The cost of a no-deal Brexit on the UK’s legal sector would be £3.5bn, The Law Society had calculated.

The figure is released as part of the Society’s UK-EU future partnership and legal services report

“According to our estimates, the volume of work in legal services would be down £3.5bn – nearly 10 per cent lower than under an orderly Brexit,” said Law Society president Simon Davis.

“Our sector contributed £27.9bn to the UK in 2018 – 1.4 per cent of GDP – and in 2017 posted a trade surplus of £4.4bn, according to the Office for National Statistics. Much of this balance of payments surplus is down to access provided by EU Lawyers Directives,” he continued.

“In general, we have a trade surplus with the EU27 when it comes to services. We have a trade deficit when it comes to manufacturing. And in 2018 the total tax contribution of legal and accounting activities was estimated to be £19.1bn –  potentially funding the salaries of doctors, nurses, teachers and police officers. That is why we are urging the UK government to negotiate a future agreement that enables broader access for legal services so that English and Welsh solicitors can maintain their right to practise in the EU.

“The UK legal system is globally respected and the liberalisation of services in the EU has directly contributed to its success.”

From the report

Junior lawyers qualifying in England and Wales

A recently qualified solicitor employed by an international or European law firm can:

  • provide legal advice on English law, EU law and local law to individual and business clients across the EU.
  • work without a visa or a residence permit in another member state on a temporary or permanent basis.
  • in their future to foresee to represent clients before EU institutions, the Court of Justice of the European Union, and national courts (subject to local bar rules).
  • rely on the LPP in cases before EU institutions and the CJEU, if employed in private practice. This protects the communications between the lawyer and the client in such cases.
  • requalify in another member state after a three-year period of practising EU law / home state law while established there, or earlier either if established or after taking an exam on the local laws (subject to exemptions). 

An English and Welsh solicitor qualifying after Brexit will not have these rights under a no deal or any current FTA model. Instead of one regime they will be subject to 31 different regulatory regimes limiting their ability to provide services or establish in member states or EEA countries. As stated above, this also means that the English and Welsh qualified solicitors may not be able to advise on EU law to EU-based clients, where EU law is considered as domestic law.

In addition, English and Welsh qualified solicitors will not benefit from the right to appear before the CJEU, and their communications with their clients will not be covered by LPP at EU level. Only EU / EEA lawyers have an unquestionable right to appear in front of EU institutions, EU courts and bodies and be protected by the LPP at EU level in dealings with them. This means, if a law firm is engaged with a European case, they will need to employ an EU / EEA qualified lawyer to represent their interests in front of the EU bodies.