Firm Profile > Shearwaters > Amsterdam, Netherlands


Employment Tier 4

Shearwaters provides boutique employment law services in the Netherlands, and has a strong base of international law firms and consultants among its clients, who it assists with the Dutch aspects of global employment matters. A key highlight is the firm's work for Bugaboo and majority shareholder Bain Capital, in relation to a major restructuring of the former. The team is led by Martijn van Broeckhuijsen and Maarten Vestering, with the former best known for handling executive dismissals and transaction-related advisory work, while the latter focuses on restructurings and mass dismissals.


Small boutique firm with outstanding employment lawyers formerly of large international firms. Excellent knowledge and client focussed. In complex cases they always find ways forward.

I have dealt with both Maarten Vestering and Martijn van Broeckhuijsen: both of whom I would recommend from their responsiveness and pragmatism.

Martijn van Broeckhuijsen (partner) is one of my favourite external counsels. He truly enjoys employment law and this comes through when you work with him. Perhaps his best skill is in thinking through strategy and the realistic outcomes of such choices. You don’t get vague answers and caveats with Martijn. You get the most likely outcome which allows you to determine strategy and make the hard choices.

Key clients

ugaboo International

Bain Capital LLC

Bain & Company

Latham & Watkins


Kongsberg Maritime

Allego (p/o Meridiam)


The Jewish National Fund


Fidelity International Group

Tate & Lyle Sugars

The firm: Shearwaters is a highly experienced boutique firm. We offer expert advice to large internationally operating corporates, financial services clients and ‘high-profile individuals’ on Dutch corporate employment law. The firm has a deep bench of seasoned practitioners who handle both contentious and non-contentious matters, with marked success in complex litigation.

Shearwaters is the unique boutique firm in the Netherlands, as its sole focus is on Dutch corporate employment law in the international business environment. Its fee-earners have gained over 75 years of joint relevant experience at some of the world’s premier law firms (BakerMcKenzie and Linklaters).

What do we offer?

  • Transactional support
  • Strategic advice
  • Litigation

The firm works from Amsterdam’s financial district (Zuidas) and helps its clients navigate through the complexities of Dutch corporate employment law by providing transactional support, strategic advice and litigation capabilities.

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

Independent global legal directories Chambers and Partners, Acritas and The Legal 500 (EMEA) Series recognize, recommend and/or rank Shearwaters and its lawyers as a leading firm with leading experts. In addition, the firm was shortlisted in the category “European specialist firm of the year” at The Lawyer European Awards in 2017.

Since its inception in 2015, Shearwaters has grown to a team of eight lawyers which equals or exceeds the employment law capability of most full-service firms in the Netherlands. Not only in size, but also and perhaps more importantly: in experience and expertise.

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: Recent examples of our work include: advising corporate law/M&A boutiques and international firms on the employment aspects of various M&A transactions and numerous restructurings; advising an international, Norwegian stock-listed, technology corporation on restrictive covenants and individual dismissals for urgent cause; advising a dual-listed Australian-British multinational and one of the world’s largest metals and mining corporations on individual dismissals and on employment aspects to their restructuring of its Dutch business activities; advising a well-known European cosmetics brand on Dutch employment law (ia on the delicate dismissal of a prominent board member); advising various companies on all aspects of Dutch employment law related to their ‘top executives’, (eg on remuneration issues, (non-compete and other) restrictive covenants, individual dismissals, group dismissals, collective dismissals, etc).

Department Name Email Telephone
Employment Martijn van Broeckhuijsen +31681838825
Employment Maarten Vestering +31619210409
Employment Karin Bodewes +31655394458
Photo Name Position Profile
 Karin Bodewes  photo Karin Bodewes Of counsel
 Shearwaters General information  photo Shearwaters General information
Mr Martijn Van Broeckhuijsen photo Mr Martijn Van Broeckhuijsen Founding partner and co-head
 Maarten Vestering  photo Maarten Vestering Co-head
 Hester van den Dorpel  photo Hester van den Dorpel Junior associate (in Dutch: “advocaat-stagiaire”)
Number of lawyers : 50+
at this office : 8
Informal global network of boutique firms across Europe and beyond
based on the Linklaters and Baker McKenzie alumni networks

We value diversity and are committed to it. The majority of our lawyers is female.

