What will the new government's programme mean for the legal sector?
By Charlie Britten
31 Dec 2019
The legal sector, like any other, does not want to be caught off guard when it comes to new government initiatives. A general election offers a good opportunity to study what legal futures might emerge based on the different manifestos, but only when the result is known can there be a clear focus on what comes next.
As well as the uncertainty leading up to an election, a hung parliament can lead to plans being compromised or dropped, as they were in the coalition deal in 2010 or in the confidence-and-supply arrangement between the Conservatives and the DUP in 2017. However, with a majority of 80 the government will have little problem getting its programme through this time.
The legislation outlined in the Queen's Speech covers many areas, but lawyers may consider the following in particular:
- Immigration law
- Housing law
- Criminal law and sentencing
What will ‘getting Brexit done’ mean?
The legal ramifications of Brexit are numerous:
- Immigration law, not least the issue of freedom of movement that sits at the heart of the debate about whether the UK should have a ‘soft Brexit’ by remaining in the single market, of which this freedom is a key component.
- The ending of the role of the European Court of Justice in making UK law
- The removal of various treaty-based legal obligations on the UK.
Although the withdrawal will see an initial cut and paste of all the legislation the UK has absorbed since joining the then EEC in 1972, the UK will soon be able to change any of these as and when it sees fit, except where it may retain some rules as part of a future trade deal with the EU.
Ultimately, the key take-home is that the parliamentary log-jam faced by the government that prevented it passing a withdrawal deal has been removed by the election result and The UK’s EU membership will end in the new year.
How will immigration law change?
The first clear change in the law arising from Brexit will be the end of the freedom of movement regulations that arise from being members of the European Single Market.
- In its place will be a new points-based system, similar to that used by Australia, which will enable the government to decide who can enter the UK based on their skills.
- This could mean immigration lawyers are dealing with a different buyer persona in their marketing efforts, since they will deal with more EU citizens having difficulties they would not have previously encountered
- There may also be an increased number of applicants from countries elsewhere in the world.
How will housing law change?
The government has pledged to act in two areas on housing, with increased legal protection for tenants and also greater housing safety.
Anyone familiar with the issues of tenants’ rights will know there has already been much legislation in this area in recent years, from the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme to the stipulation that landlords cannot end a tenancy without good reason.
- Further legislation will continue this direction of travel, which will strengthen the hand of tenants bringing cases. Indeed, law firms representing landlords may find they have a more challenging task to win cases.
- Safety laws are likely to be overhauled when the second half of the report into the Grenfell Tower tragedy is published
- The legislative response to Grenfell could mean a very busy time for housing lawyers, both in upholding safety and also defending local authorities and others who face legal action for alleged failures to uphold their statutory duties
What will happen to criminal law and sentencing?
The Conservative manifesto promised tougher sentences for serious offenders and fewer early releases, a pledge the party doubled down on following the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack.
Criminal defence lawyers will have much to consider here, as they could face a tougher task in securing lenient sentences for their clients. Prosecution lawyers, however, might enjoy more success in pushing for stiff punishments.
How BeUniqueness can help in a changing legal scene
As laws change, so solicitors and barristers face new challenges, but also opportunities. The best way to maximise these is through having focused digital marketing campaigns aimed at the buyer personas that will be most prominent when new laws come into place.
With the right combination of legal content marketing, law firm PR and a well-crafted overall strategy, your firm can position itself as the best-placed to help your potential clients as they face new legal challenges.