Plans to review regulation of the legal services market should be put on hold in the wake of the Brexit referendum, the Law Society of England and Wales chief executive Catherine Dixon said today as she gave evidence to the House of Commons Justice Select Committee.
She told MPs that the solicitor profession is ready to help tackle the challenges thrown up by Brexit by supporting clients and the public during this period of ‘unprecedented change’. However, given the legal complexities arising from any withdrawal from the EU and the significant implications for the legal profession, she warned now is not the time to review legal service regulation.
’The total value of legal services to the economy each year is £25.7bn. Net exports of legal services were £3.6bn in 2014. This is a huge success story for the economy and jobs and for the status of England and Wales as the jurisdiction of choice and a global legal centre. However, an independent economic report has shown that although Brexit may lead to increased legal work in the short term, over a longer period, legal services could be adversely affected. Therefore, any review of legal services regulation which will create additional uncertainty should be put on hold.
’We know that Brexit heralds a period of unprecedented change for the country. The Law Society and its members have a vital role to play providing expert counsel and support. We need to ensure that England and Wales remains the global jurisdiction of choice. We are also determined to ensure that there is continued single market access and that solicitors retain the ability to practice across the EU.
‘And we are urging the government to retain our financial services passporting arrangements, mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments as well as extradition arrangements, including the European Arrest Warrant which helps to ensure that the interests of justice are served and that the public are protected. This is a time to work together in the national interest.’
The government had said it planned to review legal services regulation – a plan confirmed by chancellor George Osborne in the Budget in March.
But earlier Catherine Dixon had told MPs: “The current system is broadly effective. It would be the wrong time given the outcome of the referendum to undertake a full review of legal services.
‘Given the public and the legal profession will be going through a period of unprecedented change, I would question whether now is the right time’