TTIP talks should address barriers to free movement of lawyers between the EU and US, says Law Society president Andrew Caplen.

I have just attended the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in Boston, where some 7,000 lawyers from around the US and beyond gathered for one of the biggest events in the legal calendar.

As my first international visit as the new Law Society president, the ABA annual meeting was a great introduction to my counterparts from around the world and a chance to discuss issues facing our members. I was struck by how similar these issues are, from access to justice to the challenges of cyber security.

One of the big issues for debate between the EU bar associations and their American counterparts is the current EU-US free trade talks, the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership or TTIP. The seventh round of negotiations is due to take place in the US next month and the Law Society has been keenly following and contributing to the talks and any potential agreement on legal services.

Whilst in Boston I addressed a gathering of EU and US bar leaders to present the Law Society’s position and discuss the issues our members face in their US practice. 

The US is a key destination for UK law firms. Many have set up offices and many more have a US desk or referral networks driving transatlantic business. But for solicitors practising on a permanent or temporary basis in the US, or even taking the bar exam to qualify locally the rules vary by state or do not exist.

The Law Society would like TTIP to address these barriers to the free movement of lawyers between the EU and US. This of course means addressing the issues that US lawyers face on this side of the Atlantic, though in England and Wales we already offer an open market for US lawyers who can set up offices, go in to partnership with solicitors and dual-qualify as a solicitor.

TTIP represents a real opportunity to deliver an improved trade in legal services by removing barriers to the free movement of lawyers between the EU and US to create a level playing field.

We will continue to talk to our counterparts at the ABA and across the EU as negotiations continue to secure an agreement that benefits our members.