The Bar Council has backed a government “Action Plan” to promote the UK’s legal services sector overseas.
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke and Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green unveiled the plan in May, stating: “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.”
However, they add that “protectionist regulations remain a major obstacle to us exporting our services to some foreign markets… While the UK’s excellence and reputation is undoubted, costs and speed may affect where companies choose to resolve their disputes. We intend to do all we can to protect our competitiveness and build on our success”.
The Plan highlights the advantages of using UK legal services, and sets out ways to strengthen the UK’s reputation in commercial arbitration, mediation and court services.
An online promotional toolkit will be created for trade and investment advisers and, where possible, representatives from the legal profession will attend ministerial, Lord Mayoral and senior official visits. Chambers and law firms will be encouraged to fund secondments overseas.
Currently, the UK’s commercial dispute resolution and legal services sector generates £23.1bn per year, or 1.8 per cent of the UK’s gross domestic product in 2009.
Peter Lodder QC, Chair of the Bar, 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.”
According to the Plan, reasons for conducting business in the UK include: the easily enforceable nature of English judgments and the strength of the UK’s international dispute resolution; world-class courts; the fact that 90 per cent of commercial cases handled by London law firms involve an international party; and strong regulatory controls on lawyers.