Clyde & Co welcomed the Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, to a webinar held under the Chatham House Rule that addressed the future of the UK’s legal services after the end of the Brexit transition period.
In a wide ranging exploration of the issues facing the legal sector in the UK, the event emphasised the importance of the legal services sector to the UK’s economic success, considered specific questions around how the sector can maintain its world-leading reputation, and examined the next steps in the Brexit process as the clock ticks down to 31 December 2020.
The role of the UK legal services sector
The dual importance of the legal services sector to the UK was highlighted – with the sector recognised as both enablers and contributors.
As enablers, the diversity of the UK’s economy requires high quality legal advice to provide a guarantee of fairness through rule of law and justice principles – it’s what gives businesses of all types the confidence to trade, knowing that they have legal recourse should they need it.
Moreover, legal services are significant contributors to the UK economy. The entire sector contributes around £22.2bn to the economy annually; an invaluable contribution that the country can’t do without.
The twin track approach to maintaining competitiveness
With the end of the transition period on the horizon, speakers discussed the importance of a ‘twin track’ approach to maintain the UK legal services sector’s competitiveness. As important as it is to look inward to improve the way we deliver these services – for example, through investment in technology and smart contracts, which has been undertaken over several years in response to an increasingly digitised world, but which has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic – it is equally important to look outward, to where we are delivering them and seizing every opportunity to do business.
This means focussing on the markets where we don’t currently have a stronghold, and those markets we expect to become the economic powerhouses of the future. It is crucial not be complacent about the UK’s position in this global market – and there is a need to take every opportunity to maintain it and even enhance it.
The future relationship between the UK and EU
It was discussed that clarity and certainty around the future relationship of the UK and the EU will be essential, as this underpins the confidence lawyers must have to serve the best interests of their clients.
To this end, the significance of the breakthrough moment of the sharing of legal texts between the UK and EU cannot be ignored, and nor can moves the UK has made around the Lugano convention, a mechanism to enable the recognition and enforcement of the English court judgments.
The UK wishes to re-join the Lugano convention as an independent contracting party, and although this is subject to the decision of the other contracting parties to the convention, the procedure to ratify this domestically in the UK will be underway shortly.
For more thoughts on the issues raised in this webinar or advice on any other Brexit-related legal queries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or your usual contact.