By: 5 October 2020
Whitecap publishes report on legal tech in Leeds city region

Leeds is ideally positioned to capitalise as the legal sector nears an inflection point of major transformation, according to a new report from Whitecap Consulting.

The report is the result of a six-month project analysing the legal sector in the Leeds city region, supported and co-funded by Leeds City Council, Leeds Law Society, University of Law, Harrogate Borough Council, and law firms including Addleshaw Goddard, Blacks, Pinsent Masons and Reed Smith.

The project, involving 130 stakeholders, found the legal sector has changed through innovation and technological adoption over the past five years and will continue to do so over the next five years.

Although innovation and technology in the legal profession is not yet as advanced as in fintech and insurtech, Covid-19 has accelerated its digital adoption, with the report highlighting examples of changes to working practices in law firms, the courts and internal legal teams.

Moving forward, the report says there is an opportunity to form stronger links between the legal and tech sectors in the Leeds city region, to unlock the opportunities legal tech and innovation can offer.

The combination of the size of the region’s legal sector, its multi-sector digital tech capability, and a large pool of experienced and graduate talent are the key factors identified as representing the foundation of a significant opportunity for the region in terms of legal technology and innovation.

Highlights from Whitecap Consulting’s report include:

  • More than 1,560 legal companies are based in the Leeds city region, including 28 of the UK’s top 100 law firms. The sector employs in excess of 14,400 people and generates approaching £1 billion per year. One in four people working in the legal sector in North England is based in Leeds, and the region offers a standard of support and advice substantively the same as that available in London as a result of the high concentration of quality legal advisers and related infrastructure.
  • The Leeds city region is home to 8,500 digital tech companies employing 57,000 people, including numerous prominent tech providers and digital consultancies. The wider Yorkshire region has seen 48% growth in digital sector employment over the last three years, more than any other region, including London. In 2019, Leeds was cited by Tech Nation as the best place in the UK to work as a data scientist, and this year digital tech productivity per worker in Yorkshire and the Humber has been found to be 16% higher than the national average.
  • The nine universities in the Leeds city region have 117,840 students and produce 49,480 graduates per year, of which 3,700 are law graduates, making the region responsible for 15% of the UK’s law graduates. One of the largest providers of legal education in the UK, University of Law, has its only innovation and tech hub in Leeds.

Nick Emmerson, president, Leeds Law Society, said: “Leeds is the UK centre of excellence for legal services outside of London, and this report highlights the region’s strengths across the legal sector. Exponential changes with technology, communications, data and algorithms mean we are now experiencing revolutionary change in the legal industry, and the Leeds legal offering is responding and leading the change in many areas.”

He added: “This report is the beginning not the end of a process—and combined with the backing from regional stakeholders, it shows that Leeds is perfectly placed to continue to thrive in the new world of legal services.”

Richard Coates, managing director of Whitecap Consulting, said: “We are delighted to have had the opportunity to conduct the research and analysis which has informed this report focusing on the role of technology and innovation in the legal sector across the Leeds city region, which is a well-known hub for regional, national and international legal work.”

“Leeds is a collaborative city, and the fact this research has been co-funded by a number of organisations, many of whom compete with each other, is a clear illustration of the collective desire to see the region’s legal sector develop and grow.”