This is what clients say about the firm’s lawyer Martijn van Broeckhuijsen:

Experienced, quick and really responsive.

He brings relevant experience and deep knowledge on the topics at hand.

He proactively drives towards a good outcome.

He demonstrates experience in employee mobility and individual dismissals.

Responsive, commercial and knowledgeable.

An effective negotiator with a high level of clarity in communication.

Highly experienced and knowledgeable.

He has a broad practice that encompasses individual dismissals, restructuring processes and the Dutch employment law aspects of significant global M&A transactions.

Business-oriented, pleasant and factual.

He really wants to represent you and to help you. He has that drive.

A skilful and amicable guy.

Commercial, helpful and prompt.

Creative in finding solutions

This is what clients say about the firm’s lawyer Maarten Vestering:

A bold presence, exceptional knowledge, and great to work with. He is able to adapt quite easily; you can put him in different situations and he is comfortable.

This is what clients say about the team:

The lawyers have a deep understanding of labour law and are able to communicate difficult topics in an understandable way.

Business-oriented and knowledgeable on key topics.

Noteworthy firm with proven expertise in the employment aspects of M&A transactions and individual dismissal matters. Also assists employers with strategic hires and transfers of undertakings. Additionally experienced in advising high-level executives on contentious claims against employers. Sector-specific expertise includes IT, banking and private equity.

Shearwaters is a small firm with very personalised and attentive service which is highly specialised in employment law and the nuances between local and international implications.

The team’s commercial employment focus covers executive dismissals, works council consultations, collective redundancies and reorganisations.

Martijn van Broeckhuijsen and Maarten Vestering co-head the group; ‘both provide advice without allowing the heat of the situation to interfere with timing and decisions’.

The group’s clients include international law firms as well as corporates.

An excellent team with a business-oriented rather than a minimalistic legal view, which helps the transaction.

Quick turnaround, clear communications and guidance.

The lawyers have a good understanding of M&A and how that translates to the Dutch employment situation. Quick turnaround, clear communications and guidance.

The team was able to package the advice in such a way that we could easily forward it to other departments in our company. There was no legalese and it was very clear.

It really understands us and our commercial drivers.

We value diversity and are committed to it. The majority of our lawyers are female.

We also value the local and global communities that we work in, which is why we work pro bono when the opportunity arises, and we contribute to societal goals of a philanthropic, activist, or charitable nature by engaging in or supporting volunteering and ethically-oriented practices.

Given its international focus, Shearwaters is part of an informal global network of boutique firms across Europe and beyond based on the Linklaters and Baker McKenzie alumni networks.

It is also part of the world’s largest referral network since the inception thereof in 2016: Nextlaw Referral Network. This network was recognized as a Leading Global Legal Referral Network by global legal publishers Chambers & Partners in 2019 and 2020 and by The Lawyer European Awards in 2019.

Nextlaw Referall Network has achieved this milestone faster than any network in history, having been founded in October 2016 by Dentons, the world’s largest law firm. The network grew to be the largest in under one year and is now three-times larger than the second largest network in the world.

“We are proud to be the champion of the small to medium-size law firms” said Nextlaw Network CEO Jeff Modisett. “Until now, medium-sized law firms were excluded from most networks because of high annual fees and the exclusive, territorial and monopolistic nature of the traditional network business model. Our network welcomes all top law firms in the world, focusing on quality, not size.”

Martijn van Broeckhuijsen and Maarten Vestering, co-heads of Shearwaters said: “Membership in the Nextlaw Referral Network provides us with unprecedented global reach, including leading capabilities in 205 countries. We have access to top lawyers in any practice, industry or sector, anywhere in the world, enabling us to provide our clients with the best local and global services possible. The Nextlaw Referral Network makes us truly ‘in and of the community.’”

