UK legal services are playing a vital role in building a more prosperous economy and a fairer society, says Law Society President, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff in an article for Central Lobby.
There are few sectors of the British economy which can be said to be truly world leading these days, so we must play to our obvious strengths in legal services and make clear that the sector has a central role in the economic recovery.
Law as an export industry
The UK legal services market as a whole directly contributed almost £26bn (or close to 2% of GDP) to the UK economy in 2010, and – by rapidly and efficiently resolving disputes - indirectly contributed much more.
Lawyers trained in England and Wales, and law firms based here in UK, are respected across the globe for their expertise. It is because UK firms are regarded as global leaders in international and commercial dispute resolution that four of the largest seven law firms in the world are based in London, and UK firms exported almost £3.6bn worth of legal services in 2010.
The Law Society is working closely with the Government to increase these exports in the future. By November this year, the Society will have accompanied ministers on trade missions to all of the key emerging markets countries: promoting British legal expertise overseas, and bringing benefits for the economy back to the UK. Working closely with overseas trade minister Lord Green we advise on key jurisdictions ripe with opportunities for British business.
Leading on fair access to the professions
It is not just in terms of exporting professional services overseas that the legal sector is leading the professions. On the important social mobility agenda – promoting meritocracy in access to professional employment – the legal profession is at the forefront efforts to increase social mobility.
The Law Society is adamant that the solicitors’ profession must have access to the best talent, irrespective of background. Indeed, that is why we and our members have been working on the issue for so long.
Our ambition is clear, we want the profession to be widely recognised as a meritocracy where the sole criteria for entry and advancement are integrity, ability and hard work.
The statistics starkly highlight the extent of recent progress. The latest edition of Trends in the Solicitors’ Profession shows that women now make up almost 50% of all solicitors on the Roll and substantially more than half (63.5%) of all trainees.
There has also been substantial progress in respect of Black and Asian Minority Ethnic solicitors. In 2011, BAME solicitors made up 12% of the Roll (compared to 7.9% nationally), and roughly a fifth of all trainees.
This progress led Alan Milburn, the Government’s social mobility tsar, in his review of fair access to the professions, to write that “in some cases, the legal sector is at the forefront of driving activity aimed at changing access to professional jobs… We commend these efforts and would like to see other professions following suit”.
As we seek to build a more prosperous economy and a fairer society it is vital that the country plays to its strengths. There are few areas where Britain is stronger than in professional legal services.
The Law Society is holding invite only receptions at all three of the autumn party conferences, for those delegates interested in legal issues. To find out more please email email@example.com.