Much has been made by the legal press about the recent arrival of a number of international heavyweights into the city’s legal services market. Law firms far and wide seem to be eying the prospect of establishing a presence in the North West and it is Manchester that appears seems to have the greatest attraction. But why is this? And what are the wider ramifications for the North as a whole?
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
The well-publicised arrival of ‘magic circle’ law firm, Freshfields created quite a stir when they established a foothold in the Manchester legal market earlier this year. Their decision to open a low cost support services offering in the city represented the realisation of a policy of relocating certain back office and support functions to more cost effective premises in the North West. This ‘north shoring’ initiative is designed to strip out cost, lower overheads and thus enable the firm to deliver a far more flexible and cost effective service.
Although the appearance in Manchester of one of the London elite certainly grabbed the headlines, the arrival of other law firms should not be forgotten. Nabarros sent ripples through the Manchester legal jobs markets when their Manchester office attracted some key players particularly in the commercial property sector.
Global US firm Latham & Watkins also joined the fray with the announcement of their business services office. It may seem strange why the Manchester legal market has been targeted in this way. However, the reasons are actually very obvious. As Rod Harrington, Chief Administrative Officer for Latham & Watkins explained, “The city has a large and highly qualified talent pool and offers ease of access to and from our offices in Europe and around the world.”
In other words, the decision to enter into the Manchester legal services market seems to be based on three main factors:
- Expertise; and
For any law firm, the key to its success is arguably its staff. Legal recruitment is a crucial process and law firms invest heavily in recruiting, retaining and nurturing their fee earners and support staff. It stands to reason therefore that an outsider looking to set down roots in a new city would look for a readily available talent pool which they can tap into.
Manchester boasts four university law schools, releasing a large number of hungry law graduates onto the Manchester legal jobs market each year. Furthermore, the presence of an already highly evolved legal community means that any law firm looking to establish a base in Manchester can draw on a highly trained pool of human resources.
The latest edition of the Legal 500 makes interesting reading. Every law firm mentioned in its ‘regional heavyweight’ has an office in Manchester. Moreover the growth and development of other national and international players continues to ensure that the draw of Manchester’s legal market remains strong. TLT’s Manchester office only opened two years ago and yet it has already entrenched itself in the city’s legal community with senior lateral hires from the top as well as mid-tier firms.
Likewise, Shoosmiths have continued to strengthen its position. The merger between Slater Heelis and Mohindra Maini should also not be forgotten, whilst Slater Gordon’s decision to make the city the home of its UK headquarters was highly significant. In short, any outside law firm looking to exert its influence outside London, would be hard pressed to find a more vibrant legal market than Manchester.
One of the factors that continues to make Manchester such an attractive proposition is its outstanding international and regional transport network. Whilst Manchester Airport shows no sign of slowing in its ambition to compete with Heathrow, the promise of an ever faster rail link to the Capital in the form of HS2 will no doubt attract further investment.
EFFECTS ON THE LEGAL JOBS MARKET IN MANCHESTER
With all these developments in mind it is hardly surprising that the legal jobs market in Manchester is more exciting than ever. This is, of course, good news for candidates looking for the right law job in Manchester to develop their legal career. However, it is also encouraging for law firms advertising for those Manchester law jobs. Manchester is quickly becoming a hotbed of legal talent and a real alternative to the City. The draw of the Manchester legal market beyond its immediate boundaries can only help to further enrich the seam of legal expertise available.
A WIDER PERSPECTIVE
Given all these reasons, is it any surprise that the Manchester legal services market has attracted the attention of so many national and global law firms. But he development of Manchester’s legal community is significant not just for its own sake but for the North in general.
In 2014, the Chancellor, George Osborne, first spoke out for the need of a Northern Powerhouse to rival London and the South East. The creation of such an entity requires strong ties with a network of cities such as Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle. Nevertheless, though Manchester can’t go it alone, the development of an increasingly bustling legal market is yet more evidence that it is certainly leading the charge.