MANCHESTER has overtaken Leeds as the fastest growing legal centre outside London, according to the chief executive of The Law Society.
Des Hudson said he believed that the movement of key decision makers out of Leeds was one of the reasons Manchester has gained the upper hand.
His claims were questioned by Leeds-based lawyers, who highlighted the fact that a number of major Manchester-based law firms have collapsed in recent years. Mr Hudson, who was born in Halifax, said during a trip to Leeds: “If I go back to, say 2005, looking at regional centres outside London, I would have said that Leeds had the fastest growth rate. My sense now is that you’ve been overtaken by Manchester as a regional centre. My sense is that they are growing more quickly. I expect there are lots and lots of factors involved here, but I do think there’s an issue for Leeds to think about. That’s not to say that Leeds isn’t a major centre for legal work here in the north east of England. It is. But I do think it’s lost the top spot in terms of regional centres growing quickly to Manchester. Part of the changes in the economy have been a factor. We have seen businesses that were previously owned and run and managed from Leeds disappearing or being taken over. Those decision makers have moved to London or Manchester. That’s been a factor. I think that Manchester has had its work to do to catch up with Leeds, so maybe people who ran the firms in Manchester reacted to that. They’ve sharpened their act. Maybe you can’t stay at the top forever. These things come in cycles. I do think that Leeds’s time will come again.”
According to figures compiled by the Law Society, there were 3,028 solicitors employed in Leeds in November last year, compared with 4,627 in Manchester and 3,514 in Birmingham.
Mark Burns, senior partner at Leeds-based Clarion, described Mr Hudson’s comments as “nonsense”.
He added: “Most of the larger regional firms with headquarters in Leeds are continuing to prosper and I would argue that this is because they are better run and more profitable.
“Every year, we see more firms from Manchester and other Northern cities seeking to set up offices in Leeds because, despite the huge competition, it is such a vibrant centre for law.”