Bond breaks Brexit ban: Are we back to business as usual?
Bond Dickinson, one of the biggest players in the sector to postpone all salary reviews following the Brexit vote in June, has finally ended its firm-wide pay freeze and backdate pay rises to 1st November.
The decision comes two months after the likes of Addleshaw Goddard, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), and Gowling WLG ended their pay freezes in September and could be a sign of greater positivity returning to the sector ahead of the triggering of Article 50 in the spring.
Addleshaw Goddard has said it will backdate pay reviews to 1st September, while Gowling WLG has promised to backdate theirs to 1st July. BLP, for their part, has declined following suit in what The Lawyer described as “saving the business four months of increased costs.”
But were the freezes even necessary in the first place? Against a backdrop of strong performance within the sector, a rise in new employment opportunities across all levels, and an increase in the number of mergers and reported record growth among many firms, it is difficult to argue for the freezes.
Indeed, the legal sector in particular saw a spike in demand following the June 23 vote, with company concern over how UK Plc unravels itself from the knot that is EU legislation seeing a surge in demand for legal counsel.
Of course, the increased opportunities shouldn’t carry us away in the short term when the long-term prospects for the legal remain less certain. In a recent interview with the BBC, Robert Bourns, the president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “In the short to medium term, there is a lot of work.
“In the longer term, in the event that the standing of the City of London were to be diminished, there is concern as to how much work will be available in this jurisdiction, where people should be locating and where they should be qualifying.”
But the only certainty in life is that we can never be certain of what lies ahead. What we do know is that the legal sector continues to perform well.
Over the last 12 months it has grown by 8% and is now worth around £26bn a year, employing over 80,000 solicitors in private practice and 370,000 professionals altogether throughout England and Wales. The primary focus for UK-based law firms with an international reach will be to ensure they retain their access to EU member states and continue to cement or expand their presence on the Continent. Should they do so, then the number of new career opportunities for those entering the sector will continue to remain strong.
Until we are clearer over the potential ramifications of life after our European exist, any further talk of pay freezes can only be viewed as a knee-jerk reaction based on supposition rather than economic reality.
The legal sector remains strong and an attractive employer and it will continue to offer careers to those with the right talent to the job – irrespective of whether they are from the UK or overseas.
What do you think will happen, are you concerned of how Brexit may affect the legal profession?