British law firms are far gloomier than their European counterparts about the long-term outlook post-Brexit, a poll has found.

The survey of 300 law firm partners in the UK and Europe by Thomson Reuters found lawyers on the continent are far more optimistic of receiving a long-term windfall. While UK firms are adapting their client advice ahead of Brexit, not as many have changed their own business models and made contingency plans – particularly over no deal being reached by the exit date of 29 March 2019.

According to the survey, 46% of UK lawyers anticipate an increase in workload over the short-term, while some 72% of European respondents forecast an rise. In the long term, just 23% of UK lawyers believe workload will increase, compared to 64% of Europeans.

‘Most of the firms surveyed are advising their clients on how Brexit will affect their businesses,’ said Jim Leason, vice president of development and strategy at the UK & Ireland legal business of Thomson Reuters. ’Significantly fewer firms have been doing the same analysis with respect to their own businesses, although it’s clear that some firms are going further and are looking at their own partnership structures and investing in technology to help meet the expected demand.’

Lawyers in Europe already appear to be pro-active in preparing for Brexit. Banking and finance lawyers in Frankfurt report they are helping clients shift operations to Germany. Likewise, Swiss private client lawyers say they are assisting individuals in moving from London to Switzerland and Monaco.

Around 92% of German respondents have taken some action to prepare for Brexit, compared to 67% of UK firms. Firms in France, Spain and Italy have done less than their UK equivalents to be ready for the aftermath, the survey found.

The report, entitled Catalyst or Catastrophe – how Brexit will impact law firms, is based on an online survey, conducted in December 2017 and January 2018, of more than 300 law firm partners based in the UK and Europe. In addition, 15 interviews were conducted with participating law firms.