ACM: Experiment of the Netherlands Bar involving lawyers with legal-protection insurance is a step in the right direction
Lawyers that are employed with legal-protection insurers are allowed to act for non-insured as well. This has been announced by the Netherlands Bar (NOvA). Legal-protection insurers will be granted temporary exemptions. From January 1, lawyers that are employed with legal-protection insurers can also represent clients that have not taken out legal-protection insurance. The rules of the Netherlands Bar previously prohibited this. ACM believes this experiment is a step in the right direction towards more opportunities for new types of services offered by lawyers. In that way, consumers will have more options for legal representation by lawyers, and innovation is promoted.
What was the problem?
Legal-protection insurer SRK (BrandMR) had filed a complaint with ACM about the rules for lawyers, drawn up by the Netherlands Bar. Partly in response to questions of ACM about this complaint, the Netherlands Bar created the opportunity for BrandMR and other legal-protection insurers to act for non-insured. As a result, there is no reason to investigate this complaint any further.
This first step of the Netherlands Bar creates a certain degree of leeway for businesses that wish to offer legal assistance by lawyers, but that are not law firms (in the traditional sense or otherwise). It concerns a temporary exemption from the existing rules. The Netherlands Bar will evaluate this expansion of the rules after five years.
ACM sees this experiment as a step in the right direction, but wonders whether businesses other than legal-protection insurers are able to have their lawyers work under similar conditions. A broader and more differentiated selection of legal-protection services may stimulate innovation, and can lead to a better price-quality ratio. That could lower the barrier for individuals seeking justice to request legal assistance.
Over the next few years, ACM will assess whether there is a more widely shared need among market participants and individuals seeking justice for new options for legal assistance. The Netherlands Bar is also considering steps that go further. ACM will continue to stay in contact with the Netherlands Bar about this topic.