The legal profession is today digesting the UK's historic decision to vote to leave the European Union.
City firms Clifford Chance and Dechert had already outlined their plans to set up advice centres for clients potentially affected by any change in the UK's status.
Malcolm Sweeting, senior partner of magic circle firm Clifford Chance, said today: ‘We believe this outcome has serious implications for the City and many of our clients’ businesses with exposure to the UK and the EU.
‘We are working alongside our clients to help them as they anticipate, plan for, and manage the challenge the coming political and trade negotiations will bring.’
Gideon Moore, Linklaters firmwide managing partner, offering reaction to today’s outcome: 'We are well-prepared – both as a firm and to help our clients – for today’s outcome. Our full focus is on supporting our clients, to guide them through the numerous legal questions and uncertainties that will arise as the UK establishes a different relationship with the EU.'
Global firm Dentons said its contingency measures have been put into place, with clients being guided through implications of the vote.
A spokesperson said: 'As you would expect, we have been giving detailed thought to, and preparing to advise our domestic and global clients on the possibility of a vote to leave the EU.
Our 'Brexit Response Planning Team' is already working with clients offering to help them identify what their priorities need to be in the short, medium and long term. We are also making available a range of other forms of support to assist clients through what is likely to be a turbulent period of uncertainty.'
Martin Coleman, global co-head regulation for Norton Rose, who spoke for a remain vote in a personal capacity, said: 'We must accept the result and work constructively with our clients to navigate the best paths for them through the choppy waters ahead. Effective risk mapping and scenario planning are key to minimising the risks and maximising the opportunities.'
Legal industry observers are also predicting a further surge in solicitors from the UK seeking admission to practise in the Republic of Ireland. The Law Society of Ireland revealed earlier this week that 186 solicitors from the UK have been admitted to practise in the republic - more than three times the total at this stage last year. The vast majority cited the possibility of Brexit as their primary motivation.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has said it will be looking at the implications of the Brexit vote in general and for the legal market in particular.
Chief executive Paul Philip added: 'Any transition will take time and it would be premature to draw any further conclusions at this point.
'There are of course European lawyers working in firms that we regulate throughout England and Wales who may have questions about their current role or an application to practice. As it stands there is no impact on your ability to practice or apply. We will keep you updated if this position changes in the future.'
Nick Elwell-Sutton, Partner at City firm Clyde & Co, said it will be business as usual in the short term, but the effects could be significant in time - especially in the financial services sector.
'Unless the financial services passporting rules are resolved in the UK’s favour, then many large financial services businesses are likely to relocate to within the EU meaning large scale redundancies would be highly probable,' he said.
Damian Carolan, financial services regulatory partner at magic circle firm Allen & Overy, added: 'The eventual impact on the financial services industry will largely depend on the exit model that the government negotiates with the EU.
'Whilst this is unlikely to be known in the short to medium term, for firms which use a passport, the key issue will be whether the passporting system continues. If the passport ceases to be available, it would be necessary to consider the feasibility of obtaining separate licences in the relevant EU jurisdictions, and whether and how the firm’s business model and group structures would need to change.'
The Bank of England has said it is ‘monitoring developments closely’ and added it ’has undertaken extensive contingency planning, working closely with @hmtreasury ,other domestic authorities & overseas central banks’.
Chris Cummings, chief executive of lobby group TheCityUK, said: ’Our immediate focus is on stability – in the markets, for investors, and for our industry’s customers.
‘Clear agreement is now needed on the way forward for the forthcoming negotiations as government shapes a new relationship for the UK with the EU and retains the jobs and investment that the UK has seen to date. For financial and related professional services, the focus is on securing continuing access to the single market.’
City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority stressed that much of the UK’s financial regulation stems from Europe, adding: ‘Firms must continue to abide their obligations under UK law, including those derived from EU law and continue with implementation plans for legislation that is still to come into effect.’ Consumer rights and protections remain unaffected.