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Brexit: 5 Steps Corporate Legal Teams Should Take Now

Managers say they're most worried about making compliance and legal-related mistakes in their response to the UK's Brexit negotiations

Despite the fact that nothing will happen quickly in the UK’s preparations for a split from the European Union – and some talking heads saying it won’t ever happen – corporate legal teams still have their work cut out over the coming months.

Not only have they had to field many questions from colleagues trying to understand a situation without precedent but, as a snap poll taken the week after the referendum showed, managers feel that their companies are most exposed when trying to get compliance or legal decisions right.

There are five immediate actions legal teams should take now to make sure they are prepared.

  1. Answer the following questions to gauge your preparedness: Click on the questions to expand the graphic if need be.

    Legal Brexit Questions

  2. Build or join a Brexit taskforce: Only 3 in 10 companies have set up a Brexit task force or working group, according to the 470 respondents to CEB’s post-referendum snap poll.

    Yet, this is one of the most helpful responses companies can implement, according to Kon M. Asimacopoulos, a partner in Kirkland & Ellis’s European Restructuring Group. Specifically, in a CEB webinar, he outlined four areas that such a cross-functional group should keep track of as it monitors Brexit-related developments: how movement of people will be affected, changes to trade policy, fluctuations in the pound’s exchange rate, and how any of your existing contracts could be impacted.

    Peter Nolan, a global sales and marketing consultant with 30 years’ senior executive experience, echoed the need for such a group: “Somebody in the organization will have to be accountable for separating facts from fiction,” he said. “We have to think about that famous 100-day window. We have 100 days, at least, of political uncertainty.”

  3. Run risk assessments regularly: As Brexit evolves, the assumptions underpinning the organization’s strategy will change. Legal can help inform that shifting strategy by keeping up-to-date with the company’s biggest risks.

    Members of the CEB Leadership Council for Legal Executives can use this Legal and Compliance Risk Assessment survey-based tool, to identify threats and allocate resources accordingly.

  4. Communicate expectations and priorities with outside counsel: The new political landscape will create a more complex legal environment for multinational companies doing business in the UK and Europe.

    Companies will need outside counsel assistance to cope with the increased workload. Make sure you’re getting the best value for that work by communicating your business needs clearly, and aligning your risk tolerance with the firm.

  5. Keep calm and carry on. Overused as the quintessentially British trope might be, it’s valuable advice for the entire company’s leadership. Until the UK’s government solidifies its new framework of post-separation trade and immigration deals — assuming the departure occurs at all — panic won’t help.

    “The first thing that we’ve seen in our community is to talk to the organization—to reassure,” Peter Cheese, the chief executive of CIPD, a UK professional body for HR and people development, told CEB. “What’s really important is that we don’t overreact. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

More On…

  • Webinar: The C-Suite Response to Brexit

    Learn what executives are focusing on in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, and get some practical advice from practitioners and experts on how to formulate a strong response plan.

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