Separate jurisdiction could leave Wales in slow lane, Society says
The Law Society has warned that creating a separate legal jurisdiction in Wales could ‘dilute some of the benefits’ which accrue to the country from its present alignment with England.
Such a move would also raise questions relating to whether there needs to be a separate legal profession in Wales, and whether changes to the delivery of legal services - including the introduction of alternative business structures - would ‘continue to march in parallel’ with England. Division has the potential to ‘harm choice and competition’, it adds.
Chancery Lane was responding to the consultation on a separate legal jurisdiction for Wales which is presently being undertaken by the Welsh Assembly’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee.
’The Law Society promotes the benefits of the jurisdiction of England and Wales on a global stage,’ the response states. ‘The law in England and Wales is transparent, predictable, flexible and supports the needs of modern commerce; in addition English is the language of international business. These features make England and Wales a highly attractive jurisdiction in which to resolve disputes.'
It adds: ‘Legal services contribute £3.2bn per annum to export earnings, largely driven by the popularity of the choice of the law of the jurisdiction of England and Wales in international trade and finance and of our courts and other forms of dispute resolution by international parties. In the context of a separate Welsh jurisdiction, whose future development was uncertain, would all this added value necessarily accrue to England not Wales?
'While these matters are under consideration, would England and Wales suffer as a law and forum of choice, if parties could not be certain how their contract would be interpreted after separation?
‘Would the legislation on the provision of legal services more generally and the opening up of new markets continue to apply to Wales? With the introduction of alternative business structures (ABSs) into the legal market for England and Wales, an important consideration is whether changes to the delivery of legal services would continue to march in parallel in England & Wales if a separate jurisdiction were to be created? This is particularly so if it involved the creation of a separate profession. Would ABSs, or other practices with ambitious growth plans, be as willing to invest and create jobs in Wales in that context?
'And would ABSs, unlike individual law firms continue to be licensed to provide services in England and Wales?'
It concludes: ‘The creation of a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction might dilute some of these benefits and the resulting legal environment in Wales may be weakened as a consequence.’
Even if a separate jurisdiction were created, Chancery Lane says it would hope to continue representing all solicitors in England and Wales, because maintaining a unified profession is ‘in the public interest’.
To read the response go to the Law Society website.