According to the recently released Annual Statistical report from The Law Society, the number of trainees in England and Wales rose by almost 5 per cent in 2015/16, with 5,728 new trainees registered. This figure represents an increase of 272 from the previous year’s 5,457.
The report highlights that this is the first time since 2007/08 that the number of training contracts has risen two years in a row. It is the highest number of new trainees in a year since 2008/09, the year of the credit crunch, when the number of training contracts reached an all-time high.
The reason for the slump in 2008/9 is obvious, with the global economic recession causing a huge drop in business transactions worldwide. Whilst the report is chiefly an exercise in mathematics and light on opinion, this recent rise must reflect the growing confidence in the UK economy during the period.
However, next year’s figures will be truly revealing and I suspect we might see yet another significant rise in the figures as the impact of the UK’s Brexit decision starts to take effect – there will be a lot of legal work in the next two years as contracts are un-picked, re-negotiated or cancelled.
We provide a range of support services, including digital dictation and transcription services to a large number of law firms and have been getting busier and busier.
I suspect the surge in business we are enjoying is more to do with the growing acceptance that outsourcing delivers greater efficiency and productivity gains, than a direct correlation to any rise in work for our law firm clients.
Interestingly, the regular customer service conservations we have with our clients offer us a revealing insight into the UK legal sector, which helps shape the future of our service and lets us know what many in the sector are thinking.
It might always be personal opinion of the solicitors and practice managers we regularly interact with, rather than public statements, but the feeling is we will have a soft-Brexit that will enable the UK to continue to work with European customers, which will keep the transactions flowing.
It is worth remembering that the majority of lawyers in the UK wanted Britain to stay in the European Union, according to a survey in May last year, with 57% in favour of remaining and only 35% favouring Brexit – the rest were undecided.
As a practicing solicitor, it is hard to believe the level of legal work will drop in the next two years in the run-up to our exit from the EU – what happens after that is anyone’s informed guess, but there is little consensus.
Interestingly, The Law Society of England and Wales has called on the government to negotiate access for UK lawyers to practise law, base themselves in the EU and have rights of audience and legal professional privilege in EU courts, as some fear the post-Brexit legal landscape may cause problems for UK-based law firms.
The questions to the government follow news in May from the Solicitors Journal that the number of UK solicitors joining the roll in Ireland has soared by 600% year-on-year, with 270 UK solicitors admitted to the Irish roll in the first 5 months of this year. In the same period last year, the figure was just 45.
Of course, there is a great suspicion that post-Brexit there may well be a drop in activity for UK law firms, but as with everything Brexit-related, the word that captures the mood is ‘uncertainty’.
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