Cross-border practising rights must be a priority in planning for Brexit.
In an increasingly international world, national borders are becoming less relevant to our daily lives. One need only look at the exotic cuisine in our shopping trolleys, the foreign-made clothing in our wardrobes, or the globe-trotting friends and family in our address books to see how much we are all becoming global citizens.
As our clients live increasingly international lives, the legal services they need cannot be bound by national borders. Whether dealing with the supplier for their business based in Bordeaux, custody arrangements for family members in Frankfurt or supporting employees in Eindhoven, solicitors are best able to serve their clients when they can serve them wherever they are.
It is no small wonder then that the ability of solicitors to practise throughout the European internal market has been such an important asset for the legal profession. The nature of legal work has always been bound to the jurisdiction we have trained in – we are officers of the our national courts.
Yet as our clientele becomes more internationally mobile, the nature of legal services has needed to adapt as well.
The Lawyers’ Services Directive and the Lawyers’ Establishment Directive have together opened the European market to solicitors, giving us this mobility to move along with our clients. They give us the clear ability to practise, work and re-qualify, and ensure that vital tools of the solicitors trade, such as legal professional privilege that attaches to our advice, remain available to us.
As we consider what professional frameworks should be maintained after the UK withdraws from the European Union, these are important ones that should not be overlooked.
Their loss would not only shackle our legal profession, but do a huge disservice to our clients.
Catherine Dixon is Law Society chief executive