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The firm

Shearwaters is the boutique law firm focusing solely on Dutch corporate employment law.

Martijn van Broeckhuijsen, the former head of employment at Linklaters in Amsterdam, launched Shearwaters at the beginning of 2015, and co-heads the firm with Maarten Vestering, a seasoned employment lawyer and former colleague at Baker McKenzie. The firm works from Amsterdam’s financial district (Zuidas). Its clients are internationally operating corporates, financial institutions and (senior) executives. Shearwaters helps its clients navigate through the complexities of Dutch corporate employment law by providing transactional support, strategic advice and litigation capabilities.

Shearwaters is a seasoned team of committed and trusted advisors to corporate clients and executives. The lawyers at the firm are highly specialised and very experienced in their field, having worked at the above mentioned global law firms for over 70 years.

The firm is particularly adept at advising clients on delicate (executive and senior) dismissals, works council consultation processes, executive remuneration, collective redundancies and reorganisations (including negotiations with trade unions on social plans).

Independent global legal directories Chambers and Partners and The Legal 500 recognise, recommend and/or rank Shearwaters and its lawyers as a leading firm with leading experts.

Since its inception in 2015, Shearwaters has added two high-profile lawyers to its expanding team: former Baker McKenzie attorney Barbara-Ellen Bruin, who joined the firm in May 2016, followed by one of Baker McKenzie’s international partners, Karin Bodewes, who joined in July 2016.

The firm is best known for consistently delivering a seasoned team of lawyers with a strong track record. Additional strengths include fostering personal relationships with companies and executives, being consistent, pragmatic, business-oriented, focused, well networked, getting things done, cutting through to key issues and providing sound judgement, not just technical expertise.

Areas of practice

Employment: a recent example of the corporate employment law work undertaken at the firm includes landing a court ruling on a delicate dismissal of a high-profile managing director under new and stricter Dutch dismissal rules. This court ruling was long awaited by Dutch employment law practitioners and clients alike, and is significant because it marks the very first Dutch court decision on complex dismissals of managing directors under current Dutch dismissals laws. The court agreed with the firm’s client (a leading international paper manufacturer) that an irreconcilable difference of opinion between all stakeholders on the organisational and management structure of the company qualifies as a reasonable ground for dismissal. The fact that the managing director was ill did not prevent his dismissal since the illness was unrelated to the company’s request for the dismissal. This mandate reflects the strength of Shearwaters’ strategic advice and litigation capabilities, next to its other pillar, providing first-class support in M&A deals.

Other recent work includes advising: a British/American investment firm on the employment law aspects of its acquisition (value €300-500m) of the Netherlands’ largest provider of learning materials; a Dutch minority shareholder in complex negotiations on the sale of a minority stake in a leading oil brokerage firm in Europe; several (senior) executives of different nationalities on their stepping down from office; a global leader in maritime technology on the instant dismissal of employees and several Japanese multinational companies on aspects of Dutch employment law.


Number of lawyers 50+

at this office 4

MemberInformal global network of boutique firms across Europe and beyond, based on the Linklaters and Baker McKenzie alumni networks

Above material supplied by Shearwaters.

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