Leeds is second only to London in terms of legal expertise and talent, the head of law firm Shoosmiths has claimed.
Paul Stokey, head of the newly-opened Leeds office said that Shoosmiths’ aspirations to become one of the country’s leading law firms could only be met by having a presence in Leeds.
Mr Stokey also said that his firm’s announcement that it would become the anchor tenant at the soon-to-open Platform development above Leeds City Station was a “statement of intent” about Shoosmiths’ ambitions for its Leeds operation.
The lawyer, who joined from fellow Leeds firm Gordons last year, added that Leeds was currently facing a strong new chapter as an economy but warned that it may miss out to the likes of Manchester if it failed to take on more devolved power.
Speaking from Shoosmiths’ current offices in the West One building on Wellington Steet, Mr Stokey told The Yorkshire Post: “We are here for the talent.
“The legal market in Leeds I think is the second largest and certainly the second most mature in the country.
“Shoosmiths have a firm ambition of wanting to be the leading national law firm in terms of client experience. If you are going to achieve that you have got to be in the second largest market.
“There is a real depth of talent here. In all disciplines it is second only to London. If you want the top clients, if you want to be a leading national law firm you have got to be in this city.”
Mr Stokey was speaking just weeks after wide-ranging research was published which showed Leeds to be the fastest-growing legal market in the country with an economic value of more than £330m a year.
When asked why he felt Leeds was such a hotbed of legal talent Mr Stokey said: “Never mind the legal sector, if you look at the number of retailers and financial institutions that started in the region, there is certainly something in the region that many years ago created that dynamism that led to growth of the legal sector which is why we are all here now.
“There is a wealth of young talent coming through into the market place. I have been very impressed with what I have seen so far.”
The firm is set to relocate into the Platform development later in the year.
Mr Stokey said: “Getting into our new office will be fantastic for us in terms of the space it provides and the statement it makes to the rest of the city.
“It is a fantastic space in a fantastic building in a great location, but the statement it makes to our clients, to our people and potential future people is that we are here for the long-term.
“It is a 10 year lease, with an option to take up a great deal more space which we hope to take up potentially as well.
“We have got a track record of growing large substantial businesses.”
When Shoosmiths first opened in Leeds on December 1 it has just seven employees, a figure which has since ballooned to well over 40.
However Mr Stokey said that he nor the firm nationally had a specific head count they were aiming for.
“I would not like to say we have got a target,” he said.
“We are very ambitions and I we offer something unique as compared to what is offered with the big six.
“We have got a proposition which compares very favourably to traditional career paths of other law firms and our focus in Leeds and our focus on our people means that we are attracting the best talent around.”