Practice areas that will face threat and opportunity following Brexit

Part of our series: What does Brexit mean for lateral hires?

As detailed in TheCityUK’s July 2016 Market Report, the range of services offered by the UK legal market is uniquely diverse and although Brexit has already brought redundancy for some UK lawyers, it offers a fountain of opportunity to others.

Immediate winners

Junior associates looking to move firms in Brexit’s turbulent aftermath could look at the process as a divorce proceeding, which not surprisingly much of the press and some of the protagonists, have…There will be a division of assets, a negotiation of contracts and a mutually binding sovereign and judicial process regarding how the two parties should manage their relationship in the future. As is expected with separation proceedings, the UK/EU split is likely to be unpredictable and in some cases emotional. Yet, in the immediate aftermath, firms will see an upsurge in demand for expertise relating to consequential tax, regulatory, compliance and general commercial advice following on from the final, and one would suspect, interim negotiation.

Employment

Another practice area that is likely to receive a boost in post Brexit work is employment. During the Brexit negotiation process, clients will want to ensure that they can and will in the future be able to attract and retain key staff. In addition, employment contracts for UK businesses employing non UK nationals will also require scrutiny, as well as vice versa. A large part of UK employment law comes from the EU, including that pertaining to civil liberties and labor rights. While some believe it is doubtful that these provisions will be limited or overturned, the biggest impact of Brexit is likely to be upon the freedom of movement of workers. Given the original motivation for Brexit, migration laws are highly likely to change and employers will need to make sure that any future (and possibly current) non UK EU nationals who are employees are in good legal standing. Again, this will have a corollary for UK nationals working in the EU. In summary, for lawyers well versed in EU and UK employment regulations, there will be a significant amount of work generated by Brexit.

Financial regulation

Two other practice areas that are likely to be affected are financial regulation and intellectual property (IP). Much like employment law, much of the UK legislative framework in this field is currently composed of directly effective EU Regulations and transposed EU Directives. Passporting and market access for UK financial firms will be a key topic in the Brexit negotiation given the significance of the contribution of financial services to the UK economy. Until the access vs free movement issue is resolved the situation remains unclear. However, familiarity with EU financial services regulation will still be a key part of this practice area, given that in all likelihood equivalence with EU financial services and regulatory legislation will be required for many firms who wish to access the EU market.

IP

With regard to IP, we expect a rise in demand to ensure that UK patent and trademark holders still have their IP rights protected within the EU. IP laws are, like financial services regulation, harmonised to a large extent across Europe. Unless those EU Regulations relevant to IP and life sciences (especially pharmaceuticals) are transposed into English or Scottish law, a regulatory vacuum may be created. Some implications of Brexit will apply to organisations in the same way whether they are based in the UK, in the EU or elsewhere in the world. For example, the changes to unitary patents are pertinent to any company seeking pan-European patent coverage, whereas the now likely exclusion of the UK from the European Digital Single Market, will be more acutely felt in the UK.

You can read our other predictions for how Brexit will impact the careers of UK lawyers here:

Brexit and what it means for UK lawyers
The background to a post-Brexit legal jobs market
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

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