Legal Market Overview
With a strong, continuous flow of mid-market corporate M&A deals, the Netherlands holds its own in the global market, in spite of the growth slowdown in Europe. This relatively small country is the sixth largest economy in the eurozone and attracts a fair share of incoming investments from Asia and elsewhere. Domestic and international private equity houses also generate a substantial number of acquisition and sale transactions.
Brexit and its related issues have generated a considerable amount of work, both in terms of general planning and specific relocation matters, particularly for financial regulatory, data protection and employment specialists.
The Netherlands commercial court, established in January 2019, has not had many cases yet but is something that most dispute resolution practices are keeping a close eye on. It hears cases and publishes judgments in English, with both a first instance and appeals chamber. Current trends include the ongoing increase in litigation funder activity and class action cases, particularly in competition law.
On the subject of competition, the PostNL/Sandd merger stood out as an interesting case, in which the Competition Authority rejected the merger but was then overruled by the government, meaning that the merger proceeded.
Unsurprisingly, there is much transactional and regulatory work being generated in the renewable and alternative energy markets; this is, in part, connected to government grants. Indeed, environmental work, often high-profile, has continued to keep firms busy. In the landmark ‘Urgenda’ Supreme Court case, it was broadly held that the Dutch government has obligations to significantly reduce emissions in line with its human rights obligations. This has impacted the construction industry due to changes to nitrogen emissions rules, which a Dutch court found to be in violation of EU law, forcing many active projects to slow or halt construction.
Data protection and cyber security is a newly added section this year; work has moved on from advising on GDPR compliance to include assisting companies with notifications and dealing with investigations. The Dutch Regulator is considered to be increasingly active/proactive in respect of data breaches, although many lawyers feel it is still too slow and could be better resourced. Nonetheless, the Netherlands is considered to be somewhat ahead of the curve in this area.
The legal market remains stable, the largest, full-service Dutch firms in the market are De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, Loyens & Loeff, NautaDutilh and Stibbe. Houthoff and Van Doorne are also major firms of note. Hague-based Pels Rijcken & Droogleever Fortuijn NV is well known for its track record advising the Dutch state across various practice areas and for its Supreme Court work. There are also highly specialised firms in the market, including HabrakenRutten in construction/infrastructure; Hoogenraad & Haak, advertising + IP advocaten for advertising law/the food and beverages market and HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER for IP. This is in addition to international firms such as Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy LLP, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Norton Rose Fulbright and Dentons. Of some note is that the arbitration team at Simmons & Simmons has moved to Van Doorne. Brainport/Eindhoven is a combination of high-tech and design companies and start-ups and attracts considerable amounts of investment. Many Dutch firms with a strong presence in the tech/IP fields, such as Kennedy Van der Laan, have offices within this hub.