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Nicola Laver

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Solicitors retain right to practice in EU

Solicitors retain right to practice in EU


UK lawyers' right to continue advising EU clients is limited

The UK’s solicitors, barristers and other authorised lawyers can continue advising EU clients on UK and public international law, following the post-Brexit free trade agreement reached at the 11th hour on Christmas Eve. The agreement sets out what the government called “ground-breaking provisions” on legal services which it says will improve the clarity and certainty of market access for UK lawyers. Under its terms, lawyers will be permitted to carry out legal advisory services and legal arbitration, conciliation and mediation services – but this does not extend to acting as arbitrator, conciliator or mediator. However, the rights of solicitors and barristers to continue practicing in the EU will be significantly limited compared to before Brexit. They will, for instance, be subject to any specific restrictions imposed by a member state to register in order to provide legal advice on UK and public international law. This does not mean requalification or admission to that member state’s legal profession. The deal also allows for UK lawyers to establish a branch in a member state through which such lawyers can deliver legal services, subject to conditions.

The Law Society of England and Wales warned that “work has only just begun”; and though legal services are included in the deal, there is “little in the substance at this time to facilitate this vital sector”. President David Greene said the Society was pleased the worst outcome – no deal – has been averted, but he described the deal as “the beginning of a process as we try to find new ways of working in and with the EU”. “Legal services are not only hugely valuable to our national economy”, he added, “but also to our global reputation – worth £5bn to exports – and so for us this cannot be the end of the story but the starting point: and we will be working with national governments, bars and law societies across the EU to improve the framework for the international legal practice of non-EU lawyers, for their joint practice with local lawyers and for international legal co-operation for the benefit of all clients.” The Society said it will also continue calling on the EU to support the UK’s accession to the Lugano Convention so that civil and commercial judgments can be recognised cross-border.

Greene added: “Furthermore, we are urging early determination on data protection adequacy to come on the tailcoats of the deal to ensure data flows between the UK and EU can continue.”