More about Nextlaw Referral Network:

The network has more members and covers more countries than any other single legal referral network in the world. Members conduct more than 2,000 searches per month on the network’s advanced proprietary platform, which is seamlessly linked with its sister network, the Nextlaw Public Affairs Network. More than 70 percent of NRN members are Chambers ranked.

The network also serves as a strategic platform by distributing cutting-edge legal technology at discounts to members, working with another sister company, Nextlaw Labs. Nextlaw Labs curates the best technology in the profession. The network also promotes thought-leadership in emerging, disruptive technologies, such as AI and Blockchain.

Nextlaw Network is one of the only referral networks that offers inter-disciplinary functionality. In today’s complex global environment, clients often need access to professionals who understand the regulatory, business and economic cultures everywhere they do business, which means integrating legal and public affairs representation.

The network is free to join and provides no jurisdictional exclusivity, due to its guiding principle to offer clients the best lawyers in any practice, sector, anywhere in the world.

Nextlaw Public Affairs Network, which was launched in September 2017, enables members of NRN to access companies and organisations that help clients shape government policy or public opinion through lobbying, public relations, advertising and survey research.

Nextlaw Referral Network is the broadest and most sophisticated legal referral platform in the world. Introduced in October of 2016, it already includes nearly 670-member firms, over 25,000 lawyers covering all of the world’s major jurisdictions in more than 205 countries. In addition, working closely with its sister company, Nextlaw Labs, the platform will also introduce new technologies, products and services to its members. The platform also includes Nextlaw Global Public Affairs Network, the first of its kind network that includes more than 50 of the world’s top public affairs and public relations firms.

Recent examples of the firm’s work include advising:

  • Corporate law/M&A boutiques and international law firms on the employment aspects of various M&A transactions and numerous restructurings;
  • A Dutch design company famous for its iconic prams/baby strollers and its sole shareholder, a major private equity firm, based in the USA;
  • A world-renowned international law firm and one of its top clients: one of the largest internet-based technology and cultural enterprises in the world, on various employment related topics, such as international employee mobility;
  • A global leader in the device-to-cloud cybersecurity business with some 7,000 employees worldwide, working in almost 200 countries.
  • An international, stock-listed, technology corporation operating in the large offshore, shipyard and energy exploration and production industries in 40 countries, with more than 11,000 employees and an annual turnover of more than €2 billion, on various employment related topics and post-closing matters resulting from the company’s recent international merger.
  • Various internationally operating corporates on the impact of COVID-19 on their Dutch operations.
  • Several top executives on their stepping down from their various senior roles (CEO, CFO, CCO, etc.) at world renowned multinationals.

Martijn van Broeckhuijsen and Maarten Vestering, Co-heads

Shearwaters talks to the Legal 500

What do you see as the main points that differentiate Shearwaters from your competitors?

Two things:

1) Our international focus (based on our international background/education/upbringing/global mindset) resulting in us only acting for international clients;

2) Our track record of acting at international board level.

Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

Corporate employment law, e.g. international restructurings.

Main drivers: economical developments across the globe; likely implications of Brexit and COVID-19.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

Without it being a change as such: maintaining and strengthening our international focus and reach, e.g. by visiting with our network abroad and by continuosly working on international mandates arising from those contacts.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

We are very much up to speed with our technology and can easily meet any client’s needs in that respect.

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

With our help, a major US private equity firm has ensured that one of it its Dutch portfolio companies has stepped up and is now ready for the challenges that lie ahead, after having implemented an important restructuring. We advised the firm and the board of said company. This was done in a very cost efficient manner. It was a complex and time consuming project, yet substantial savings were made (e.g. on costs for severance payments/legal fees).

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

We intend to become the “go-to” law firm for clients operating in the international business environment (including international law firms without a presence in the Netherlands).

This means that we will continue to do three things in the three years ahead:

1) Build our already strong track record;

2) Climb in the relevant global legal directories;

3) Grow our international client base and our bench of practitioners in line with clients’ demand.