The UK's unprecedented decision to leave the EU means business leaders are looking to their general counsel for answers, often where none exist. Pinsent Masons has sought to help GCs develop those answers and engage at board level.

We rolled out a series of Brexit-themed campaigns deploying unusual approaches. This was to help negate the inherent uncertainty and enable clients to plan meaningfully for and engage with Brexit.

The challenge

Our challenge was to avoid the classic trap of delivering detailed analysis of the Brexit processes and laws. While of relevance, elaborate versions of 'nobody knows' advice are of little practical use to clients.

In discussion with our clients it was clear that they needed:

  • in-depth understanding of the exit process, not just from a legal perspective but within UK and European institutions
  • a model to help clients visualise how Brexit might occur, and identify, prioritise and manage related Brexit-readiness programmes;
  • tactical tools to enable them to answer day to day queries from within their business so that they could focus on the wider strategic picture.
Pinsent Masons has been recognised as a thought leader in the area of Brexit. We were the only firm outside the Magic Circle invited to two Treasury sessions on the impact of Brexit.

The solution

Ahead of the Brexit referendum Pinsent Masons appointed former secretary of state for international affairs and minister for Europe Douglas Alexander as a strategic adviser. We also made strategic investments into our public policy division to ensure that we were well positioned to provide counsel to clients on the political and legislative processes in the event of a UK exit from the EU.

Before and after the vote the firm retained a renowned military scenario planner, Lynette Nusbacher. Together we developed a model to which would enable clients to develop a detailed picture of what Brexit could mean for their business depending on different inflection points.

Within weeks of the referendum result, the firm rolled out a 'pop-up' Brexit advisory hub. This online hub enabled clients facing a large volume of day to day enquiries from their business to effectively outsource those and stay focused on strategy.

Finally, the firm engaged with clients to see how its hub of freelance lawyers, Vario, could provide support. This was highly pertinent given the temporary recruitment freezes introduced by many PLCs in the aftermath of the vote.

The results

A wide range of household name businesses took part in our scenario planning workshops and engaged with our public policy unit to understand the political process and engage where appropriate. Similarly, a number of major clients availed themselves of our online Brexit advisory service.

Our creative and solutions-oriented approach to the Brexit challenge has helped us develop a reputation as a market-leader in this area. We were the only firm outside of the traditional 'Magic Circle' law firms to be invited to participate in a number of HM Treasury sessions on the impact of Brexit, and we have been ranked Tier 1 for our Brexit advisory work in the Legal 500 UK editions from 2017 onwards.

Here are examples of our Brexit work:

  • A major automotive business with whom we had no prior relationship contacted us for a demonstration of our Brexit products. We were subsequently invited to pitch for its panel.
  • Advising an energy company on the integration of Brexit risk into its contract sign off process and the updating of its template agreements to provide more robust change provisions.
  • We supported a manufacturer in its commercial and contractual arrangements with a Belgian supplier.
  • Advising a selection of British universities on preparing for Brexit and the latest developments in immigration.
  • Advising a leading insurer on its Brexit preparations, specifically in relation to devolved affairs and the repatriation of powers to the UK after it leaves the European Union.

Out-Law / Your daily need to know

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