The chairman of the supervisory board of the legal profession, Jeroen Kremers, offered his resignation on Wednesday. In a letter to Minister Franc Weerwind (Legal Protection, D66) from Kremers, he expressed his concerns about the lack of “effectiveness, independence and transparency” within the Board. He also says that the Board has not received cooperation from the Netherlands Bar (NOvA) for some time now.
Within the legal profession there is a complex system of self-regulation, in which the legal profession determines and enforces its own rules. The sheets are handed out by the Dutch Bar Association (NOvA): it acts as a representative of interests and draws up the rules of professional conduct and conduct. The NOvA is headed by a general dean: lawyer Robert Crince le Roy.
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The core of Kremers’ criticism is related to the ‘accumulation of functions’ in the general dean Crince le Roy. He is not only chairman of the board of NOvA, but also chairman of the national board of representatives (a kind of ‘lawyer’s parliament’) and also a member of the three-member supervisory board. Kremers writes that this accumulation “does not tolerate the requirements of independence and transparency”. He points out that in previous evaluations of lawyers’ supervision, such as in 2020 by research agency Pro Factowas also criticized about the different hats of the general dean.
It follows from Kremers’ letter of resignation that previous general deans tried to separate their different roles, but that Crince Le Roy indicated when he took office that several hats were out of the question. On the contrary, despite previous promises from the NOvA not to do so, he would have put on a fourth hat by taking part in the deliberation. This is a consultative body of eleven local deans who monitor compliance with the lawyer rules in their district.
Kremers calls it “inappropriate” for a member of the supervisory board to participate in the deliberation council, which the board is supposed to supervise. He calls this “harmful to the authority and functioning” of the supervisory board established by the cabinet in 2015.
Kremers – who also monitors Dutch shares in KLM as a ‘state agent’ and previously held senior positions at the IMF, ABN Amro, NS and Robeco, among others – has been one of the two Crown members of the board since 2019. Where eleven deans supervise locally, the college is there for the overarching view. At the beginning of this year, for example, it issued a particularly critical evaluation of the way in which the dean in The Hague investigated the multi-million dollar fraud at state attorney Pels Rijcken.
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When Kremers resigns, the reform of the supervision of the legal profession plays in the background. Partly because of incidents in recent years where the local supervision of lawyers turned out to be too small – such as the fraud at Pels Rijcken and the state of affairs surrounding lawyer Youssef Taghi – Minister Weerwind is currently considering the elaboration of a new supervisory structure. In all likelihood, there will be a new national supervisor. According to Kremers, there is currently “deep disagreement” within the legal profession about the best effect of that supervision. The NOvA previously announced that it no longer saw a role for the supervisory board, while the local deans would see it.
Kremers says by telephone that he saw no other option than to resign, because he believes that the Board no longer functions independently. His term at the college expired at the end of this year. Kremers hopes that the reform of the supervision of the legal profession will lead to a supervisor who is independent from the Dutch Bar, inspired by the system in Germany or the United Kingdom. In those countries, advocacy is strictly separated by law from regulation and supervision. He also proposes that the state committee on the rule of law, announced by the cabinet, consider the supervisory regime. “The subject is important enough for the rule of law, the Netherlands is not a banana republic.”
In a written response, the Dutch Bar does not comment on Kremers’ criticism. The order regrets “that Jeroen Kremers’ reflections on, among other things, the future of the supervision of the legal profession, have led to his resignation from the supervisory board”.