In its 11th edition, the annual report on UK legal services for 2022 underscores the United Kingdom’s steadfast position as a global epicentre for legal excellence. This comprehensive report offers a wealth of data, highlighting the UK’s robust legal services sector, its profound impact on national and global economies, its role in fostering a framework of law and justice underpinning all commercial transactions, and key insights into the industry’s vital statistics.
The UK’s Legal Services Workforce and Regional Footprint
The UK’s legal services sector is a dynamic engine, employing approximately 375,000 individuals in 2021. What’s noteworthy is that two-thirds of these professionals are based outside of London, with key legal hubs including Manchester (13,000 employees), Leeds (10,000), Birmingham (9,000), Bristol and Glasgow (8,000 each), Edinburgh (7,000), and Liverpool (6,000). This decentralisation reflects the sector’s extensive reach across the nation.
Economic Contributions and Trade Surplus
In 2021, the UK legal services sector made a substantial economic contribution, totalling £30.7 billion, equivalent to 1.6% of Gross Value Added (GVA). Furthermore, it boasted an impressive trade surplus of £5.4 billion. These figures underscore the industry’s significance in driving economic growth and stability.
Revenue Growth and Leading Law Firms
Total revenue generated from legal activities in the UK surged to £41.4 billion in 2021. The majority of this revenue was generated by the top 100 UK law firms, which collectively earned over £31 billion in 2021/22, marking a remarkable growth of more than 50% over the past decade. This substantial financial growth emphasises the strength and stability of the UK’s legal sector.
Global Standing and Market Size
The United Kingdom boasts the largest legal services market in Europe, with a value of £41 billion in 2021. Globally, it is second only to the United States. Notably, the UK accounts for one-third of Western European legal services fee revenue and over 5% of global legal services fee revenue, which amounted to approximately $713 billion in 2021. These statistics affirm the UK’s pivotal role in the global legal landscape.
Diversity of International Law Firms
The UK’s allure in the legal world extends to its diverse array of international law firms. More than 200 foreign law firms from around 40 jurisdictions currently operate within the UK. Furthermore, all of the world’s top 40 law firms maintain offices in London. This diversity and international presence solidify the UK’s status as a global legal powerhouse.
The Significance of English Common Law
One of the cornerstones of the UK’s international legal prominence is the enduring prestige of English common law. This legal system forms the basis for the legal frameworks in approximately 27% of the world’s 320 jurisdictions. Consequently, English law is frequently chosen as the governing law in international commercial contracts, bolstering the UK’s global reputation.
Key Indicators of International Standing
The UK’s global eminence in legal services is further evident through various indicators:
Firms Leading the Pack: Five of the top 20 law firms, measured by the number of lawyers in 2020/21, are headquartered in the UK.
Revenue Powerhouses: Five of the top 20 law firms in terms of revenue generation also call the UK home.
London as a Hub: All of the top 40 law firms by revenue maintain offices in London.
Global Reach: The largest international law firms in London have between 45% and 65% of their lawyers stationed abroad, while many other London-based firms have between 10% and 20% of lawyers overseas.
Global Practitioners: The latest available data reveals that more than 6,500 practitioners from England and Wales hold practicing certificates and work abroad, exemplifying the international influence of UK-trained legal professionals.
The 11th edition of the annual report on UK legal services for 2022 emphasises the United Kingdom’s unrivalled standing in the international legal arena. Its robust legal services sector, economic contributions, diverse legal community, and the enduring legacy of English common law collectively affirm the UK’s position as a global hub for legal excellence and dispute resolution. As the legal world evolves, the UK continues to be at the forefront, setting the standard for international legal services.