Legal sector boosted by property deals in memorable year

“SUBSTANTIAL corporate deals”, helped by the region’s flourishing property sector, have provided a boost to the West Midlands legal sector in the last year.
The Legal 500 guide said “Birmingham’s precarious status as the UK’s second city has been somewhat bolstered by the ongoing property boom in the region”, although it highlighted growth in a range of areas. 
It said: “Resultant legal work has not been limited to real estate, with many substantial corporate deals attending the property upturn, most notably the £307m sale of the NEC to LDC. Smaller transactional work has also benefited, with legal practitioners noting an increase in business sales. Litigation, particularly in relation to breaches of warranties in share purchase agreements, has picked up too.
“Outside of Birmingham, legal advice continued to focus on the dominant manufacturing sector, with Jaguar Land Rover being the region’s biggest success story, making up one-fifth of all UK exports to China.”
The guide, which has just been published, also put on spotlight on key developments in the city – including Grand Central, i54, the Curzon regeneration around the planned HS2 station, and Arena Central – saying London’s overheated commercial property market has “caused many would-be investors to look towards Birmingham”.
It has been a year that has seen two milestone events happen in the region’s legal sector – the end of the Wragges name in February after its merger with Canadian firm Gowlings, and in June 2015 Gateley became the first law firm to float.
Changes to the region’s law firms reflect changes to the largest businesses in the West Midlands, the Legal 500 said.
It said: “The internationalisation of FTSE businesses originating in the West Midlands increasingly has been mirrored by law firms operating locally; the headline story for the last 12 months was undoubtedly Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co LLP’s 2016 merger with Canadian law firm Gowlings to form Gowling WLG.
“In another significant legal transformation, Gateley Plc became the first UK law firm to be listed on the London Stock Exchange.”
Gateley had forecast annual growth of 7.5% when it was seeking support for its IPO and delivered a 10% increase in revenue and 13% rise in EBITDA in its maiden results as a public company.
It paid out £5.9m in dividends, although the Birmingham-based firm remains the only law firm to go public. So far.
Gateley’s shares floated at 95p, and traded relatively flat for the first 12 months. But in the last two months – boosted by announcing in mid-July that it generated pre-tax profits of £11.0m for the year to April – its share price rose 30% to a high of 127.5p.
The pace of change in the region is perhaps best reflected in the number of additions in the Legal 500’s list of leading individuals, with 16 new names included in the list.

Click here to sign up to receive our new South West business news...