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European law firms: "No-deal" Brexit will mean more business

In the longer term, British lawyers will lose business in the event of a "no-deal" Brexit -- while their counterparts on the European continent forecast a windfall in work terms, according to a study.

Photo: Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas

Lawyers on the European continent will get more work in the event of a "no-deal" Brexit, whereas UK lawyers will lose out, according to a recent study carried out by Thomson Reuters.

Thomson Reuters surveyed over 300 law firms in the UK and Europe, and almost two thirds of the European law firms anticipate a so-called "no-deal" Brexit -- meaning a scenario where the UK will not be covered by the EU association agreements -- will trigger more work over the longer term.

Conversely, a third of the British lawyers anticipate a decline in demand, and a quarter expect a considerable decline in demand. Forty-five percent foresee no change or increase in demand.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is currently negotiating a withdrawal agreement with the EU which should be completed by October. However, it is still uncertain whether a deal will be made.

Relocations

Some 72 percent of European and 46 percent of British lawyers expect an increase in work load prior to Brexit in March next year -- rspecially legal advice on post-Brexit rules and relocation of workplaces, primarily to Germany. However, in the longer term, a "no-deal" Brexit will be beneficial for lawyers on the European continent.

Recently, Catherine McGuiness, chairwoman of City of London Corporations Policy & Resources Committee, warned that a "no-deal" Brexit could have huge negative consequences for London-based law firms.

Søren Skibsted, partner at Kromann Reumert and head of its London office, agrees that it will affect business if the UK exits all EU association agreements. But he disagrees that his own company will be hit.

"We are relatively small which makes us agile. If we see something that affects our presence, we will make swift changes. It is different with major British law firms with more than 1000 employees," he said in August to AM's sister site AdvokatWatch.

Investing in technology

The study also finds that European law firms are anticipating increasing workloads and are therefore hiring more lawyers. However, more than 20 respondents say they plan to invest in legal software and new technology.

Christoph Torwegge, partner at Hamburg-based law firm Osborne Clarke, says the pro bono work they offered regarding Brexit has now turned into paid-for advice.

"Regulatory teams were naturally first to receive requests for paid Brexit work. However, my team has provided advice relating to supply chain issues and general corporate, banking and finance work. For example investments funds have asked us if they can still invest in Great Britain post-Brexit if their prospectus specifies they can only invest in EU member states," Torwegge says in an interview with Thomson Reuters.

English Edit: Lisa Castey Hall Nielsen

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