Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision today to trigger a UK general election in June means a hiatus in Brexit negotiations and potential turmoil for the legal world. In this live blog, The Lawyer collects reactions from across the legal profession.

Wednesday, 14.55

Many Brexit task-forces claim that the surprise General Election will have little impact on corporates or banks. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton partner Bob Penn, who is one of up to 20 partners handling Brexit issues in the firm, says: “It doesn’t play a part in it all.

“The Bank of England said all UK-authorised financial institutions have until July to make contingency plans so people are getting started with this. This is the major concern I am helping clients with.” 

Other Brexit law firm leaders say it is too early to tell whether the news will affect strategic planning, with Reed Smith partner Claude Brown explaining that the firm will reflect on the decision. 

“Is the political agenda going to pan out as expected? Or is this another reason to do nothing?” he said. “Will people see this as an opportunity?” 

Reed Smith has a Brexit taskforce of around a dozen partners worldwide, who are involved in the firm’s strategic Brexit planning. Around 15 other fee-earners also support the group on individual matters in Europe, US and Asia, as well as compile research and design briefing packs.

Fieldfisher’s Jon Cassels, who heads the firm’s working group of five partners and six associates, also explains that the impending election will not impact the decisions being made by the firm’s clients. 

“It’s added to the conversation,” he said. “But it’s not affected the substance of the talks – Brexit work is an on-going conversation.”

Ashurst has a similar sized Brexit team to Fieldfisher – comprised of four or five core people in London. Its team is led by co-led by partner James Coiley, who said: “The markets appear to view this as potentially permitting a softer Brexit.”

“But she’s looking for personal validation – there’s relatively little information on what she wants to do.”  

Allen & Overy (A&O) has a core group of eight Brexit partners who have been hard at work since the referendum vote last June. They too claim the announcement will not change anything in relation to what they’re doing on Brexit, as it will still proceed as intended. 

Wednesday, 14.05

Gavin Williams, one of the lawyers leading Herbert Smith Freehills’ Brexit advice effort, says: “The General Election announcement provokes more uncertainty over the next two months, but we have been advising clients for two years on Brexit, and the dialogue is not going to altered by one announcement. People hoping for a softer Brexit will be heartened, however, because Theresa May will now have a freer hand in negotiations. It will give her more room for manoeuvre which is good for clients wishing for an orderly transition, but the same fundamental problems still exist. 

“Market reactions to the announcement yesterday and the strengthening of the pound – suggests clients feel more comfortable with a Conservative majority and the PM having a stronger hand within her own party and with the EU.

“The banks’ position hasn’t changed at all off the back off yesterday. If the Tories are elected and Brexit proceeds, we still have the same set of problems  – what will replace passporting rights in particular – as before. That conundrum has not gone away, and banks are not going to be shelving contingency plans –  that would be a foolhardy thing to do.”

On a wider scale, there are other things to worry about: namely, the French presidential election in May. “If that results in a win for Le Pen, it would significantly alter the landscape,” says Williams.  “This announcement is unexpected and therefore significant in its own right, but I don’t think people will be cancelling contingency planning or radically changing their plans based on yesterday.”

Wednesday, 13.30

Dechert was first to announce a push towards advising clients on Brexit matters last year, launching a Brexit hotline and putting a spotlight on a team led by London partner Miriam González.

But this process did not involve any new work, González explained to The Lawyer, as partners were already advising clients on international trade and EU law before the vote.

A total of six partners in London deal with Brexit issues for clients, with specialisation in different areas of the law. Since the vote, the firm has seen an uptick in the number of existing and new clients looking for specialised advice.

“A big difference in the number of clients that we have received. Now what we have got is clients that weren’t even clients of the firm who approached us on this issue,” González said.

“What has surprised me most since Brexit is the way companies are approaching it: you have clients that haven’t done their homework,” she says, “and those that have done homework have gone in very deep.”

