The Law Society of England and Wales has warned that lawyers from the EEA who are in partnership with solicitors from England and Wales will have to change their status in the event of a no deal Brexit.
The warning came as the Society responded to a government technical notice on Brexit and the legal sector. Legal services are one of Britain’s greatest exports, worth almost £30bn annually to the UK economy.
Currently, lawyers from the EEA are afforded the status of Registered European Lawyers (REL). But once the UK leaves the EU they may have to become Registered Foreign Lawyers (RFL) or requalify as a solicitor or barrister.
Law Society president Christina Blacklaws explained:
“After Brexit all the measures that have been introduced to create a single market where EEA lawyers can operate in each other’s jurisdictions will no longer apply to Britain. This will cause firms a significant amount of expense to find work arounds. “
With tight margins, small and medium sized firms that employ EEA lawyers will struggle most to adapt. If they employ EEA lawyers, then these may have to requalify and that’s just one of the hoops. However, we welcome the commitment to having a transition period to allow EEA lawyers the time to do this.
“The government’s notice also doesn’t provide any answers for UK lawyers in the EU, who could face different barriers in each of the 30 EU/EEA countries.
“We continue to call on the government to put mutual market access at the heart of its Brexit priorities. and one of its key requirements is to be able to recruit talent internationally and support businesses in the UK and EU.”
The Law Society of England and Wales will continue to share advice and information with the solicitor profession so it can contingency plan for a no-deal Brexit.