Legal Opportunities in Amsterdam
The Netherlands is a country made up of a number of very unique cities, the main business centres are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. None of these cities have reached a million inhabitants so whilst they are all international business hubs they have all retained their character and distinctive atmosphere. The Netherlands is well known for its more liberal lifestyle and politics, and has long established itself as one of the top places in the world to live and do business. In fact, the Netherlands have ranked 4th on the OECD’s Better Life Index for its exceptional work/life balance and high levels household wealth.
Legal Market in Amsterdam
The main demand is from the major international and Magic Circle law firms. Many of the local law firms will tend to hire locally qualified Dutch lawyers only. There are a small number of exceptions where local firms seek out common law lawyers, typically within the finance, corporate and occasionally arbitration departments. Owing to this, there is a great international if not ‘ex-pat’ feel to these workplaces.
Legal opportunities and projected trends for 2015/16
Amsterdam is an attractive location for English or common law qualified candidates as it allows you to make the move to continental Europe without having specific language skills. The reason for this is that a lot of the work, particularly on the finance side, is in English. It is a major finance centre and the calibre of the work on offer is excellent. Working in teams of usually no more than 10 or 12, junior and mid-level lawyers will gain experience beyond that of their peers who have remained in London. So from a career development perspective, it can be an ideal choice.
The size of the transactional teams in major international firms seems to have increased significantly over the last year (reflecting the increased optimism being felt globally). The main areas of demand at the moment are: banking & finance, capital markets; and corporate.
Remuneration and Benefits
Whilst local lawyers get paid substantially less, a UK or common law lawyer will get a package which will often be close to London rates. The norm is typically 10-15% below London rates. This reflects the significantly cheaper cost of living in Holland which is approximately 30% below that of London.
English is widely spoken, all making Amsterdam easy to navigate socially. There is also a large ex-pat community in Amsterdam which means that home is never too far away.
Many people rent in the cities and a two bedroom apartment in the city centre of Amsterdam will cost around €1,200–2,000. Renting is slightly more complicated than in the UK and there is a point system (‘woningwaarderingsstelsel‘) that will set a base rental rate (this acts as a fixed price for social or rent-controlled properties). Buying property is encouraged by the government as tax benefits for home owners and mortgage costs are often lower than rent.
All the Dutch cities are small which makes commuting relatively easy. The most common mode of transportation is bicycles, but there are also a number of trains, buses and trams.