City lobbying group: Maintaining UK’s leadership in global legal market should be Brexit priority

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20 July 2016

Cummings: UK needs strongest possible trading links with EU

Cummings: UK needs strongest possible trading links with EU

Major law firms should partner with the government “to ramp up efforts to export UK legal and regulatory standards to emerging markets” as a way to boost trade and investment post-Brexit, leading lobbying group TheCityUK said today.

It said maintaining the UK’s leading position in the global legal market shoudl be a “priority for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations”.

Targeting emerging markets was one of a series of recommendations aimed at ensuring the UK’s continuing position as the leading global centre for the provision of legal services and dispute resolution contained in TheCityUK’s annual legal services report, which also showed gross fees in the UK legal market up 1.3% to a record £30.9bn in 2014/15 – the fifth successive year of growth.

TheCityUK is a membership body that lobbies on behalf of UK-based financial and related professional services. Its other recommendations were to:

  • Focus on innovation and infrastructure investment to reduce the cost and improve the speed of litigation in the UK, collaborating with the judiciary to better understand Rolls Building courts users, including international parties, and ensure future investment – in both technology and courts structures and processes – reflects their needs and responds to the challenges set by competitor jurisdictions;
  • Build a “new narrative for the legal sector”, with a focus on its contribution and importance to the UK economy and society generally;
  • Explore collaboration between arbitral organisations and the judiciary to aid the ongoing development of English law;
  • Work with governments and regulatory authorities to continue removing overseas barriers to trade in legal services, including increasing levels of mutual recognition and assisting the expansion of UK-based law firms; and
  • Ensure a focus on legal services in key opportunities to enhance trade in services in future free trade agreements and the World Trade Organisation’s negotiations over the Trade in Services Agreement.

The report said that net exports of UK legal services grew 11% in 2014 to a record £3.6bn, while the sector’s contribution to the UK economy increased to a record £25.7bn in 2015 (1.6% of GDP).

According to TheCityUK estimates, the UK accounts for around 10% of the global market for legal services, second only to the US. It is also the largest market in Europe, accounting for around a fifth of its legal services fee revenue.

Chris Cummings, chief executive of TheCityUK, said: “The UK is the leading global centre for the provision of international legal services and dispute resolution, employing over 314,000 people and bringing significant benefits to the wider economy.

“Securing this position should be a priority for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. This means maintaining the strongest possible trading links with the EU and beyond and ensuring the UK remains a globally attractive place in which and from which to do business.”

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