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Solicitors essential to trade for global Britain post-Brexit

24 January 2017

Law Society to give evidence to International Trade Select Committee

UK businesses will continue to need solicitors who can practise across borders as this will be critical in supporting international business following Brexit, the Law Society will tell the International Trade Select Committee today when it gives oral evidence on UK trade options beyond 2019.

The legal services sector currently contributes £25.7bn to the UK economy, employs 370,000 people and positively contributes £3.6bn in net export value to the balance of payments.

Today the EU is an open market for legal services and UK lawyers can represent their clients' interests throughout the EU states and their courts.

"We want English and Welsh solicitors to continue to support the interests of British and international businesses wherever they trade post-Brexit," said Law Society president Robert Bourns.

"To this end we urge the government to prioritise maintaining practise rights for UK lawyers and law firms in EU member states post-Brexit.

"This would ensure the UK remains attractive to non-EU businesses and law firms - both currently look to the UK to gain access to the EU market - supporting the growth of global Britain post-Brexit."

The Law Society asserts that all three phases of Brexit - withdrawal, transition arrangements along with agreement on the new relationship - will need to dovetail to ensure legal certainty.

Robert Bourns concluded: "Our priority is maintaining legal certainty and stability for the multilateral trading system in light of Brexit.”

The Law Society's evidence also addresses:

  • The merits and challenges for the legal sector under World Trade Organization (WTO) and free trade agreements. For instance, the WTO dispute settlement system is a government-to-government system that entails a lack of redress for organisations.
  • The impact of non-tariff barriers on solicitors' clients and law firms.
  • The benefit to clients of English and Welsh solicitors' rights of audience before EU courts. The loss of these rights could have a significant impact on a number of practice areas including competition law.
  • The extent to which clients can benefit from legal professional privilege - of concern to both lawyers and their existing or prospective clients.

The Law Society will encourage the government to seek trade agreements that facilitate liberalisation of legal markets beyond the EU at the same time as it negotiates the new relationship with the EU.

Notes to editors

Watch the evidence session live at 11:30 on 24 January.

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Harriet Beaumont | | 020 7320 5830