Why the legal sector isn’t just focused on London

Published: 25 Jul 2017

Traditionally the beating heart of the legal sector, London was once seen as the number one location when looking for a top legal job. But with steep rents and the increase in regional demand across the country, London isn’t the centre of the legal universe any more.

As recently as five years ago the vast majority of employers were based in the capital, with only smaller, independent firms having a physical presence in the wider regions of this country. So why has this shift taken place?

The cost

There’s a number of factors but perhaps most notably is the exorbitant cost of property in the capital. Firms are finding they can cut their rent costs in half by moving to other areas. In addition, many have struggled with a ‘churn’ of talent, brought on by being based in a legal hotspot like London. Many firms have found that by moving further afield they’re able to retain their staff for longer.

The location

In purely geographical terms, being based somewhere like Birmingham or Leeds means firms are better positioned to serve the needs of their clients, wherever they are located. There’s also the matter of Brexit. The wider uncertainty this has caused in markets across the UK favours the legal sector and drives greater activity, increasing demand for services and specialists across the country.

The new contenders…

Yorkshire

Yorkshire has reported strong personal legal services markets. Driven in part by a large number of entrepreneurs, landowners and high net worth individuals based in affluent areas like Harrogate.

The activity of this group has kept private client lawyers busy and forced firms into recruiting for additional skills. A recent survey by the Business Insider group found that wealth levels in Yorkshire are growing dramatically. The net worth of its richest 100 individuals averaged in excess of £50m, with five people based in the county being listed as billionaires.

Private client law demand is almost guaranteed with taxes being one of life’s certainties. Thanks to the good fortunes experienced by individuals in the region it’s driving greater demand for legal specialists.

The North West

In fact, the North is faring rather well as a result of the UK’s ageing population. As people have moved out of the capital towards areas like the North West it’s created a much greater demand for wills and probate expertise.

The North East

The North has also noted demand for family lawyers, especially those specialising in matrimonial issues. Although it’s hard to gauge, commentators have suggested the unease caused by Brexit has led to an increase in divorces and separations, forcing firms to recruit for experts in this field.

This trend aligns with research from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) that revealed that there has been a 31% increase in roles in the North East, which has largely been driven for a demand for probate and family law specialists.

The Midlands

One of the major reasons that many are choosing to relocate from the capital are the house prices. This has contributed to an upturn in fortunes experienced by some Midlands’ based legal firms, particularly those operating in the property arena.

Thousands of people have moved from London to the UK’s second city and have found they can get far more bang for their buck than they would have in the capital. As a result, we are seeing significant (and growing) demand for conveyancing specialists who can facilitate the flurry of buying activity taking place across Birmingham and the surrounding areas.

As people relocate and find new jobs the need for employment lawyers increases. With an influx of professionals into the Midlands region HR teams have relied on specialist legal firms to ensure they’re compliant with employment law.  There have been 17 pieces of new legislation added to this arena in the past five years alone, putting a considerable amount of additional work on the plates of these firms.

The South West

House prices in the South West have grown above the average rate for the UK, driving demand for residential property experts with experience of high volume caseloads. The South West, like the North, is a retirement favourite and has also experienced demand for wills and probate and family law specialists. Especially those able to deal with the complex new rules regarding transferrable tax and additional allowances as well as alterations to family and divorce law.

Are you ready to make the move?

The opportunities available for both experienced and newly qualified professionals are plentiful and we don’t expect this to change anytime soon. The legal market has changed and now the UK as a whole can be seen as a legal hub, not just the capital.

Lynn Sedgwick, MD of Clayton Legal

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