In a possible divorce, lawyers are the only surefire winners, and as Britain intervenes through one of the largest, most modest and most complex violations of economic history, the country's top law firms are flourishing.
Brexit, known as Britain's separation from the European Union, is just one of many reasons why the highest gross producers enjoy their best results in a decade. Almost every training area thrives.
Regulatory lawyers imbued with the amazing legal minutia produced by Brexit have recently gone from drudges to rainwater. These lawyers are strategizing with customers for life after Europe's single market, consultations that often end in confusion and anger.
Law firms do not break out of performance data by practice. However, managing partners at the busiest companies said in interviews that their largest customers now spend up to $ 10 million on "remedial actions" in Brexit-related issues, such as restructuring, intellectual property rights, and labor law. Even more work is expected as companies are trying to rewrite hundreds of thousands of contracts of any kind in what has been called "a massive repetition exercise."
"You come to the end of a fiscal year and think that's the next one I'm worried about," said David Patient, managing partner of Travers Smith, who first started working with financial Customers in 1801. "We've been saying it for two or three years now, and we've grown across sectors at around 10 percent."
Last year, the top 100 law firms in the UK brought in £ 24 billion in revenue – equivalent to $ 32 billion – approx. NOK 8 billion more in inflation-adjusted terms than in 2007, before the financial crisis, according to data collected by the lawyer, a monthly British magazine for commercial lawyers and internal advisors.
During the same period, these companies added 21,000 lawyers to their main figures. The additional agencies have increased profits per year. Equity partner, fines in business. These surpluses have increased every year since the Brexit referendum was adopted in 2016, and now the average amount of $ 1.4 million per annum is now average. Partner in the top 10 companies.
Although law firms often thrive in times of uncertainty, few partners expected a recovery of this size. The contrast with the gloomy days that followed the financial crisis in 2008 could not be stronger. Then, lawyers of the most prestigious London firms, the financial district, were worried that their companies, as their largest clients, were filed for bankruptcy, would soon follow their companies.
There were redundancies and freezes, but lawyers also held busy restructuring firms or usurped them through insolvency. More recently, there were windfalls from investigations into allegations of fraud such as Volkswagen's diesel emissions scandal.
Then came June 23, 2016 and the colossal billable-time generator known as Brexit.
"Well, I left the office at 11 o'clock last night," said Susan Bright, a regional administration partner at Hogan Lovells, a recent morning sitting at a conference room at the company's 11th floor. " , sat nearby and smiled with surprising satisfaction, a marathon resurrected his endurance.
"My emails probably show I send emails for 1 or 2 in the morning," he said. "And I'm starting to send emails in 5 or 6 in the morning."
The two lawyers and a handful of colleagues had just completed a Brexit webinar, a sound production for about 150 customers. The clients emailed questions that filled in an inbox displayed on a video screen on a wall.
"If there is no agreement, W.T.O. Members may refuse to acknowledge U.K.'s membership to W.T.O." A question is read with reference to the World Trade Organization. (The W.T.O. is where Britain would negotiate international trade in the case of a non-Brexit.)
"In short," said Aline Doussin, head of the firm's UK trade practice, to a microphone. "U.K. is a member of his own right to W.T.O.
Brexit webinars have spread over the last two years, just one way companies reach a portion of a new up-to-grabs field. Legal 500, a UK customer guide, has even started list top-ten companies in a Brexit category for their ability to minimize risk.
Vying for Brexit's business has helped great law in Britain come across its traditionally reticent approach to self-promotion. A few weeks ago, Eversheds Sutherland, a company with more than 2,800 lawyers worldwide, installed in its lobby a huge video screen that could have been lifted from a hockey arena. It is clearly cycling through smoothly produced slides, including one that trumps its latest financial results: "Announcing a 10% increase in global earnings in 2018."
"Our lobby", Matthew Allen, a senior partner from Eversheds, said during a tour of the company "used to be quiet."
Businesses now have Instagram and Twitter accounts highlighting their Brexit expertise, with links to internal podcasts, white papers, and occasional sales videos.
"Brexit for a number of our customers is a problem they need to solve," says a Linklaters partner, Matthew Keogh, in a video on the company's Brexit site. "And Linklaters is a problem-solving company."
Freshfields, the world's oldest international law firm, has an email address dedicated to Brexit. Fieldfisher runs the Brexit hotline and blog.
Even practice areas not related to Brexit have benefited from it. The voting fee was followed by a drop of more than 10 percent in the British pound, which was a hit for foreign companies considering potential mergers and acquisitions. Suddenly so many British companies as good deals, said Richard Cranfield of Allen & Overy, who has an online "Brexit law microsite".
"There was a timeout in the summer of 2016," he said in a telephone interview, discussing mergers and acquisition activity. "Then came the fall, and I think the uncertainty factor was offset by continued low interest rates and the availability of funding."
The currency fighting has also been good for litigators. The effectiveness of London's legal system has long made it popular with foreigners filing international lawsuits and a cheaper currency has improved the cost of litigation.
"Cases that might not have been brought when sterling was strong were brought," said Nigel Boardman, a partner at Slaughter and May, who has offices in London, Brussels, Hong Kong and Beijing. "Legal costs become a minor share of total expenses, and the rewards are in another currency."
The winners here include newly authorized lawyers. Customer demand has made the employment competitive, which has driven up with start pay. Last year, US-based Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy announced it would skip rivals and pay first-rate $ 190,000. (It's more than beginners to Goldman Sachs.) Almost all major companies in London soon followed.
"Of course they did," said Freddie Lawson of Fox Rodney Search's legal employment firm. "It's a weapon race."
Unlike their customers, law firms do not have to worry about delays in French ports. They also do not sweat new tariffs unless it is on behalf of senior executives who pay for their work.
However, they have been preoccupied with Brexit proofing themselves. With thousands of bank-based bankers expected to move to Europe in the coming years, law firms have opened or expanded offices in financial capitals across the continent. Since the referendum, more than 2,000 British lawyers have joined the Irish Bar – now just a matter of filing an application – so they can continue to practice in EU courts among other privileges.
Thirteen percent of the entire role now consists of British lawyers who have been using since the 2016 vote, said a spokeswoman for the Irish Bar Association.
How long this frenetic era will last is a matter of some twist in Britain. If enough companies move if London loses its team as Europe's financial center, the decline is inevitable.
"What is behind in everyone's heart is that Brexit can be good for short-term lawyers," said Jolyon Maugham, a tax lawyer and anti-Brexit campaigner. "But it's like you're a funeral director at the time of the plague. You're currently busy, but you're a little worried about your business model."