I decided to sign up to the Anglo-Dutch Exchange after receiving an enthusiastic email from one of my old pupil supervisors. In his email, he encouraged junior members of my chambers to consider the trip, having attended the exchange and hosted Dutch lawyers in the past.
Unbeknownst to me, it was the 50th anniversary of the Exchange. I was excited, partly because I had no idea of what to expect, and partly because I had never been to The Netherlands.
On arrival at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, I met members of the Anglo-Dutch Exchange Organising Committee and fellow English lawyers. We travelled to Loyens and Loeff, a law firm in Amsterdam. This was my first visit to a Dutch law firm, and this law firm was extremely impressive. Through the modern reception area was central space with a glass ceiling, wooden accents and green plants lining the walls. I made my way to the back room to meet the rest of the delegates, Loyens & Loeff lawyers, and the Anglo-Dutch Exchange Organising Committee. The setup of this room gave us all an opportunity to network, and the fact there was a bar serving drinks didn’t hurt. It was also my first opportunity to try typical Dutch snacks and started my love affair with bitterballen; a meat and potato ball, covered with breadcrumbs and deep fried. I also tried herring for the first time, which was surprisingly tasty, and had lots of raw meat and cheese.
We then made our way to our hosts for dinner; some of whom were in Amsterdam, while others were in Rotterdam or The Hague.
Day two was spent in Rotterdam; a very modern city, in comparison. Our tour of the city started at the Port of Rotterdam. We were kindly given an interesting lecture by the Head of the Legal Department Mr. Frans van Zoelen, and his associates. We then travelled to Euromast by water taxi, which is now my favourite way to travel. We had lunch at Euromast, an observation tower, which commanded impressive views of the city.
After lunch we went to the Court of Rotterdam; the only court in the Netherlands which allows proceedings to be conducted in English. We were given a talk by two judges about the Dutch legal system. This talk was particularly interesting because it highlighted the similarities and differences with the Dutch legal system and the system in England and Wales. One example of the differences was the need for parties to have lawyers in order to present their case and the limits on litigants-in-person. We were then given a tour of the building, which concluded with a trip to the cells. This was very familiar for me, as a barrister with a criminal practice, but this was the first experience for some of the other delegates.
We then made our way to the Royal Maas Yacht Club for a lecture by Conway & Partners law firm on arbitration, followed by drinks and Dutch canapes. The lecture was interesting whilst the Club afforded spectacular views of the river.
We had dinner at Tenn Holter Noordam Advocaten law firm and had drinks with the Rotterdam Young Bar Association. Members of the Young Bar Association were very welcoming and this gave us an opportunity to chat and network with our Dutch counterparts.
Day three started in the historical city of The Hague.We met with an enthusiastic tour guide who gave us a stimulating tour of the city and the no so amicable history of Anglo-Dutch relations. Lunch was at Wladimiroff Advocaten, a boutique law firm in a beautiful building. Lawyers from the law firm kindly joined us for lunch, which gave us an opportunity to get to know them and learn about the work that they do.
After lunch, we headed to the Supreme Court, where we were greeted by a man who showed us to the cloakroom area. He waited patiently while we deposited our coats and jackets, and took various selfies. I soon came to realise that he was none other than the President of the Supreme Court! The President took us on a tour of the impressive offices, and even allowed us into his room, before sitting with us in the canteen. He welcomed our questions, of which there were many, and answered them in such an honest and inspiring way. The President’s generosity with both his time and hospitality was humbling and greatly appreciated by us all.
We then attended the office of Pels Rijcken & Droogleeven Fortuijn; a law firm specialising in government defence work. We were given a fascinating talk about the Urgenda climate case, in which the district court of The Hague in 2015 ordered the Dutch government to reduce its greenhouse emissions in The Netherlands by 25% in comparison to 1990. The case raised a number of issues in relation to the applicability of international treaties and conventions to domestic law, and the ability for citizens and NGOs to rely on international law.
Bird & Bird treated us to a fabulous reception with many traditional Dutch foods. Here, I continued my love affair with bitterballen, whilst trying other Dutch dishes and meeting the amazing lawyers there.
The final day started off with a guided tour of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The tour guide took us on an Anglo-Dutch themed tour of the museum, which gave us an interesting insight into historical Anglo-Dutch relations.
Despite having three and a half hours of personal leisure time planned, we couldn’t help but eat lunch together, cementing our bond. Jealousy also ensued when it took an extraordinary amount of time for half of our group to receive their meal. I kindly shared my bitterballen with the some of the starving group, grateful that my meal had arrived promptly.
We had a lecture at De Breij Evers Boon law firm, who gave us a quiz in order to test our knowledge of the Dutch legal system. We were treated to drinks and canapes by the law firm which were greatly received.
On the final part of our trip, we had a fantastic dinner at the Royal Institute of Tropics with our hosts. The venue was spectacular, the food was amazing and the company was impeccable. Our last stop was a bar for drinks, where some of us danced the night away. Some took the party further and allegedly stayed out until 7am. I, sadly, had a 08:50am flight to catch in order to attend my chambers AGM.
All in all, the Anglo-Dutch Exchange was an unforgettable experience for which I feel privileged to have been a part of. A huge thank you to the Committee in The Netherlands for organising such an informative and pleasurable trip.
Barrister, 5 St. Andrew’s Hill
Natasha Shotunde is a young barrister who accepts instructions in landlord and tenant, civil, family, crime and extradition at 5 St Andrew’s Hill.