Brexit – what will the effect be for legal recruitment?

Brexit, the UK’s upcoming departure from the European Union, has been a topic of much contention in recent months. While one side claims negative consequence, and the other touts increasing sovereignty and benefits, just one of these predictions will see fruition. In the meantime, Brexit will create a legal minefield as trade deals, immigration, and even data regulations are renegotiated.

Currently, a significant portion of UK law comes directly from European directives. The UK, for example, does not currently have any laws relating to the right to privacy… this, in fact, comes from Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. The decision must be made upon leaving whether the UK continues utilising this framework, amends it, or drives forward with an entirely new set of legislation. The UK’s legal profession, in 2015, contributed £25.7bn to the country’s economy – employing 314,000 people, and accounting for 10% of global legal revenue. The Bar Council went on record, stating that “legal uncertainty would likely keep the profession busy for several years”.

In short, there are currently two schools of thought on the effect Brexit will have on legal firms in the UK. On the one hand, some believe that firms will suffer due to the long term reduction in the scope of their roles – what once impacted countries across the EU, will now solely affect the UK and those in direct relations. Globalisation in its current form will have been rolled back – reducing the requirement for legal specialists in navigating the EU’s legal framework. In addressing this issue, Slaughter & May have already begun encouraging their lawyers to join the roll in Ireland, enabling their practice across the EU for the long-term.

On the other hand, we also see a sense of optimism. In the short term, at least, the UK’s separation from the EU will result in a vastly complicated legal environment with the drafting and implementation of new laws and deals. This will be of key importance for the legal sector, which will be required to mediate employment laws and even how we look at basic elements such as the aforementioned Human Rights Act – legislation which current Prime Minister Theresa May has committed to “rip up”.

One area both sides seem to agree on, however, is that in the short term, the need for legal specialists will rise dramatically as we navigate an increasingly intricate legal landscape during the UK’s exit process. As we move away from the EU, and by definition, the legal framework the UK has been subscribed to for the last few decades, interactions with member states will need to be redefined. This will result in a larger number of legal specialists required to manage future deals and interactions. In the long term, it will require greater investment and staff to maintain the same legal standard.

Legal recruitment then, is poised. Once the specifics of the UK’s departure is confirmed, a new generation of legal specialists will be required across all areas of the public and private sector – both to negotiate these new deals, and to mediate once something goes wrong. Predictions have already emerged that the UK’s legal landscape will be more favourable than that in the EU, resulting in cases being brought to UK courts in larger numbers.

Currently, the long-term effects of Brexit are unknown. What we can deduce, however, is that during the exit process, the complexity of legal arrangements and the requirement for law specialists to facilitate this process will rise in tandem. The affect this will have on the law profession, and by extension legal recruitment, is expected by most to be positive.