Justice secretary Liz Truss has stressed the legal profession will be at the forefront of negotiations over the UK’s future relationship with Europe.
This week the government set out its plans for sealing Britain’s exit from the European Union, with prime minister Theresa May revealing a 12-point plan for triggering Article 50.
Lawyers have expressed their own concerns about the future landscape of the profession once Brexit has happened.
Truss this week met leading figures from City firms and key sector representatives to assure them she is aware of the needs of the legal profession in England and Wales.
Truss said she is already working with the Brexit secretary David Davis as part of wider negotiations so international business continues to choose UK courts and laws to resolve cross-border commercial disputes.
‘It is in the interests of all European countries who want to do business here that we maintain civil justice cooperation when we leave the EU, so we are already working to make sure we get the best possible deal for the profession,’ she said.
‘As we enter this exciting new era, I am pleased to be working with judges and the industry to ensure we tap into all talents and continue to lead the world in the increasingly competitive legal services sector.’
Also discussed at the meeting were the issues of social mobility for new entrants and how to grow opportunities for solicitors entering the judiciary.
Working parties will be established to progress these ideas and agree delivery targets and timetables.
In the spring, a Global Britain summit will be held involving influential figures from the legal and business sectors. More details will be announced about this ’in due course’.
Truss said she is working on a plan to help maintain and grow the legal sector with figures including the lord chief justice, major firms and representative bodies.
Four of the world’s top 10 global law firms have their headquarters in London, with the industry boosting the UK economy by £25bn a year.
Law Society president Robert Bourns welcomed the speech. 'It is vital that the UK government lays the foundations for the legal sector to flourish in the post-Brexit era especially given its vital role in supporting business,' he said. 'The legal sector is worth £25.7bn to the economy, contributing £3.6bn to net exports and supporting an estimated 370,000 jobs. Every 1% growth in the legal sector results in the creation of 8,000 jobs, while an additional £1 of turnover stimulates £1.39 in the rest of the economy. In 2015, the legal sector grew by 8%.
'Our law and legal services are recognised as the gold standard - we're the global centre for arbitration and we have an incorruptible and respected judiciary making us the jurisdiction of choice for resolving disputes.
'International business continues to rely on courts in England and Wales and on our law to resolve cross-border commercial contract disputes. We welcome the fact that the case we've made to ministers and officials is being heard and responded to across government.'