There are few buildings in the City that I find as powerful as the Old Bailey.
Its Lady Justice, who clutches the sword of retribution in her right hand and the scales of justice in her left, is an integral part of the City’s skyline.
Besides being an iconic landmark, it also represents one of the finest legal systems in world. A legal system that I am proud to have been part of for the last 30 years.
Having started my career as a lawyer here in the City, I have seen how much the sector has flourished. Firms have been at the forefront of technological advances, enabling them to serve their clients more efficiently.
It’s a sector that employs around 314,000 people – two thirds based outside London – and last year contributed £25.7bn to the economy.
Last week, we hosted a dinner for the lord chief justice of England and Wales, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice, David Lidington.
Discussions at the dinner naturally led to the topic of Brexit, and the guests of honour were vehement in their defence of the UK’s legal sector as negotiations enter their initial stages. Just one month into his new role, the justice secretary suggested that firms choosing the UK would have a global guarantee of judicial excellence and integrity.
As we prepare to leave the European Union, many questions are raised around the impact on our legal system. Will the services our firms provide for European clients still comply with the relevant frameworks? Will the UK continue to play an integral role in guiding the international legal agenda?
Most pressing for the UK, however, is certain to be the Great Repeal Bill – by far one of the largest legislative processes ever undertaken.
In a recent report on how the government should approach the Great Repeal Bill, the International Regulatory Strategy Group (IRSG) suggests simplicity will be key.
Instead of a convoluted and overly detailed method, it advocates a simple, principles-based approach to adopting EU law. This would remove the need to make extensive line-by-line amendments to the law, saving important time and resources.
The report, “Great Repeal Bill: Domesticating EU Law”, also outlines eight guiding principles designed to ensure continuity and certainty of law and reduce the risk of unintended consequences.
Some of the principles include: UK law rights and obligations to continue on exit day; UK courts to take a purposive approach to interpreting the legal standing; and that exclusions from the scope of domestication will be made expressly.
For me personally, the dinner was a reminder of why I chose a career in law. I have been privileged to work alongside some of the finest legal talent in the world, in a country whose law is the system and jurisdiction of choice for commercial contracts the world over.
It was also an opportunity to hear that our government representatives understand just how important this sector is to our country, and also to the rest of Europe.
I am confident that it will continue to thrive in the near and distant future.