The Law Society attended a roundtable event at the French Ambassador’s Residence in London on 15 April 2019

french ambassador meeting

International Adviser Alex Storer, and EU Policy Adviser Rita Giannini, represented the Law Society of England and Wales (‘the Law Society’) at a roundtable event hosted at the French Ambassador’s Residence in London on 15 April 2019 in conjunction with the Board meeting of the Conseil des Notariats de l’Union Européenne (CNUE).

Participants discussed the state of play and the consequences of Brexit for the legal profession and reiterated the importance of strong bilateral relations between legal professionals in France and the UK as we await outcome of the Brexit process.

It is crucial for the future of our profession to maintain a close and mutually beneficial relationship between the UK and France. As the fifth largest global economy and the second largest economy in the Eurozone, France is a key market for UK legal services. The Law Society welcomed recent French legislation grandfathering the rights of UK lawyers and law firms established in France, and the introduction of a ’Foreign Legal Consultant’ status.

The Law Society has a strong relationship with the French Conseil National des Barreaux, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding in April 2016.  As of 2018 there were more than two hundred and fifty solicitors in France who had registered with the Law Society, mainly based in Paris.  Seventy-five UK law firms had offices in France employing local lawyers and training more than three hundred French trainees. More than one hundred and twenty French avocats were registered in England and Wales, with most large international French law firms operating an office in London.

Law Society representatives outlined the Society’s work analysing the potential consequences of Brexit for lawyers and their clients in civil justice, family law and private client work, and proposed solutions. You can find more information about this work on our website. The Law Society is working with a variety of stakeholders in Brussels, including representatives of member states, European bars and law societies, and the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE).

Since the EU referendum, the Law Society has highlighted some priorities for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU: Continued mutual access for solicitors to practise law and base themselves in the UK and EU member states; rights of audience in EU courts; preserving legal professional privilege; civil and family justice co-operation, including mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments advocating UK accession to the Lugano Convention; respecting choice of jurisdiction clauses in the UK and EU; maintaining collaboration in policing, security and criminal justice; and ensuring that legal certainty is maintained throughout the process of withdrawal, including transitional arrangements.

The Law Society’s International Department and Brussels Office are available to help with direct queries regarding lawyers’ practice rights and regulatory matters (see our guidance notes). The roundtable was well attended, and the Law Society looks forward to engaging further with our colleagues in France on future legal cooperation between the UK and France.