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Will Brexit cause an increase in litigation?

The UK’s exit from the EU will undoubtedly create market uncertainty for some businesses, which in turn will lead to review, reflection and in some cases a change of heart on existing and future contractual commitments. More contract disputes are therefore inevitable as the playing field changes.

The substantial move in recent years towards making the civil court system in England and Wales self-funding, makes litigation a potentially expensive and risky option for those disputes. Parties may be reluctant to embark on or continue with litigation and instead look for quicker and more commercially acceptable solutions.

Neil Warwick, head of EU and Competition at Square One Law, said: “Disputes lawyers have grown used to relying on a number of key EU regulations on jurisdiction, governing law, service of legal proceedings and enforcement. They create relative certainty about where disputes will be heard and what law will be applied to them. Lawyers will be continuing to abide by the current set of rules however eventually a number of provisions may be repealed or significantly altered during the exit negotiations. Even litigation which appears to be only confined to the UK could be affected by these changes.”

Gillian Tatt, head of the litigation team at Square One Law continues:

“The important thing for businesses is to evaluate now, and periodically re-evaluate, their legal relationships and obligations with customers and suppliers. The terms of all new contracts and renewals should be carefully considered. With all litigation, prevention is better than cure: companies should ensure they understand what risks may be associated with a relationship if something goes wrong or changes and what that might cost them. They should think about the adoption of a suitable form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to effectively manage issues and build that into the contract going forward.

“One thing is for sure, you will need an excellent litigation team to work with you in evaluating your position and designing a strategy for navigating issues; that is where we can help.”

Neil Warwick said, “Our litigation team can draw on a wealth of senior lawyers and we are the only team in the North East to offer contentious competition law and State Aid advice. The team acts for a wide range of clients across a variety of sectors, including: manufacturing, finance, transport, energy, sports, education and technology, media and telecommunications. We work with some of the region’s fastest growing businesses and most dynamic entrepreneurs, as well as established private and public companies and the public sector.”

Square One Law has had an outstanding year and was recently awarded “Law firm of the Year” and the litigation team also won “Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team of the Year” at the Northern Law Awards.

The judges recognised the experience and achievements of the litigation team, which has attracted key individuals with proven track records who provide a bespoke client focused service. The team has advised major clients and successfully conducted noteworthy cases extending beyond the reaches of the region in testament to that. Notably, the team successfully defended a multi-million pound claim in relation to alleged breach of trust in connection with the disposal of an international property investment; acted successfully for the Claimant in judicial review proceedings on State aid grounds and an EU procurement claim under the PCR 2006; challenged the award of a concession relating to the exploitation of services at a commercial harbour area; acted in a high number of shareholder and partnership disputes (including local law firms and accountancy practices) which have required sensitive and highly professional handling; acted as part of the team with other professionals in the handling and disposal of an HMRC tax investigation for £22m; acted for Sheffield City Taxis on the first ever Competition and Markets Authority merger investigation into the taxi/private hire marketplace; represented a multi-national Transport Group in filing an action against a national Government before the European Court of Human Rights for multiple breaches of the Human Rights Convention including the right to peaceful enjoyment of property, proportionality and the right to a fair trial.

Gillian explained: “Most notably in the year, we also handled group actions for High Net Worth individuals bringing professional negligence and financial mis-selling claims for tens of millions of pounds. Square One Law is one of only a few national specialists in this field. Our clients included sophisticated purchasers of legal services on whose behalves we successfully engaged in highly complex litigation. Such cases were handled by the team alongside advising across the broad spectrum of issues encountered by our business clients, which are attributed no lesser priority in our service model.”

In regards to Brexit, Neil said: “It will be a number of years before the UK can conclude negotiations with the EU. Whilst the uncertainty this process will bring could harm business confidence, it may also provide a great opportunity for clients to review how they do business and implement innovative legal agreements and structures which will benefit them during this period.”

Gillian concluded “Brexit opens up an era of opportunity to review and tailor contractual arrangements and dispute resolution mechanisms to make your position stronger going forward. The market and legal landscapes are set to continue to change and the litigation team at Square One Law will give you the best advice to ride the crest of those changes.”

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