While many may share the view that the legal industry is old and traditional, laws and regulations are constantly evolving in order to adapt to new technologies and practices. At the same time, the changing economic climate challenges the way we draft and negotiate contracts to best manage risk and streamline our ability to do business.
At Harper James, an important part of what we do is empowering our clients to make informed decisions and, as forward-thinking lawyers, this means looking ahead for trends that could impact or benefit your situation.
To help you stay ahead of the competition, here’s our shortlist of predictions for trends and changes you can expect to see play out in 2023.
- The court system will continue transitioning to online facilities, allowing those in dispute to use various portals and systems to file claims, rather than attending a county court in person. This will speed processes up, reducing time and saving money - a much-needed silver lining to those in tricky situations.
Business Immigration Law
- Demand for skilled workers will continue to outpace supply, and poaching employees may become the norm. Employers need to secure sponsor licences and get HR systems in place now so that they can fill roles from overseas where required.
- Increasing costs and general economic uncertainty will emphasise to companies the importance of reviewing current contractual relationships and identifying risks. Many will look to renegotiate contracts/pricing (to the extent they haven’t done so already) and/or whether they can realise greater efficiencies either by outsourcing, or conversely, bringing services in-house. Those taking on new contracts will take a more cautious approach to negotiating, particularly around potential liability and other financial risks. We could also see shorter term contracts with easy exit provisions (no fault termination) so that parties can go their separate ways if a contract is not working, or circumstances change.
Commercial Property Law
- 2023 will see the first in a series of regulations as part of the government’s target to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050. Those who are looking to renew or take on a new lease could find shrewd landlords including clauses that pass on the cost of compliance to tenants. Elsewhere, tenants negotiating new leases will have an opportunity to consider greater flexibility (to sub-let), paying rent monthly as opposed to quarterly, or tie rent to turnover.
- It will be a busy year for mergers as many businesses will be looking to join forces rather than sell out. However, with the perception of depressed trading conditions, larger businesses will be shopping around for targets to acquire, which could present good exit opportunities for businesses that are well organised and have their house in order.
Data Protection & Privacy Law
- We’ll have to hold our breath to see whether the Sunak Government will pick up the new Data Protection and Digital Information Bill again, or do something entirely different. International data transfers may get easier as guidance from the ICO on UK SCCs (IDTA) and a US/EU draft adequacy decision are expected. And we’ll see more enforcement action from the ICO for failure to implement appropriate security measures following their recently released guidance on PETs (Privacy Enhancing Technologies).
Employee Incentive Arrangements
- A Company Share Option Plan (CSOP) will become more attractive as we expect to see the allocation of shares an employee is allowed to hold double to 60,000.
- Employee rights will continue to increase as we expect to see Bills for flexible working, the allocation of tips and those with caring responsibilities to pass. We should also see increased rights for parents of babies receiving neonatal care and enhanced protection for women on maternity leave or those on adoption or shared parental leave in redundancy situations.
Finance & Investment
- It’s likely more start-ups will seek funding through Advanced Subscription Agreements (ASAs) as these provide added security for investors and still allow companies to benefit from the SEIS/EIS schemes.
Financial Services Regulation
- We expect AI and its regulation will impact financial services profoundly this year. This along with the recently announced Edinburgh reforms could bring about the biggest changes in regulation for years, providing opportunities for those able to quickly adapt.
Insolvency & Corporate Recovery
- Unfortunately, we can expect to see a continuation of this year’s rise in corporate insolvencies. Tackling issues early will give viable businesses the best opportunity to survive.
- Europe’s new patent regime will finally launch. The Unified Patent Court (UPC) will start operation on 1 June 2023, at the same time as European Patents with unitary effect (or simply unitary patents) become available throughout the 26 Member States. The UPC will also start to bring some much-needed consistency to patent litigation in Europe.
The above represents just a shortlist of trends and changes we predict will come into play in 2023. We’ll be providing updates and further guidance on important changes throughout the year, so unless you already receive our monthly newsletters, you can sign up to receive them here to help you stay up-to-date and compliant.
If you have any questions about any of the upcoming changes, please get in touch with us.