COVID Lockdowns Delayed Full Impact of Brexit on Legal Sector
Due to the implementation of the COVID lockdown during the Brexit transition period, the impact of Brexit has yet to be felt by the legal sector. As international travel restrictions ease, however, the Law Society is warning that the implications of Brexit may soon start to become apparent.
The end of free movement across EU member states could cause the most significant disruption to legal professionals, especially those who are UK-based but wish expand into Europe. Lawyers who were already established in Europe will have taken measures to ensure business continuity, and so will be less adversely affected by the UK’s exit.
The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the EU and the UK sets the general principles for UK lawyers practising in the EU under their home titles. The TCA, though, does not necessarily increase the market access for UK lawyers, with EU-titled lawyers having much broader opportunity to practise across the EU. This puts UK lawyers on a par with those from third country practices.
In summer 2021 the Law Society published guidance for lawyers who may be travelling to the EU to practise from the post-Brexit UK. Among things for firms to consider are immigration requirements, applicable regulatory frameworks, and taxation before committing to practising abroad.
There are points in the TCA that remain unanswered or in need of clarification. For example, it is unclear whether UK solicitors who have qualified in Ireland but have not taken out a practising certificate will be able to practise in Ireland. The Law Society of Ireland announced that solicitors will not be entitled to certificates unless they have a practice in Ireland, a decision which will affect solicitors in England and Wales who invested in Irish certificates in order to maintain the EU practising rights.
An initial assessment of the TCA and its impact on the legal profession has been made by The Law Society. Additionally, webinars and updated guidance are available to support firms thinking about expanding into, or continuing to practise, in the EU bloc.
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