International Changes in the Legal Arena

Government Shutdown

In the United States, the longest government shutdown in US history continues, and experts say that there may be some unintended consequences. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is experiencing delays in the reviews currently filed and can expect a severe backlog of reviews when the Government shutdown ends, especially as their scope has recently increased under legislation. Some of the deals that the CFIUS is supposed to review may not go forward if the government shutdown continues, which will have a serious effect on already low foreign direct investment in the US. [McQueen, Government Shutdown Holds Up CFIUS)

Brexit

In the U.K., law firms are preparing for the country’s departure from the European Union by admitting many solicitors to the Irish roll and ensuring their lawyers are dual qualified, as lawyers will no longer be able to practice English law in continuing European Union countries. [Bennett, What Top Law Firms in the UK Are Doing]

The Big Four Push

The Big Four Accounting Firms are expanding and strengthening their presence in Asian legal markets, as the global growth of legal services lawyer head count in the Asia-Pacific region is 30%. Most recently, KPMG has launched a law firm in Hong Kong called SF Lawyers with nine highly-qualified lawyers and aims to expand to twenty lawyers by the end of the year. [Kang, Big Four’s KPMG Opens Hong Kong Law Firm] The KPMG launch in Hong Kong is a part of the company’s aim to double the size of their legal services arm. The push into legal services by the Big Four Accounting Firms has been a concerning move for many law firms, despite the claim by KPMG that they are, “not trying to build a law firm within an accounting firm.” [Nick Roome, KPMG U.K. Legal Services Head] The legal services offered by the Big Four Accounting Firms include services in business structures transactions; tax disputes and investigations; employment and immigration; and “new law” and global, which handles filing and regulatory process work for clients. [Nair, KPMG Aims to Double Size of Its Legal Services Arm] This development in the legal arena offers a unique opportunity for international business lawyers.

Challenges & Opportunities

Around the world, the legal climate is changing. In the United States and the U.K., politics are forcing law firms and individual lawyers to prepare and adapt to change. The Big Four Accounting Firms are causing changes around the world as they are strengthening their legal services arm. While these changes in the legal climate create many challenges for law firms and individual lawyers, they also present unique opportunities.

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