12 March 2019 at 19:49 BST

Independent UK law firms unprepared for Brexit

As the UK votes, the independent legal sector is reticent to prepare for Brexit, which reflects UK-centric business profile says research.

Evgeny Gromov

There is ‘overwhelming inaction’ on the part of independent law firms to prepare for Brexit, according to a Bellwether research paper, ‘The Luxury of Uncertainty: Inaction in the face of Brexit’ published by LexisNexis UK. This is despite a large proportion of firms believing that leaving the European Union will significantly impact their business in the future.

UK-centric concern

Less than 1 in 10 solicitors surveyed have made any contingency plans for Brexit, with a further 2 in 10 planning to in the next year or so. At the same time, 47 per cent of solicitors are worried about the political and economic instability of Brexit and the threat it will pose to their business. The report suggests this attitude appears to stem from the fact that most of the work handled by the legal sector is UK-centric. Some 95 per cent of the work handled by the UK solicitors surveyed originates domestically, with only 1 in 5 having any legal involvement outside the country. Also, 72 per cent of solicitors surveyed say that their firm actively embraces change, and over a quarter think that Brexit will be an opportunity for their firms, rather than a challenge, when it finally takes place. While 91 per cent of respondents are confident about the future, 78 per cent believe there may be rough times ahead they but are confident about their ability to react and adapt.

Reticence and patience

Jon Whittle, market development director at LexisNexis UK commented ‘clearly, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit is a key factor in lawyers’ reticence to take concrete preparatory measures. It is of course understandable as there is little clarity on what the future will look like. There is frustration among lawyers about not knowing what will happen down the line, however the industry isn’t complacent – instead, it seems that the mental bandwidth of those involved is overwhelmed by the industry specific challenges – ones they have been struggling to deal with for years already and are still significant today. Mr Whittle added,  ‘while concerned about the macro economic impact of Brexit and mindful of the future repercussions on their own business, independent lawyers have taken a ‘wait and watch’ approach on the basis that their business is primarily UK-centric. Patience is indeed a virtue, but there is a business rationale for having Brexit contingency plans in place to at least limit unnecessary blows to the business in the long run. Brexit isn’t a momentary event, it will unfold through the transition period.’ The full report can be found here.


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