LAUNCHING THE INAUGURAL WALES LEGAL AWARDS
The inaugural Wales Legal Awards were held at a glittering ceremony in Cardiff in May 2019. Established by boutique firm Lux Family Law, the new awards celebrated excellence in all parts of the legal community including claimant law, corporate and commercial, employment, property and construction, residential and conveyancing, and commercial litigation.
However, whilst the legal profession touches everyone at various stages of our lives from making a will to buying a house, very few think of the impact of the sector in terms of the economy.
Currently, the UK is the largest legal services market in Europe and only second to the US globally and according to the Law Society, there are an estimated 370,000 people employed in legal services in the UK, although this is expected to fall over the next few years due to a range of factors including increasing adoption of new technology and new working methods.
In addition, it is estimated that the sector is worth around £30 billion to the economy, contributes 1.5 per cent to the UK’s GDP and has grown at around three times the rate of the UK. More relevantly, the legal services sector is a net exporter and exports more than five times as other professional services such as accounting, auditing, book-keeping and tax consulting.
A total of 63 per cent of these legal services is sold to the business sector as compared to 13 per cent to the public sector and only 0.3 per cent to households. Excluding the legal profession itself, the single largest source of business demand for legal services is the financial services sector (including insurance and pensions activity) followed by construction and IT services.
As a result of this activity within the sector, 8,000 new jobs are created and £379 million is added to the economy for every one per cent growth in the UK legal services sector. In addition, each £1 of extra turnover in the sector stimulates £1.39 in the rest of the economy and every 100 extra jobs in legal services supports a further 67 jobs.
In Wales, the legal sector is substantial with over 450 law firms registered across the country with the majority of the large commercial law firms located along the M4 corridor with the majority based in the capital city of Cardiff. There is also a ready supply of future skills for the sector with 4,000 students studying law at Welsh universities including Bangor University.
According to the Legal 500 - the leading guide to law firms and solicitors in the UK - while the majority of law firms are local businesses, an increasing number of English firms have recently established offices in the capital attracted to some extent by the lower costs incurred by running the business out of Cardiff.
However, we mustn’t forget that there are also excellent businesses based outside of Wales’ capital city, including a number here in North Wales.
Indeed, one of the most prestigious accolades from Friday night’s Wales Legal Awards – for the Rising Star of the Year – went to Elissa Thursfield of Gamlins Law which has various offices across North Wales.
After training with a global firm, Elissa move to North Wales where she is central to development of the employment team at Gamlins, is responsible for their corporate social responsibility programme and has co-founded “Ladies that Launch”, a networking group to assist and connect women working in rural environments.
She has also been a volunteer RNLI Crew member in Abersoch for over thirteen years and helped to establish Welsh Adaptive Surfing to provide funding, sponsorship and equipment for disabled people wanting to learn to surf and compete for Wales.
Certainly, the Wales Legal Awards demonstrated that Elissa, and many others within the Welsh legal community, have the skills and talent that not only helps the sector to create jobs in its own right but through the high quality of services it offers, supports other businesses to grow and develop.