UK-based legal services sector employment grew by 8.8% to 342,000 jobs in 2017, an increase of 30,000 year on year, according to the latest TheCityUK legal services report. The revenue generated by the UK’s largest 100 law firms was also up, growing 10% to reach £24.2bn in the same year.
The report, ‘Legal excellence, internationally renowned – UK legal services 2018’, suggests that this strong growth was, in part, driven by increased international use of the UK’s globally preeminent commercial law system.
In 2017, four out of five of the 1,200 claims in the Admiralty and Commercial Courts involved a party based outside England and Wales, up 8% on the previous year. In just over half the claims recorded that year (51%), all parties involved were international.
The UK trade surplus generated by legal services has nearly doubled over the past 10 years to £4.4bn in 2017. The sector continues to support the wider UK economy, contributing £26bn in 2016.
Gary Campkin, Managing External Relations & Strategic Issues, TheCityUK, said, “The UK’s legal services sector is one of the country’s great success stories. While London is the world’s leading centre for international law, cities right across the UK, from Bristol and Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, are also renowned for their legal expertise.
“Global businesses have a choice on where to resolve their legal disputes. They choose the UK for a number of reasons: the clarity and predictability of English law, the UK’s independent and expert judiciary, and the efficient functioning of UK courts. Brexit will not change this. London and the UK will continue to provide unrivalled access to high quality legal services. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it is vital to ensure international parties continue to recognise the benefits of using English law and draw upon the expertise of the UK’s legal services sector.”
English law is currently used in 40% of all global corporate arbitrations. However, while the reputation of UK courts continues to grow, in 2017, over 32,800 disputes were also resolved by alternative dispute resolution in the UK – up 27% on the previous year.
The UK is the second largest legal services market globally, trailing only the US in scale. It accounts for a third of Western European legal services fee revenue and around 6.5% of global legal services fee revenue.
The UK has been especially welcoming to international law firms: more than 200 foreign law firms from around 40 jurisdictions – employing over 10,000 people – now operate in the country. The UK’s position in legal services is helped by the international prestige of English common law, which forms the basis of the legal systems for 27% of the world’s 320 jurisdictions.