The Law Society of England and Wales has warned that COVID-19 lockdowns have delayed the full impact of Brexit on the legal sector, according to the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales.
“The process of understanding what Brexit actually means has been slower than it would have been if people had been travelling,” said Marco Cillario, an international policy adviser at the society.
“Some firms have had to make arrangements for their European offices but, when it comes to individual lawyers travelling, we don’t know the full extent of how the end of freedom of movement will impact the sector practically,” he said, adding that it was likely to have a huge impact.
Younger lawyers hardest hit
Jonathan Goldsmith, a Law Society Council member for EU matters, said that younger lawyers were more likely to be affected than those with established practices in Europe.
“The people who are going to lose out are the younger generation, the people who are not based in the country, but who would like to work there, who would like to have a European practice,” he said.
Most of the lawyers who had already settled in Europe “were able to make their own arrangements to ensure that they stayed on without too much problem”, Goldsmith added. He stressed, however, that the position for solicitors based in Britain with a European practice was far less straightforward.
Last month, the society published extensive guidance for solicitors travelling to the EU on business after the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, 2020.
It says that firms should consider immigration requirements, their practising rights depending on the relevant regulatory framework, and taxation and costs, before attempting to work abroad.
The Gazette says that many questions about practising rights in EU countries remain unanswered
In November, the Law Society of Ireland announced that solicitors would not be entitled to Irish practising certificates, unless they practised in Ireland from an establishment in Ireland.
The Gazette says that this thwarted the plans of England and Wales-qualified solicitors, who invested in Irish certificates to protect their EU practising rights.
It adds that the practising rights of solicitors who have qualified in Ireland, but who have not taken out a practising certificate, remain unclear.
In May, France confirmed that UK solicitors based in Paris can continue advising on English and international law in the wake of Brexit as 'foreign legal consultants'. Meanwhile, recent legislative reform in Germany promises to help UK LLPs continue to operate in the country.