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01 September 2016

Whatever your views on the rightness of decision, we must now move on from the polarised pre-referendum debate and accept that Britain has, however marginally, voted to leave the EU.

But alongside Brexit comes an enormous number of challenges and uncertainties, not least for the UK's legal sector, which, it is fair to say, will never be quite the same again. In fact, there are so many implications for the UK's legal sector, from intellectual property, data protection and trademark law, to litigation, employment law, commercial law, environmental law and contracts that it is in some ways difficult to know where to begin.

The good news is that now is not the time for panic but for sober consideration. Article 50 is yet to be invoked and Brexit negotiations are still only at the rough planning state – the most UK's lawyers can do is to keep a cool head and help steady the ship so that the process is as smooth and beneficial as possible. Who knows, perhaps we may even decide to remain subject to EU Treaties, while Directives are likely to remain valid until repealed or superseded. Let's face it, the UK Government is unlikely to want to repeal and replace the majority of EU legislation.

Of course, there will come a time when lines must be laid down, but right now there is no harm in feeling optimistic about what a post-Brexit legal sector might look like. Yes, there is no certainty and, yes, with the loss of EU membership and, potentially, the framework provided by its top-down hierarchy of Treaties, Regulations, Directives, Commission Decisions and Court of Justice case law, we may have many voids to fill and bureaucratic hurdles to overcome over the next decade. However, the reassuring truth is that the British legal system has long been one of the world's best and the history that underpins it is not about to suddenly disappear, and this includes the legal impact of our more than thirty years of EU membership.

It may not currently feel like we are about to enter a brave new world, but we can at least allow ourselves some sense of excitement that we might be about to move forward with purpose and positivity by making the most of our age-old traditions while also seizing the opportunity to embrace innovation, whether it is online courts or democratic online legal platforms, of which Oratto is just one.

Undoubtedly, once Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked many of the same newspapers that decried the EU will seek to scare the public with shock headlines of administrative Armageddon, but the fact is that by taking stock and planning as carefully as possible, the UK's lawmakers and lawyers can ensure that we are prepared to enter a new legal environment.

It is up to us – that is, everyone with an interest in the legal profession – to take the lead on the crucial questions so that we can tackle all the most important challenges with knowledge and with confidence. It does not matter how opposed you were to Brexit in the first place – now is an opportunity for all our finest and most enthusiastic minds to come to together to ensure the legal impact of Brexit does not undermine what remains of perhaps the world's greatest and fairest legal system.

Of course, holding uncertainty and managing change present enormous challenges – as much psychological as logistical – but with the right groundswell of action there can be little doubt that as a profession the UK's lawyers are more than capable of meeting the challenge. Yes, it will require flexibility, open-mindedness and a willingness to listen, but we must see the challenges presented by Brexit as an opportunity to define a new era – and who wouldn't want to be part of that?


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25 August 2016

It seems that client generation websites are multiplying faster than a boat full of rabbit sailors enjoying a period of extended shore leave. Notwithstanding the significant doubt surrounding whether leporine society actually boasts a merchant navy, it does seem that these types of websites are launching with greater regularity. They all promise to attract pretty much the same thing: sensible clients with the ability to pay for legal services.

The problem these sites are facing in persuading lawyers aboard in significant numbers, however, is that previous versions have been spectacularly unsuccessful. Unless the current models represent a significant departure from the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ platforms of the past, they too are heading for the dustbin.

25 August 2016

Someone once said that being a salesman is either the easiest and best paid job ever or the hardest and worst paid job in the world. Whichever category you find yourself in depends, in part, on your customer. And if your customer is a lawyer, then you need to be prepared for regular periods of bread and dripping.

Let’s face it, selling anything into the legal profession is not for beginners. It is a task which Sisyphus would have regarded as thankless. Solicitors are programmed to be sceptical and immune to the grand claims of sales people. Every day legal practices are bombarded with emails and telephone calls from people trying to sell them everything from photocopy paper to the latest software innovation.

25 August 2016

Update on apprenticeships  

The government has recently confirmed that the apprenticeship levy will be implemented from April 2017 as originally proposed.

04 August 2016

The only certainty following the referendum is that exiting the EU will substantially alter the legal landscape from a recovery and insolvency viewpoint.

Over the past few years the various EU members have been working hard to eradicate or minimise inconsistencies between the individual regulations which have led not only to confusion but also to “forum shopping” by those facing insolvency. The idea is to provide a level playing field so that businesses in particular know where they stand should a company in another country get into trouble.

The reciprocity that has been established will need to be addressed in some manner to prevent conflicts arising between jurisdictions. The Association of Business Recovery Professionals (R3) has stated that it will be working closely with experts to understand the implications of leaving the EU and shall voice any concerns to the government.

It is a key aspect of due diligence, for potential  trading partners, that the ability to pursue debt is considered and that, at the outset of the contract or engagement, the "what if" scenario of subsequent insolvency is considered.

It remains to be seen what changes will be brought into our insolvency legislation to compensate for the withdrawal from the EU to address this.


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