Region ideally positioned to capitalise on industry transformation

The legal sector is on the cusp of a major industry transformation and Leeds City Region is ideally positioned to capitalise on the opportunity to the benefit of all firms within its ecosystem, according to a new report published today.

The report is the result of a six month project by Whitecap Consulting 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.

It found the legal sector, like many, has changed through innovation and technological adoption since 2015 and will continue to do so over the next five years. It also found that although innovation and technology in the legal sector is not yet as advanced as in FinTech and InsurTech, the recent pandemic has accelerated digital adoption, including changes to working practices in law firms, the courts and internal legal teams.

Looking to the future 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.

It also highlights that the size of the region’s legal sector which employs more that 14,400 people, its cross-sector digital tech capability including 8,500 digital tech companies, and pool talent including 49,480 graduates a year, are the building blocks which create the significant opportunity for the region in terms of legal tech and innovation.

Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said: “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 Health Tech, 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.”

Richard Coates, managing director of Whitecap Consulting, said: “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.”