With the Brexit clock ticking, what will it mean for the Legal sector?
While the countdown to the UK’s formal withdrawal from the EU has begun, there is a sense within the legal sector that it is business as usual – until events unfold to suggest otherwise.
The media has been awash with stories of how some leading law firms are deliberating whether to de-camp large swathes of their workforces elsewhere, with Dublin seemingly the most popular choice – Pinsent Masons, Simmons & Simmons being just two of the big players to establish a new base there. The Irish, for their part, are on the charm offensive to promote the capital as a new European legal hub.
But while there will invariably be a ramping up of relocation activity as we edge closer to the March 2019 exit date, for the rest of the legal sector the next 12 months are unlikely to see much in the way of change – at least not in a detrimental way.
The legal sector employs around 311,000 people – two-thirds of whom are outside London – and despite the relative uncertainty over the implications Brexit will have, legal firms across the country continue to see revenues rise and new jobs being created.
Hiring intentions among law firms of all sizes has remained strong over the last two years, with the first quarter of this year suggesting this will remain so for the foreseeable future. This is due to two things.
First, demand for legal services has increased in line with sustained growth within the financial and wider professional services sector. And second, the legal sector has realised that waiting for the government to provide clarity over the implications of Brexit could be detrimental to its future competitiveness.
Edward Young once said that procrastination is the thief of time. Legal leaders playing the game of ‘wait and see’ rarely end up on the winning side.