Post-Brexit Legal English Implications For Legal Professionals in Vienna

 In Business English

Legal professionals in Vienna have become accustomed to working seamlessly with UK courts. However, in the first six months since Britain’s official departure from the EU, watchful lawyers have had a glimpse into a future that harbours potential banana skins.

English courts became completely independent of EU directives on the 1st  January 2021 following a 12-month transition period.

With UK judges given the license to interpret cases in relation to legislation that applies to England & Wales rather than the EU, legal professionals in Vienna should expect to be confronted with legal English terms that are unfamiliar to you.

Section 6 of the Withdrawal Act enables the Supreme Court in the UK to depart from retained EU case law in circumstances where previous English law already sets a precedent.

Whilst wholesale amendments are unlikely, UK courts have already strayed from European directives in cases that fall outside ‘retained law.’ Judges in the Supreme Court in London, for example, chose to adopt legacy legislature that exists in English law over EU laws in the case Lipton & Anr v BA City Flyer Ltd.

Legal fields that are most likely to feel the greatest impact of Brexit is commercial law, employment, law, and contract law. We will discuss some of the potential changes in this article.

For some legal professions in the EU, legal privileges in England will also be cancelled. Legal professionals in Vienna, on the other hand, avoid these additional complications – for now at least.


Legal Privilege in England

Since the UK joined the European Union in 1975, legal professionals in Europe have enjoyed legal privileges in UK courts. The same is true for lawyers practising in the UK attending European courts.

Moreover, the question of jurisdiction and enforcement has not been an issue. Judgements in the UK could easily be enforced in Europe and vice versa.

Brexit has thrown more than a smattering of doubt over whether claims involving EU members will be more beneficial in the UK.

Until now, there was empirical evidence to suggest legal professionals preferred the UK court system over the judicial system in their own nation.

Now, the elasticity between EU and UK lawmakers has snapped, the legal landscape could change dramatically. The question has been raised whether jurisdiction and enforcement in the post-Brexit era will be “an impending disaster.

British lawmakers have already constructed a barrier. Legal professionals with qualifications from a European institution will no longer have professional privileges in UK courts.

One of the few exceptions are lawyers in Austria. The Law Society of England and Wales have removed privileges under their national law for other EU members including Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Lawyers from excluded nations will be treated in the same way as lawyers from other ‘third countries’ as articulated in the case of Akzo Nobel:

“[There is] no adequate basis for the mutual recognition of legal qualifications and professional ethical obligations to which lawyers are subject in the exercise of their profession.”For the time being, professional privileges for qualified lawyers in Vienna will be permitted if the relevant application is lodged with the court.


How Legal English Impacts International Law

Language naturally plays a key role in the political and practical implications of international law. Legal English is currently the lingua franca for international communication.

The UK’s decision to leave the EU may persuade EU courts to adopt a new lingua franca. Jean-Claude Juncker has already claimed that English is losing importance in Europe.

However, English remains the dominant language throughout Europe and the world. The overall number of EU citizens who can speak English is around 44%.

Whilst legal frameworks may be tweaked here and there, overhauling a common language in legal environments would prove problematic and overwhelming.

For the time being, it is more likely for legal professionals in Europe to expand their vocabulary with legal English terms as opposed to a new common language such as French or German – although admittedly, the latter would clearly be more beneficial for law practitioners in Vienna.

The basic tenet for retaining English as the lingua franca is that the majority of international legal transactions are conveyed in English. This naturally implies that international litigation and legal practice worldwide will retain the so-called ‘Anglo-internationalisation of business’.


Jurisdiction and Enforcement Post-Brexit

The early exchanges between London and Brussels were to put a post-Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) in place. The TCA will regulate the future relationship between the UK and mainland Europe and outline the approach to future negotiations.

Oddly, the TCA left out provisions of how to handle cross-border disputes in civil litigation processes. Parties that intend to continue conducting international business between the UK and the EU need to carefully consider the dispute resolution mechanisms and jurisdiction clauses in their contracts.

Judgements given under the jurisdiction of the English legal system could be enforced in the EU and vice versa but will no longer enjoy the benefits of direct recognition and enforcement offers by the Recast Brussels Regulation.

Arbitration will not be affected by Brexit. Litigation for arbitrators falls under international laws governed by the New York convention. Due to the complex technical nature of some commercial disputes, arbitration is often the preferred choice.

The UK is also seeking recognition under the Lugano Convention which will make matters around jurisdiction and enforcement simpler. At the time of writing, EU decision-makers have not reached a decision on whether to accept the UK application.

In the absence of the Lugano Convention, there will be no uniform system. Each case would depend upon the national laws of the country bringing the claim to court.

