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What does the Northern Powerhouse mean for the North West legal market?

16/10/2017
Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

Whatever your view of the UK's transport links, it can’t be disputed that the South fares better than its Northern counterpart when it comes to access to transport. After all, the vast majority of infrastructure and investment is focused around London and the Home Counties to the detriment of facilities in the North of the country. However, George Osborne’s much discussed Northern Powerhouse and the mooted HS3 project could be set to change that and could make a lasting difference to the UK’s legal sector. Here’s how.

Northshoring

If you rewind even as little as a decade ago the vast majority of legal activity was found in the capital or its surrounding areas. However, in recent years that has started to change and growing numbers of firms have relocated all or at least part of their services to cities such as Manchester and Liverpool. But why is this trend happening?

The main factor is related to the price of property. Office space is hugely more expensive in London than it is further North and firms are quickly realising they can make major savings by moving their services. In addition, being based in the capital makes it challenging to adequately serve clients across the entirety of the UK and many organisations are finding being based further north enables them to serve a wider range of clients.

What does the Northern Powerhouse mean for the UK legal market?

The Northern Powerhouse – and HS3 specifically – could make a major difference to the entire North West region. In general terms, they’re likely to boost the population in major cities as well as encourage greater numbers of businesses to relocate from the capital. This will in turn increase activity for organisations across a wide range of sectors, but particularly for legal firms which are required to manage the often complex regulation and compliance aspect of relocating a firm from one location to another. In addition, legal services are likely to be sought after by individuals moving to the region and buying property, or for those looking to set up their own organisation. This is far from an exhaustive list and essentially an increase in population will create an exponential increase in demand for legal services, which can only be good news.

With opportunities comes challenges

However, a boom in activity brought on by HS3 and the Northern Powerhouse would also create challenges for legal firms. Unlike London, there isn’t a huge and readymade supply of talent in the North West for employers to recruit from and in reality the pool of skills is substantially shallower than it is further south. This is hardly surprising, there has been no need for such a huge range of legal skills until this point. But if activity does increase, firms will need to be able to source the talent they require as and when it’s needed.

That means it should now be a priority for legal firms to establish more robust talent pipelines and they should waste no time in partnering with local colleges and universities to build relationships and develop shadowing and work experience opportunities. An individual that has had a positive experience at the firm in the past is more likely to want to work for you in the future, after all. In addition, employers will need to think more about what they’re actually offering to their potential employees and whether it aligns with what they’re looking for in a role. Firms’ employer value propositions should be tailored to the individual and if you’re targeting working parents, for example, then flexible working – or another similar initiative – should be incorporated. The bottom line is that employers are likely to see a considerable uptick in the amount of work on their books and, rather than leaving it to the last minute, should start thinking about their hiring strategies now before it’s too late. The UK legal sector is shifting dramatically and is moving away from its London-centric past. If your firm wants to be able to compete in this new world, then ensure that your hiring strategies are up to scratch. And if you’re a legal professional looking for your next – or even your first – role, then you may have a few more opportunities in the North West to choose from than you might have imagined.

To read more insights from the team, check our other blog posts and market commentary.

And if you’re a law firm seeking assistance with your talent attraction strategies get in touch today

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