People are quick to point to financial services as London’s speciality. The city (and especially The City) are major banking hubs, with international businesses using London as a staging post for doing business in Europe.
Financial services are not the only specialism bringing the world’s businesses to the UK, though. Older, and possibly more stable, than this incarnation of the financial sector is London’s reputation as a home for legal expertise.
Though other major cities like New York and Singapore have thriving legal sectors, London is still renowned as a place to go for legal advice and counsel. In part this is because of the thriving financial services industry: the finance sector requires legal support, so there is an infrastructure to train, support and most importantly employ you if you’re a commercial lawyer with an eye on international markets.
Lawyers in London have been providing advice for world businesses trading in the UK or beyond in Europe for many years. An initial contact to provide contractual advice on a financial transaction in the UK market can turn into a long running relationship providing advice and dispute resolution over the years.
One of the things that makes this possible is the UK’s openness: to Europe on one side and the rest of the world on the other. It’s a gateway between the world’s big economies and the European Union, and if anything happens that threatens to close that gateway it threatens the collapse of both the Financial Sector and the Legal framework that’s allowed it to thrive. Unfortunately, the vote to leave the European Union has put question marks over Britain’s legal and financial relationship with Europe.
If businesses can’t use the UK as a convenient entry point to Europe, the Financial Sector will find itself starved of clients and shrinking. The law firms that support it will also find themselves suffering, and London may no longer be able to claim a place on the world stage as a centre of legal expertise.
That said, Lord Neuburger, President of the Supreme Court, has painted an optimistic picture in which being independent of EU legislation allows British law to more quickly adapt to the changing world, and that this would maintain Britain’s place at the top of the table for legal services, especially “dispute resolution”. It’s by separating its reputation from the financial industry and offering expert legal advice to help mediate between companies that British Law will keep its place on the world stage.