The call for a general election will exacerbate this work, she claimed. “For those that haven’t prepared yet, I imagine what this will do is delay that preparation for 2-3 months.

“For those who have started doing it and have prepared so much is that this will mean them preparing even more. This is likely to accelerate the harder Brexit.”

Tuesday, 17.12

One person who isn’t fazed by his morning’s news is Burges Salmon managing partner Peter Morris: “I’m not at all surprised, I thought this might happen,” he tells The Lawyer. “I could see a lot of pressure coming on her [Theresa May] from parliament itself and working through parliament without a clear mandate was going to be increasingly difficult.

“It’s another uncertainty in a period of uncertainties. From a legal perspective of interest is what happens to the Great Repeal Bill. If she loses everything is up in the air.

It will have virtually no impact on the financial results of law firms assuming they have a year-end of April. Then we have a more settled position fairly early in the financial year.”


From Hogan Lovells partner and public law specialist Charles Brasted: “Setting aside political implications, this announcement will put further pressure on the timeline for negotiations. It is likely to constrain engagement with Her Majesty’s Government in coming weeks and delay the Great Repeal Bill legislation. This will make it all the more important for businesses to keep pushing forward on developing policy solutions and engaging with stakeholders as widely as possible.” 

“Should the election result in a clear Conservative majority it will provide an opportunity for business to engage with a new government with a new mandate at the start of a term confident that it will see through the negotiation process.” 

“This window early in June has the potential to influence the direction of travel for a decade.”


Philip Rodney

What’s the view from Scotland? Here’s Burness Paull chairman Philip Rodney: 

“First of all it’s a complete surprise. Having had time to reflect on it, I think it’s going to be used as a proxy for various issues. It’s not about what party the people want in power. It’ll be about whether we want Brexit or no Brexit, independence or no independence. It will be very interesting to see what happens with both.

“The two are so intertwined, you have to apply a cold compress to your head to work out the permutations.” 


Theresa May won’t take part in live TV debates with the leaders of the other parties.

Politically, this may be a wise or a foolish move, but are TV debates good for democracy? That was the question Lawyer 2B readers debated in a competition back in 2015. Click here for some well-expressed thoughts from the lawyers of the future.


Good question. The future of the Prisons and Courts Bill – which would help usher in online court and reform of the personal injury sector – is in doubt with the election announcement.

If it isn’t rushed through before the dissolution of parliament, it will have to wait until after the election, delaying it by a number of months and making its planned implementation date of October 2018 look less likely.


Will this bring the brief tenure of Liz Truss as Justice Secretary to an abrupt end?

Truss has a 13,861 (27.7 per cent) majority in South West Norfolk, but assuming she is re-elected she may well be reshuffled out of the job. There have already been calls to strip her of the role of Lord Chancellor.


News of a different election: we now know who will be president of the Law Society in 2019 after the body held its vote.

The winner is a senior magic circle lawyer – a fairly unusual development.


Stop press: the Chinese don’t care a whole lot about what’s going on in the UK. The Lawyer’s international editor Yun Kriegler, who is currently in Beijing, tells us that the top Chinese firms have taken little notice of Brexit – and the upcoming UK election is going to make very little difference. The game is still all about the US, and there’s a marked decrease in enthusiasm about Europe.

That’s put us in our place.



A senior partner at a US firm in London tells The Lawyer: “It’s incredible, absolutely mental. The world is very difficult to predict.”


Parliament’s healthy crop of lawyer MPs face another battle for their seats. Read which ones are most at risk of being toppled – or have a shot at increasing their majorities – at the link below.

Election 2017: the lawyer MPs at risk of losing their seats


The legal Twitterati are having their say.

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner interjects on the problematic issue of the European Convention on Human Rights:

And from Cloisters’ Schona Jolly QC:


Former government lawyer and legal journalist Carl Gardner talks about the legalities surrounding May’s decision to call an election: