So you are thinking about practising as a solicitor in English law ? What are your options?
Firstly, you need to know that Law degrees conferred by Italian Universities are not recognised in the UK. But if you are a practicing lawyer in Italy, you can apply through the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) managed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), to qualify as an English solicitor in England and Wales.
But is it still worth the effort? What impact, if any, will ‘Brexit’ have on the legal profession?
Personally, I believe that there are great benefits and opportunities as a result of Brexit for Italian lawyers wishing to qualify also as an English solicitor.
And for now nothing has changed. The UK has not yet given notice under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The exit process is going to be long and drawn-out, probably taking years. At best, once ‘Article 50 notice’ is given, the withdrawal process is expected to last two years thereafter or even longer. If, however, in the two-year period no agreement is reached and the period is not extended further, then the UK will cease to be a member of the EU.
Until the above happens, the UK was, and still is, a full member of the EU. All laws and regulations apply to the UK as they did before Brexit. No matter what form the UK comes back in as in the EU (whether as an EEA member, or on a bilateral treaty basis, through the European Free Trade Association (even though this does not cover free movement of people or free trade in services between the UK and the EU), through the WTO, or on a one to one basis), the need for English law specialists remains.
So for the meantime, much the same way as with the membership of the UK in the EU remains at a status quo, so does qualifying and working as an English solicitor.
In fact, I believe that the changes to the legal profession will probably be even slower as people’s lives and professions cannot be disrupted overnight. It follows, in my view, that the QLTS remains a solid and worthwhile investment in your future and for your professional growth and careers.
By taking the QLTS and qualifying in England and Wales, an Italian lawyer becomes more appealing not only as a professional but in the quality of advice and range of services he or she can offer clients. They will also be able to service international clients much more fully.
London, after Brexit, will continue to be a major international financial and legal centre. Being the only common law system in Europe, the English legal system provides another alternative to the choice of law in contracts and more importantly, a neutral ground for dispute resolution, such as in the case of arbitrations and mediations.
Many contracts have nominated English law as the law of the contract and the courts of England as the lex fori. These provisions in contracts remain valid irrespective of Brexit.
Even post Brexit, English law remains the main choice for the choice of law in commercial transactions and in dispute resolution, much the same as English remains the language of global business. And the English legal profession and legal system enjoy, and will continue to enjoy, a very strong reputation internationally.
The demand for dual-qualified lawyers will continue to be in high demand for the foreseeable future. A system of English common law, just like EU law for that matter, cannot be cancelled with a swipe of a pen just because the UK has decided to leave the EU.
The only possible development, I can foresee is that lawyers from the EU seeking admission by virtue of European Directives 2005/36/EC and 98/5/EC will no longer be able to pursue this route. This directive allowed EU lawyers to register themselves with the SRA and after three years of legal activity in the UK, they could have become solicitors without any testing. Now, these lawyers may need to take the QLTS instead. Thus, in my view, the case for the QLTS qualification becomes even stronger following Brexit.
To finish off, I just wanted to mention the immigration of Italian lawyers to the UK. At present, anyone who is from the EU is entitled to move, live and work in the UK. Until the exit agreement is actually in place and the UK actually leaves the EU, this aspect (and free movement of persons) remains unchanged.
Following Brexit, the only effect may be that EU candidates (including Italian lawyers) will be competing with non-EU candidates. However, coming into the selection process as a dual-qualified European lawyer definitely has its advantages.
Therefore, it follows that whether the UK is a member of the EU or not has no effect. The QLTS remains a viable and attractive career option.
In the next few weeks, we will be presenting our new QLTS study programme. In the meantime, if you wish to join our mailing list or have any questions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and visit our website by clicking here Brexit and the Legal Profession
(c) Sofia Parastatidou 2016 (All rights reserved). (Image from marketvoice.com)