To discern the impact of leaving the EU, observe the decisions of clients.
Legal advice is often a stress purchase. This may be why attendees at the Gazette’s latest Brexit roundtable report that the government and civil service are very open to ideas from the legal community. At a premium are ‘solutions’ that are ‘credible legally, commercially and politically’.
In addition to seeking influence over the shape Brexit will take, law firms and in-house legal departments are also advising clients, while figuring out their own likely professional and commercial position once the UK is, in EU parlance, a ‘third country’ jurisdiction.
It would be tempting to compartmentalise these three tasks. Instead, as became clear at the roundtable, the approach of the legal profession has been to recognise the strong relationship between these realms.
Legal certainties and the rule of law are preconditions to business and trade reaching their full economic potential. Lawyers are able to make the case for both, industry by industry and with some force. Public policy on Brexit is in a fluid state, and this relatively brief period is the profession’s chance to shine.
Nevertheless, to discern what the full impact of Brexit on the legal sector will be, observe the decisions of clients. If some internationally focused firms followed clients from the City to Canary Wharf, they may well move with them to Paris, Frankfurt or Dublin.