The likely impact of Brexit on the legal profession

Brexit assets change

The hysteria about Brexit has included warnings of food shortages to capital flight to horrors out of dystopian novels.

In reality, it may impact the economy, but it won’t be as bad as the worst case scenarios. Furthermore, the long-term impact of Brexit may be good for the UK. However, Brexit threatens to radically alter the legal landscape.

The Brexit delays have added uncertainty as to if it will happen and how it would happen if implemented. Let’s take a look at the likely impact on Brexit for those who are in law and planning on entering the field

The Possible Long-Term Decline in Work If the UK goes its own way legally, there will likely be fewer EU clients hiring British law firms. They’ll hire other EU firms, since they’re all operating within the same legal framework.

There would probably be a short-term spike in demand for legal services, since businesses have to deal with everything from changing tariffs to changes in immigration law. There has already been an influx of work at law firms doing impact assessments to plan what to do if Brexit goes through and how to prepare for it.

After Brexit, law firms will be busy in the short term handling these matters. After that, most of their work will come from English clients and a smaller share of companies seeking to do business specifically in the U.K. This is why the Law Society predicted a loss of more than ten thousand jobs by 2025 if there was a no-deal Brexit.

There may continue to be strong demand for firms specializing in corporate law, because devaluation of the pound would make labor cheaper.

What is less clear is whether London will remain one of the top financial centers in the world. Conversely, European firms may choose to continue to trade stocks and issue IPOs in London after Brexit instead of trying to navigate the more complex and very different American financial and legal system

Environmental law won’t change much, given how much of British law is derived from EU environmental law. There will be some work for environmental lawyers as British legislation in this area evolves. They’ll certainly be in demand as trade deals with other countries are hammered out. Specialized law firms like this are the quarter of law firms that expected a long-term increase in workload after a no-deal Brexit.

Family law cases won’t change much except for international clients and those based in the European Union. If a law firm specializes in child custody and divorce cases that arise in the surrounding community, they probably won’t be adversely affected at all.

The Impact on Lawyers in Training

Students from other countries studying law in the UK right now may or may not be able to continue their education in the country. Native born students considering law won’t be adversely affected unless they were hoping to work abroad. For them, working in other countries may become more difficult. Employment law for everyone is going to become much more complex, since transferring lawyers between EU jurisdictions will become much harder.

Yet the UK remains a popular destination for handling international cases, because English law and English judgements have unmatched enforceability in foreign jurisdictions.

The Likely Slowdown in Specific Legal Specialties

Careers in law tend to be stable, though legislative changes and cultural shifts can affect the profession. If Brexit does hurt the UK, some specialties will be unaffected while others will likely suffer.

If Brexit causes a slowdown in foreign investment or general recession in the UK, we can expect a similar slowdown in construction law firms. Whether people choose not to build or can’t import workers to work on the site, they won’t be hiring as many lawyers to handle the attendant legal issues.

Employment law will certainly see a spike in demand due to the changing terms of employment law and structure both for foreign workers living in the UK and British workers abroad.

Those Brits living in the UK but working for international firms will probably be calling employment law firms, too, as contracts change or firms get restructured.

Conversely, competition law is unlikely to be hurt at all, since many of their cases are handled entirely by the European Commission. Their cases will become more challenging, and this may lead to greater demand for this legal specialty.

Trade law experts should see an increase in demand, even if it is simply figuring out how to modify contracts and update product labels. Immigration law firms are already seeing an increase in demand as they receive inquiries from EU nationals living in the UK.

Businesses that rely on tourism may have to diversify in order to remain in business, and a fair number of these are seeking legal counsel before doing so. And tax law experts are going to be busy for years to come.