The economic rise of the BRIC countries will present huge opportunities for UK and US qualified lawyers, predicts Magic Circle law firm boss Ted Burke in a podcast produced by The College of Law.
In the interview, published today on the College’s website, the Chief Executive of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer says that globalisation will increase transactional activity and that English and US law would remain the law of choice for most of these transactions.
This, he predicts, would give UK qualified lawyers the opportunity to work all over the world, including Asia, the US, Europe and Latin America, as well as in the UK.
Burke also believes that globalisation and the increasing flexibility of where to work create a clear advantage in being dual-qualified in both UK and US law.
The podcast is part of a new series examining what the legal services market will look like in five years time and featuring leaders from across the legal profession.
Ted Burke, Chief Executive of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer In his interview Burke says: “I think that globalisation and in particular the growth of the BRIC economies is the story of the 21st Century. It’s going to have an incredible effect on everyone in the world and will not just change the economic landscape but it will change the geopolitical one as well.”
He quotes figures provided by Jim O’Neill, the chief economist of Goldman Sachs, who has studied the economic phenomenon of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) for several years.
The US economy has been the biggest in the world for 130 years and a few years ago was around four times bigger than the economies of China and India combined. However this, says Burke, is changing and in 2050 the Chinese and Indian economies together are predicted to be three times the size of the US economy. The economies of the UK and China were roughly the same size a few years ago but by 2050 China’s economy is projected to be about 15 times the size of that of the UK.
He says: “How can this sort of dramatic change in relative economic size not also have a dramatic change on the legal sector - the way lawyers work, where the clients come from, the nature of the transactions and how lawyers are valued. All of those things will change in a very profound way over the careers of the students who are currently at The College of Law and it’s really something that is going to be incredible to observe.
“I think though that the demand for students who are qualified under English law will not dissipate. English law along with US law, particularly New York law, remains the favourite law of choice for most global transactions and therefore globalisation should be a good thing because that will increase transactional activity. UK qualified lawyers will be able to work on those global transactions in London, because that’s often the centre of negotiations with these deals, but also they can move to various places around the world …. and practise English law there. So many opportunities.”
He believes that it is this increasing ability to work anywhere in the world that gives value to being qualified in both UK and US law.
“If you are open minded about where you might work and perhaps some day you might find yourself not in London but in the US, Hong Kong, India or China or somewhere else, then there’s a clear advantage to being dual-qualified,” he says.
“The demand might, from office to office, be a bit different for a US lawyer or a UK lawyer. Those are the two dominant choice of laws and if you’re a fluent English speaker and you can do both then your job opportunities will necessarily be greater.”
Other issues discussed by Burke in the podcast include how Freshfields has weathered the economic downturn, the growing trend for outsourcing work to other firms, the rise of in-house counsel and the importance for young lawyers of being commercially aware. He also discusses the potential impact on the firm of the Legal Services Act and the opportunities for city firms presented by the current financial crisis in the Eurozone.
The other guests in The College of Law’s podcast series are Nicholas Green QC, Chairman of the Bar (published on May 17), Chris Kenny, Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board, Neil Kinsella, Chief Executive and Managing Partner of leading national law firm Russell Jones & Walker and Alison Hook, Head of International for The Law Society.