If you were to venture outside London to the major regional legal markets ten or 15 years ago, you would probably have been surprised. The energy, ambition and cohesive professional communities in these markets went well beyond expectations.
In the bars of Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester you would often meet individuals with that mix of personality, judgement and charisma that marks out the best commercial lawyers. No wonder so many of London’s sharpest legal operators used to be bred in the sticks.
Confidence is returning to the national UK economy, to the relief of clients and law firms alike. But, as our Regional Insight report shows, growth in legal services is still a relative term across local markets in continued flux.
The outward indicators are generally strong. Based on economic forecasts in 2014 from the likes of the International Monetary Fund and PwC, the UK is on track to become the fifth largest economy in the world by 2020, overtaking France.
But while PwC’s July 2014 economic outlook for the UK made the bold assertion that ‘all major industry sectors and regions are now showing positive growth trends’, inevitably those regions are starting from different positions, facing varying dynamics and contributing to the overall growth at significantly different rates.
Amid fierce competition for talent from London, new entrants and closer transport links point to a new chapter for the Midlands legal market.
Employment law concerns loom particularly large in the minds of North East companies.
Commercially-driven Manchester is helping to lead the North West’s striking transformation from industrial heartland to modern knowledge economy.
While the economic downturn and subsequent public sector cuts have hit the region harder than most, Northern Ireland’s resilience is very much in evidence.
It’s been a turbulent ride for the Scots legal market post-banking crisis, but with the independence vote settled, the region is feeling more buoyant.
Big spending clients in Bristol are keeping a raft of national firms and strong local players particularly busy.
With a far higher percentage of public sector respondents and a high proportion of SME businesses, Wales has unique legal requirements.