London solicitors look to dual qualify as New York attorneys amid Brexit chaos

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Leaving Europe could be bad news for status of English law


One of the biggest providers of tuition for the New York Bar exam has reported a surge in interest among UK solicitors since Britain voted to leave the European Union, Legal Cheek can reveal.

In less than two weeks Barbri’s London office has had over 50 inquiries from trainees and junior lawyers at the big corporate law firms in the capital as they scramble for options amid the Brexit chaos.

So far, Ireland has been the most talked about jurisdiction for English lawyers to re-qualify into as they bid to adapt to life as future non-EU citizens. Last week Ireland’s Law Society confirmed that it had fielded over 40 queries from nervous English solicitors in the wake of the Brexit vote.

The thinking behind such a move is that it will provide a backdoor into the continental European market. But some, such as ‘Black Swan’ author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, have speculated that the UK’s trading future may lie west.

This sentiment is presumably driving interest in the New York legal qualification. Barbri International managing director Sarah Hutchinson says that the queries she and her team have fielded relate to “fears about the long term jobs prospects of operating in a more isolated environment”.

Hutchinson adds that she expects many to take up the six month and new ten month New York Bar home study courses that Barbri runs in London, continuing:

The quality of these individuals is very high, and with most aged under 30 they view dual qualification as giving them options at an uncertain time.

The news comes as US law firms eye the UK capital ever more covetously, with a host of big names such as White & Case, Latham & Watkins and Shearman & Sterling all increasing their UK training contract numbers in recent years. Note that in these cases trainees qualify as English solicitors, with some later going on to take dual New York qualification. Meanwhile, a US corporate lawyer pay war has spilled over into London — and is seeing some newly qualified solicitors at US firms’ offices in the capital earn a dollar-tied figure of between £124-£135,000. This is making American firms more attractive to students than the traditional English magic circle.

With the law of England & Wales having vied for many years with New York law for the unofficial title of the world’s preferred jurisdiction, the anxiety now is that a weakened London will allow the Americans to, as the Vote Leave campaign might have put it, “take control”.