The legal sector is nearing an inflection point of major industry transformation and Leeds City Region is ideally positioned to capitalise on the opportunity to be leaders in this transformation, which could benefit all firms within its ecosystem, according to a new report published by Whitecap Consulting.
The report is the result of a six month project analysing the legal sector in the region, which has been supported and co-funded by a number of organisations including Leeds City Council, Leeds Law Society, University of Law, Harrogate Borough Council, Addleshaw Goddard, Blacks, DAC Beachcroft, Eversheds Sutherland, Pinsent Masons, Reed Smith, Squire Patton Boggs, Shoosmiths, Stewarts, and Walker Morris.
The project, involving 130 stakeholders, found the legal sector has changed through innovation and technological adoption over the past five years and will continue to do so over the next five years. Although innovation and technology in the legal sector is not yet as advanced as in FinTech and InsurTech, COVID-19 has accelerated its digital adoption, with the report highlighting examples of changes to working practices in law firms, the courts and internal legal team. Moving forward, the report says there is an opportunity to form stronger links between the legal and tech sectors in the Leeds City Region, to unlock the opportunities legal tech and innovation can offer.
The combination of the size of the region’s legal sector, its multi-sector digital tech capability, and a large pool of experienced and graduate talent are the key factors identified as representing the foundation of a significant opportunity for the region in terms of legal technology and innovation:
• Over 1,560 legal companies are based in the Leeds City Region, including 28 of the UK’s top 100 law firms. The sector employs in excess of 14,400 people and generates approaching £1 billion per year. One in four people working in the legal sector in the North of England is based in Leeds, and the region offers a standard of support and advice substantively the same as that available in London as a result of the high concentration of quality legal advisers and related infrastructure.
• Leeds City Region is home to 8,500 digital tech companies employing 57,000 people, including numerous prominent tech providers and digital consultancies. The wider Yorkshire region has seen 48% growth in digital sector employment over the last 3 years, more than any other region including London. In 2019 Leeds was cited by Tech Nation as the best place in the UK to work as a data scientist, and this year digital tech productivity per worker in Yorkshire and the Humber has been found to be 16% higher than the national average.
• The nine universities in the Leeds City Region have 117,840 students and produce 49,480 graduates per year, of which 3,700 are law graduates, making the region responsible for 15% of the UK’s law graduates. One of the largest providers of legal education in the UK, University of Law, has its only innovation and tech hub outside London in Leeds.
Richard Coates, Managing Director of Whitecap Consulting, says: “We are delighted to have had the opportunity to conduct the research and analysis which has informed this report focusing on the role of technology and innovation in the legal sector across the Leeds City Region, which is a well-known hub for regional, national and international legal work. Leeds is a collaborative city, and the fact this research has been co-funded by a number of organisations, many of whom compete with each other, is a clear illustration of the collective desire to see the region’s legal sector develop and grow.”
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said: “We very much welcome this new report by Whitecap Consulting, and would like to thank everyone involved in making it happen including Leeds Law Society, the University of Law and all stakeholders and partners. This is a true ‘one-city’ report underlining the importance of collaboration and making the most of all opportunities to connect, support and accelerate relationships between our vibrant sectors to benefit our economic future. As a city Leeds continues to go from strength to strength as a destination for start-ups and scale-ups, especially in digital and creative industries, embracing innovation in areas such as HealthTech, FinTech and Legal Tech. With economic conditions now adapting in the Covid-19 world, we are keen to support and encourage all new ideas to benefit our local economy and the wider city region.”
Chief Executive of Leeds City Council Tom Riordan said: “The recent unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus and the massive increase and acceleration on the reliance of digital platforms and infrastructure shows the importance of city and city region economies being flexible, resilient and agile enough to respond quickly to changes in need and demand. As well as challenges this presents opportunities for cities and city region like Leeds being bold to embrace change and innovation to support business and ideas which will help create the jobs of the future. This report illustrates how well Leeds is doing in this regard but we are committed to doing more to deliver increasing levels of inclusive growth in the years to come.”
Nick Emmerson, President, Leeds Law Society, says: "Leeds is the UK centre of excellence for legal services outside of London, and this report highlights the region’s strengths across the legal sector. Exponential changes with technology, communications, data and algorithms mean we are now experiencing revolutionary change in the legal industry, and the Leeds legal offering is responding and leading the change in many areas. This report is the beginning not the end of a process – and combined with the backing from regional stakeholders, it shows that Leeds is perfectly placed to continue to thrive in the new world of legal services.”
Patrick Grant, Project Director (North) Legal Innovation & Technology, University of Law, says: “Since the launch of the Legal Innovation Hub in Leeds three years ago, the help and support we have received from the local legal and tech communities has been incredible. Leeds is a phenomenally friendly place and there is always someone prepared to give advice, or their time to talk to our students. It has been a real privilege to be a part of this consultation and to see the support and the appetite to develop Leeds into a centre for Legal Innovation and Tech. All this has strengthened our goal to give the region’s future lawyers all of the tools and skills that they will need to do this.”
The report can be downloaded here.