar and an independent government and substantive knowledge of regulation and of the Bar has been created.”

Independent of the government

The Regulator will have an independent position vis-à-vis the government. For example, the Minister has no role in appointments, adopting the budget and the daily course of business, and decisions of the Independent Bar Regulator cannot be annulled by Royal Decree. The board of the Regulator independently makes decisions and has independent access to staff, finances, housing and IT. In addition, the Regulator is given the opportunity to file a disciplinary complaint with the disciplinary court or impose a fine or an order subject to a penalty. Lawyers cannot invoke their duty of confidentiality vis-à-vis the Regulator, because the Regulator is given a similar duty of confidentiality, as well as the right of non-disclosure.

Independent of the Bar

The Independent Bar-Regulator will be a body of the public-law professional organisation the Dutch Bar Association but carries out its work as a regulatory body independently of the Bar. The Regulatory Board will have 5 members, with the majority of the board members, as well as the president, not being a lawyer. The board members will be appointed by an appointments advisory committee, consisting of 1 representative of the Bar, 1 research or regulatory representative and 1 member of a High Council of State. The existing Supervisory Board will have a different role and its composition will change. The general president will no longer be a part of this Supervisory Board. Instead, the Supervisory Board will consist of 3 members appointed by the Crown. The Supervisory Board will publicly report on the policies and the general course of affairs of the Independent Bar Regulator and approve the budget for the Regulator.

Reporting centre

There will be 1 central reporting centre the Independent Bar Regulator, which will receive all information, alerts and complaints about lawyers. The Regulator will refer complaints to the local deans to be handled there. It will be regulated by law that the Regulator and local deans may exchange information with each other for the purpose of handling complaints. In addition to handling complaints, the local deans also remain president of the local bar association and confidential adviser. The dean will also continue to provide information to lawyers.

Regarding the development of the bill announced today, Minister Weerwind has had advice from 3 professors and held discussions with many parties, including the Dutch Bar Association and the local deans, on how regulation may be strengthened. Minister Weerwind will soon develop the bill into legislation and is in consultation with the legal profession on the transition to the new Regulator.