Interview with Dr Bram Akkermans
December is an important month for many second-year students enrolled in the European Law School track. Indeed, as of December 3, 2017, students can choose to register for the minor Rechtsgeleerdheid – a minor in Dutch law. As a second-year student, I have come to the conclusion that this deceivingly simple decision of choosing a minor may affect my future career and opportunities in should I wish to practice law. Therefore, I contacted Dr. Bram Akkermans, coordinator of the Bachelor European Law School, to inform me about this minor and to answer my main question: ‘How can a European Law School Bachelor graduate become a practicing lawyer?’ During our interview, the first thing that Dr. Akkermans addressed were the two distinct law degrees: qualifying and non-qualifying. The difference between these two systems lies in APQ – Access to professional Qualifications. The civil law term for this is civiel effect, which students must have in order to gain access to the Dutch bar.
Dr. Akkermans further explained that there are two distinct ways to access the bar. The first is to access the bar by passing the bar exam, access to which requires students to comply with a set of conditions set by the bar association – a method widely used in the US. The second method is to combine education and practice, an approach favoured by many countries, including the Netherlands. Education in this context means having obtained a bachelor and master’s degree that are both classified as qualifying law degrees by the Netherlands Bar Association (Nederlandse orde van advocaten, NOvA). After finishing your master’s degree, you will receive your civiel effect from the university. With this, you will be granted the title Mr – Meester in Rechtsgeleerdheid – meaning that you finished a master’s degree in Rechtsgeleerdheid (Dutch law).
Dr. Akkermans clarified that the European Law School Bachelor is not a qualifying law degree, meaning that this degree does not fall under the requirements set by the Netherlands Bar Association and therefore it does not lead to civiel effect on its own. However, completing the minor Rechtsgeleerdheid, which encompasses 11 courses in Dutch Law, you can meet the Netherlands Bar Association’s requirements to access the bar.This minor is an opportunity to fulfil the requirements set by the NOvA and thereby convert your bachelor into a qualifying law degree.
Finally, after finishing this bachelor with the minor Nederlands Recht and master’s degree in combination with legal practice, you will receive your civiel effect and by that you can call yourself a qualified lawyer in the Netherlands. While there are no linguistic requirements to be fulfilled in order to register for the minor, having a minimum level of NT2 – Dutch as a second foreign language – will ease the language barrier.
As an alternative, Dr. Akkermans suggested the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). This program is provided by university law departments and law schools in England and Wales for postgraduate students wishing to become a barrister or solicitor in England and Wales. To be eligible for this program, you need to have completed an undergraduate degree. The content of this degree is irrelevant. This path is frequently used by postgraduates to ‘convert’ their non-qualifying law degrees into a qualifying.
Closing my interview with Dr. Akkermans, announced that starting in 2017, Maastricht University will introduce a double degree in collaboration with Madrid University. This allows you to complete your last two years of your bachelor in Madrid. To quote Dr. Akkermans: ‘Once you enter your third year, you will be send to Madrid immediately!’ By following this programme you will obtain both your ELS degree and Spanish law degree. Only 3 to 4 students will be provided with this great opportunity. So, if you are a second-year student, have passed all your courses, and have a minimum level of B2 Spanish, I recommend you to apply! Aside from that, it is important to know that you need to fulfil Spanish national requirements to become a practicing lawyer in Spain.
Lastly, I wish to thank Dr. Akkermans for this interview.