Major world economies to be represented at Leeds legal conference

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Delegates from some of the world’s biggest economic powerhouses are set to appear at a major conference to highlight Leeds’s legal sector.

The Leeds Conference, now in its second year, will welcome Consulate General Li of the People’s Republic of China, John Simmons, minister counsellor for commercial affairs with the American embassy in London to its programme on Wednesday June 13 at Leeds Civic Hall.

They will be joined by the Hungarian secretary of state of human capacities Peter Hoppal.

Bill Barton, former president of Leeds Law Society and one of the event’s principal organisers, told The Yorkshire Post that the line-up underlined the city’s status as the premier centre for legal expertise outside of the capital and would help spread this message internationally.

Mr Barton said: “To get speakers to respond from China and the USA is a huge fillip for Leeds. The quality of the speakers underlines our message that the city is a centre of legal excellence.

“Following last year’s event the Legal 500 put on record that it considered Leeds to be the lead legal centre outside of London and since then international law firm Reed Smith has moved into the city.

Big player: Organiser Bill Barton says the line-up underlined Leeds's status as the premier centre for legal expertise outside the capital.

Big player: Organiser Bill Barton says the line-up underlined Leeds's status as the premier centre for legal expertise outside the capital.

“We would like to see more international law firms open major offices in Leeds and we want more firms inside the city to adopt the strapline that this place is a centre for excellence.”

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, said that the championing of the city’s legal sector was part of a wider strategy to shout more loudly about the Leeds’s strengths.

“If you look at the reasons Reed Smith gave for wanting to move to Leeds it was all about the tech and digital strength we have here.

“It is part of a wider momentum. Leeds is home to so many talented lawyers. We have always shied away from shouting about our success in Leeds in the past.

“But we are shouting about it now and we now need each sector to get with us.”

Mr Riordan added: “This is about rising stars as much as it is about current leaders. There are great development opportunities here.”

The city’s legal sector generated estimated economic output of £300m in 2017 and continues to outperform the likes of London and Manchester for growth.

Research shows the city region’s base of legal businesses grew by 2.9 per cent between 2016-17 to a total of 1,605, compared with 1.8 per cent in Manchester and 1.5 per cent in London.

Only the West of England, centred around the city of Bristol, grew more quickly than Leeds City Region during the period, although its sector is barely half of the size. Law firms in Leeds added 1,500 new roles between 2015-16, almost twice the national average.

As well as championing the Leeds legal sector the event will also look at matters such as mental health and wellbeing.