UK cements position as ‘centre of legal excellence’

Plans to strengthen the UK’s reputation as a world leader in legal services were unveiled by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke and Minister for Trade and Investment Lord Green today.

A new Action Plan has been published by the Ministry of Justice and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), setting out how the country’s commercial arbitration, mediation and court services will be promoted to a global audience.

The Action Plan is a key part of the government’s Plan for Growth, and aims to encourage overseas commercial clients to make use of UK legal services, with particular emphasis on the potential benefits for businesses.

The UK’s commercial dispute resolution and legal services sector currently generates £23.1 billion per year, or 1.8 per cent of the UK’s gross domestic product in 2009, and provides a vast number of jobs in related sectors. The Government is keen to expand on this success.

The plan sets out a series of Government commitments, including creating an online promotional toolkit for trade and investment advisors, and ensuring professional representatives attend official visits where appropriate.

Some of the top reasons to carry out business in the UK, given in the Action Plan, include:

  • International dispute resolution continues to grow. The number of disputes resolved through arbitration and mediation in the UK reached 34,541 in 2009, up from 19,384 in 2007
  • World-class, streamlined court services for the 21st Century. The Rolls Building, scheduled to open later in the year, will for the first time incorporate onto one site the work carried out by the Commercial Court, the Technology and Construction Court and the Chancery Division.
  • English judgments are easily enforceable. The EU Judgments Regulation and European Enforcement Order make these judgments watertight in Europe, but they are also recognised and respected in most other parts of the world
  • More international and commercial arbitrations take place in London under English law than in any other city in the world, with 90 per cent of commercial cases handled by London law firms involving an international party
  • Our lawyers are regulated through the Legal Services Act 2007 in England and Wales  and the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010
  • An essential partner of the financial services sector. The biggest areas of practice for UK law firms include corporate work, banking and capital markets.

 Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said:

‘As Britain’s economy emerges from a difficult period, it is vitally important that the country builds on its strengths to support the recovery. There are few areas where Britain is stronger than in the law.

‘Whether it’s in the provision of legal services, the use of our courts for the resolution of disputes, or the application of English law for contracting, the UK is truly a global centre of excellence.

‘People turn to us because they know they will find world class, highly specialised practitioners and expert judges in the specialist courts. They understand that a decision from a court in the UK carries a global guarantee of impartiality, integrity and enforceability.’

Minister for Trade and Investment Lord Green added:

‘The UK’s stable legal and regulatory environment is one of the main reasons that so many overseas firms choose to invest here.  It is an area in which we truly are world-leading.

“In recognition of this, the recent UKTI Strategy has committed us to working more closely with the accountancy and legal professions, especially in the role they have to play in supporting SMEs looking to export overseas.

‘Today’s action plan takes us even further in promoting the UK abroad, with representatives from legal professional bodies due to participate in visits and trade delegations. This will ensure that these professions remain at the core of the UK offer and that we highlight the key role they have to play in our future economic growth.’

The Government will be working with industry experts including the Law Society of England and Wales, the Bar Council and TheCityUK, to find a joint approach to encouraging growth.

Peter Lodder QC, Chairman of the Bar Council, said:

‘The Ministry of Justice and BIS are to be congratulated for taking an active interest in how the potential of the legal services sector can be unlocked as part of the Government’s wider growth strategy. The Bar Council is delighted to be working together with Government to develop the role which the legal sector can play in securing the UK’s long-term economic recovery’.

In addition to the Government objectives the Action Plan identifies some key tasks for these industry partners including producing and delivering a strategy to promote the UK as a centre of excellence for dispute resolution, and re-launching the Legal Services and Dispute Resolution Group.

Ministry of Justice Website