Our bumper legal export surplus is in jeopardy.
However they voted in the referendum, solicitors should have been repelled by the derision poured on ‘experts’ during the campaign. It is to experts – including lawyers – that all now turn. As we seek to answer the question ‘what now?’, expect attacks on Nobel laureates and respected constitutional lawyers to diminish.
Oxford Economics’ report for the Law Society predicted a ‘slow drain’ of international finance work from the City in event of a Brexit, reducing the legal sector’s £3.1bn export surplus. Also expected to be hit are mid-sized commercial firms advising on contracts and disputes across the EU. Others are less exposed, though residential conveyancers have cause to worry.
A little pride might stir in the hearts of solicitors abroad on reading the line ‘the law of England and Wales’. There is no technical reason why the phrase should be abandoned, but its reach is part of our soft power only. There is no direct formula linking its deployment to the bottom line of our legal economy. Good money can be made from its use in Munich, Milan, Moscow, Singapore or Dubai without a penny of fees coming to the UK.
The justice secretary’s mind does not appear to be on his day job. That is a shame, because his department is central to a post-Brexit plan to keep legal work here. Specifically, the austerity fetish that destabilises our justice system needs to be addressed urgently. The work now at risk is not the sort that returns once lost.