The Law Society is in agreement with business leaders across London that tough Tier 2 Visa rules are a threat to the UK capital's crown as a global recruitment leader. The Law Society says that UK immigration restrictions are preventing UK-based, international law firms from recruiting legal staff outside of the European Economic Area (EEA).
The Law Society - the professional body for solicitors - along with various other business groups, including London First, has responded to a consultation being carried out by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The consultation involves the MAC looking at measures to reduce the number of skilled foreign workers entering Britain.
According to the report the legal services sector makes a vital contribution to the UK economy, reaching £22.6 billion in 2013. International law firms operating in a competitive global marketplace generate the majority of the sector's economic value.
The report further states that the firms that specifically advise on complex deals spanning multiple jurisdictions must be able to recruit and deploy teams of lawyers across the world. As such, international employees bring local expertise that is by definition not available in the UK labour market.
The Law Society suggests in the report that salary levels are a practical way of identifying highly skilled expert workers, as they inherently reflect market shortages in the available skills supply, economic value of the work being done and skills utilised.
It is further stated that the lawyers who come to the UK from outside the EEA are highly qualified and well-paid individuals who make a significant contribution to the domestic economy through business generation, salary expenditure, tax revenue, and the creation of support roles. They bring skills that supplement and create opportunities for the resident labour market.
The report concludes that it is economically vital that the UK remains the leading global centre for the provision of international legal services and dispute resolution. Rules that would further inhibit the ability of leading law firms to recruit from outside the EEA would do little to create or preserve jobs for UK/EEA nationals. Such rules would risk that work being relocated by international firms to an office outside the UK or, worse, the loss of that work completely to a competitor jurisdiction.