Whilst English law has installed Brexit statutory instruments legal professionals in the EU should refer to, ongoing negotiations between London and Brussels will influence an ever-increasing landscape for the foreseeable future.


Contract Law and Legal English

Companies and legal professionals in Vienna should consider territorial provisions when drawing up contracts between UK-EU parties. Enforcing judgements for distribution agreements, joint venture agreements, licensing and franchises will all be impacted by jurisdiction.

Brexit has prompted businesses and their legal teams to consider the options of their preferred dispute resolution strategy. Recent trends suggest the familiarity with arbitration is the preferred strategy for resolving disputes.

Moving forward this may change if UK legislation appears more favourable over EU directives and vice versa.

Most legal professionals do not expect Brexit to have a significant impact on the popularity of English courts, but if the English legal system is the specified choice, lawyers in Vienna should be familiar with legal English terms and exceptions to the rules.

As things stand, anecdotal evidence indicated the UK courts offer more advantages to commercial parties where there is no issue with enforcement.

However, a contractual provision stipulating English law as the governing system would exclude EU directives if UK courts decide to adopt existing case law that is applicable to England & Wales and not the EU.

This could lead to a different outcome that legal professionals may anticipate unless you’re familiar with historical case law in the UK. English law could even change the nature of a contract to the point that obligations are impossible to perform.


Legal English for Commercial Law Professionals

When people start throwing money at a changing situation, you should take it seriously. The UK’s leading law firms specialising in commercial law are spending big on strategic planning.

In 2020, 42% of commercial law firms in the UK spent significantly more on international commerce than the global average of 35%.

Moreover, almost twice as many UK-based companies intend to increase spending on legal relationships on the international landscape.

Savvy commercial law firms have been hammering out briefing documents and hosting seminars underlining the potential impact and opportunities in the wake of Brexit.

According to employment experts, law firms in the UK and across Europe are most interested in testing candidates on their commercial awareness.

Law recruiters are keen to test candidates on their awareness of topical news – including your capacity to recognise news stories and events that will impact the legal environment for law firms and their clients.

For example, VAT is a slippery slope in waiting. Import and export laws between Britain and EU members pile up the administrative burden and has already caused delays in delivery and backlogs in orders.

Legal experts are expecting a deluge of VAT claims caused by complications. Even if legal firms take the option to reach out to foreign partners with tax residency, there is no guarantee the tax representative will be familiar with transactions carried out under new VAT laws.

Potential language barriers complicate matters when legal teams on either side of the English Channel are trying to put a joint case together. Legal professionals in Vienna can help smooth the process by understanding the meaning of legal English.


Employment and Immigration Law Post-Brexit

Prior to Brexit, EU nationals enjoyed free movement which afforded them the right to live and work in the UK. Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement employment and immigration laws can be addressed.

To date, the UK government has promised not to limit employment rights for EU members. The commitment includes fundamental rights at work, health and safety standards, fair working conditions, employment standards, information and consultation rights rest periods and breaks.

The agreement restricts the UK’s capacity to making ringing changes to employment laws that affect immigrants, but it is also acknowledged that there is not a complete prohibition.

One area legal professionals representing EU members should look out for are changes that impact agency workers and flexible working hours. Rumour has it that the new Employment Bill gives employers the option to make flexible working the default practice.

In most cases, flexible workers will be offered a lower salary to offset what they save by not having to commute or purchase lunch options.

It has been noted that the government plans to install a points-based immigration policy and minimum salary thresholds.


Legal English Lessons in Vienna

The uncertainty around Brexit is likely to be a huge factor in the legal profession. With any number of imminent changes on the horizon, legal planning becomes a minefield that cannot be navigated.

For legal professionals to make the right choice for their clients, the key will be to attain knowledge of the latest changes in the English legal system and judgements passed by UK courts that divert from EU directives.

Our legal English courses in Vienna may assist you with this. Our experienced teachers are UK natives who will be able to help you master your pronunciation and understand legal English terms that you are not familiar with.

Constructing a case with UK partners will also be easier if you have an understanding of legal English and able to interpret new regulations, recitals and amended principles that have been revised under British laws.

Our native English tutors in Vienna have over 10 years of experience teaching English to legal professionals in Vienna and can customise private lessons to suit your precise needs.

We provide individual coaching to legal professionals working in a wide range of specialist areas including international law, administrative law, contract law, employment law, company law and commercial law, among others.

Whether you already work in the legal field and need a working knowledge of UK law or you have aspirations to find employment with law firms that handle cross-border disputes between the UK and the EU, our legal English courses will help pave the way to success.

For more information about how our native English speakers can help you master legal English, get in touch today and book an appointment for your first coaching session.

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