Government must take action to boost legal services post-Brexit

The important economic contribution of the UK legal services sector is underlined today in a new report form TheCityUK.

The report argues for greater action from the government to support the primacy of English law and to secure both the sector’s continued access to European markets and its leading international position.

The report, ‘Legal Excellence, internationally renowned: UK legal services 2017’, shows the sector’s trade surplus was nearly £4bn in 2016. Revenue generated by legal activities in the UK was £31.5bn in 2016.

The majority of large firms saw an increase in revenue during 2016/17, with the top 100 UK law firms generating over £22bn in 2016/17. In total, legal services make up 1.5% of the UK economy, employing over 311,000 people across the country, two-thirds of whom are based outside of London.

The UK legal services sector continues to be world-leading, second only to the US in terms of total fee-revenue generated. It remains the most internationalised legal sector in the world with over 200 foreign law firms from around 40 jurisdictions operating in London and other cities across the UK. It also forms an integral and crucial part of the wider financial and related professional services ecosystem which makes the UK a truly globally-leading international financial centre

To ensure this success story continues, TheCityUK has called on the government to do everything it can to make sure Brexit does not act as a barrier to future growth opportunities but as a stimulant. This includes the need to secure mutual market access to enable UK-based practitioners to continue to represent clients in EU jurisdictions.Gary Campkin, Director, Policy & Strategy, TheCityUK, said

English law and the UK-based legal services sector are a vital national asset and will be critical to Britain’s success post-Brexit. We urge the government to take every possible step to deliver the right Brexit deal to enable the sector to maintain and enhance its contribution to future economic growth.

“TheCityUK strongly supports the UK government's intention to maintain close judicial cooperation with the EU on civil matters and the launching of the ‘Legal Services is Great’ campaign to promote the UK abroad. It should now put these commitments into action as soon as possible by mapping out the process of accession to The Hague and Lugano Conventions, as well as bringing the Rome I and II instruments into UK law. There must also be a focus on delivering continued mutual market access as part of the UK’s future relationship with the EU-27 to ensure the sector as a whole can maintain its international competitiveness and significant contribution to the UK economy.”

The popularity of English law is a key contributing factor to the UK’s strong global position and attractiveness to foreign law firms. English law is used in 40% of all global corporate arbitrations. Some 27% of the world’s 320 legal jurisdictions use English common law. The choice of English law for global commercial contracts is in part driven by the UK’s reputation as the leading centre for international dispute resolution – whether through litigation, arbitration or mediation.

For the first time TheCityUK’s annual legal services report provides geographical details of the contribution of the sector, broken down by UK nations, regions and cities. It shows that while London remains the largest centre, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Birmingham are also performing strongly.

TheCityUK will launch the report with Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice The Rt Hon David Lidington MP and The Rt Hon The Lord Burnett of Maldon - Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, at an event in London at 6pm on Thursday 23 November 2017. Please contact TheCityUK press office if you would like to attend.