Legal Business Blogs

The £30bn question: Report underlines UK’s status as legal superpower

Modesty should probably preclude Legal Business covering the annual report from TheCityUK on the UK legal services market since it makes heavy use of our statistics but as it takes the time to detail the unsung business success story that is law we’ll take a look.

Key findings of the report, ‘UK Legal Services 2015, Legal Excellence, Internationally Renowned‘ published today (25 February) by the lobbying and representative body TheCityUK underline the startling global position of the UK profession.

The report concludes that turnover of law firms in the UK hit £30.6bn in 2014, an annual rise of 8.4%, on the back of a recovery in the economy and the City (though the report plays it down, consolidation was also a major factor).

Other key findings are that the legal industry:

  • directly employs 316,000 people in the UK, largely in high skills jobs
  • achieved a trade surplus of £3.1bn in 2013, having doubled over the previous decade
  • contributes 1.6% of the UK’s GDP
  • accounts for 7% of an estimated $650bn global legal market and over a fifth of Europe’s legal industry

While such figures, drawn from a mixture of sources, inevitably involve some educated guess-work and extrapolation they do unquestionably underline the towering global position of the UK legal industry.

Other notable findings are that 27% of the world’s 320 legal jurisdictions use English common law, while English is the governing law in 40% of corporate arbitrations. And, of course, three out of five of the world’s largest law firms by revenue are based in the UK.

True, recent years have been rather kinder in relative terms to English law and the UK as a market rather than UK-bred law firms as US rivals have used a stronger domestic economic rebound to under-write heavy investment in the City. However, the over-whelming consensus is that the UK’s position has strengthened on the global stage since the banking crisis of 2008. Our upcoming Global London special will explore the extent that foreign firms are increasingly shaping the City.

There is also some value in seeing the relevant statistics brought together to highlight just how successful a part of the UK economy and London legal services have been. Fat cat lawyers? Maybe, but also a part of our soft power and a sizeable tax contributor.