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Brexit -- a Boon for Law Firms?

June 23, 2016, 10:13 PM

There were storms and flash floods across Britain on Thursday as voters tramped to the polls to decide whether to remain in the European Union.

In recent days, analysts have predicted the so called ‘Brexit’ vote will be a tight race.

To make sense of what’s happening, Big Law Business checked in with the British lawyer Christian Leathley, of U.K.-based law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, who happened to be stuck in traffic leaving John F. Kennedy Airport in New York where he lives.

For months, Leathley has been studying the implications of a ‘Brexit’ and believes a vote to exit likely would cause political upheaval and create great uncertainty in Britain. On the other hand, it would likely create a boon for law firms.

“I suspect there would be a tremendous increase in work if there was a leave because everyone’s going to try and figure it out,” he said. “There’ll be a lot of phone calls, briefing notes. We already have a briefing note prepared.”

At 32 pages, the briefing note addresses everything from how Brexit would affect the national budget to employment concerns for companies with U.K. operations.

One downside for law firms is that corporate merger and acquisition work would likely grind to a halt. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported on several deals threatened by an exit vote.

Leathley acknowledged that trying to predict what would happen in the event of an exit has been nearly impossible. He did offer his own prediction on how the vote would turn out.

“I’ll tell you one thing as an Englishman,” said Leathley. “It rained a lot in the U.K. today and if there’s one thing that history tells us it’s that old folks don’t go out to vote when it rains.”

He added that most of the ‘old folks’ are probably ones who would vote to exit the European Union while younger Britains lean toward remain in the E.U.

Said Leathley, “If I was a betting man, I’d say it’ll be a remain, but it’ll be knife’s edge. But I’m not a betting man.”