Brexit and what it means for UK lawyers

Introduction

Back in early 2016 you were an associate advancing nicely through your career. Your boss was a bit of a pain, some clients were a bit of a pain, but you were getting paid well enough to justify the slog through university and law school. And maybe, despite the demographics seemingly working against you, you were making progress toward a partner or an in-house role. On 23rd June the Brexit vote happened (and then Trump got elected, but that’s one for another article).

No one is certain what the future will bring, and there is much speculation, but we thought – as you prepared for your Christmas break and pause for reflection after the usual frantic combination of parties and end of the year closings – we would give you our thoughts on what Brexit might mean for the UK legal sector; and your career.

Set out in the four articles linked below are our thoughts on what Brexit will mean for lateral hires:

The background to a post-Brexit legal jobs market
Practice areas that will face threat and opportunity following Brexit
The impact of Brexit on UK lawyers’ rights to work in the EU
Will the primacy of English law remain for international contracts following Brexit

We have solid market insight from our 60+ law firms and the jobs they post to our job app for lawyers. After 23rd June, it seems that everyone went on vacation for a good dose of denial. Whether you were pro or anti Brexit, one thing is for sure – for transactional lawyers, big ticket work dried up months before the vote on any deal that remotely involved businesses with exposure to the UK market. Nothing much has changed; in the uncertainty that is still rife six months after the vote, capital market oriented finance solutions are still rare, with non UK deals remaining relatively active. And this funding uncertainty has had a knock on effect on M&A activity. As a result, this means a chill on hiring.

It will be interesting to see if this continues through the bonus season against a backdrop of more uncertainty regarding Brexit, European elections and maybe a UK general election. Received wisdom among non-lawyers is that somehow Brexit will represent a boon in regulatory and counselling work, but until we know what the process and negotiating stance of both the UK Government and the other remaining 27 EU States is, and this ain’t happening any time soon, we are still left with more uncertainty.

We see a division in the UK legal jobs market between demand slowdown in London/City transactional practices but provincial demand remaining relatively strong. However, all employers are being more demanding about quality. It will be interesting to see what City firms pay in bonuses this year, given softening of top line revenues across the board. You will no doubt see these out before Christmas, if you’re lucky. Or maybe not if you’re unlucky.

We also have an interesting option for those associates who are signed up to Route1 and who don’t want to face the uncertainty of the next two years around the Brexit negotiations. Route1 is highly active in the Australian legal market, with over 50 firms signed up and posting jobs to the app. We’re seeing strong demand for senior corporate and transactional lawyers there, particularly in Sydney, where a number of the roles are available to UK qualified lawyers.  This article also sets out the visa and sponsorship requirements in Australia. So why not contemplate sitting out the Article 50 debate and negotiations from an office overlooking Sydney Harbour. And perhaps next year you’ll be cracking a tinnie at a barbie on Bondi rather than your sprouts on 25 December: A guide for lawyers moving to Australia from the UK.

Route1 is an award winning marketplace for legal talent. For any questions, please contact our Engagement Team or visit our Contact Us page for more information.


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