Leeds Legal is the first ever city based legal marketing campaign of its kind in the UK. It is dedicated to raising the profile of the Leeds legal profession to promote the wealth of legal talent within the city.
Alan Baker is a lawyer who is a past President of the Leeds Law Society and the Yorkshire Union of Law Societies. He takes Bdaily behind the business.
What key challenges has your company recently faced?
As an organisation that represents and promotes the Leeds legal scene, The Legal Services Act 2011 has an indirect affect on our campaign. The changed regulatory position brings about new challenges for lawyers and firms alike. Whilst previously law firms had to be owned by lawyers now
the legal market is open for a new kind of investment and will allow external ownership of legal businesses and multidisciplinary practices, by companies that do not have a legal background, such as WH Smith and Tesco. These multinational organisations possess huge buying power and can therefore afford to charge minimum prices to the consumer and sweep up certain types of legal services such as conveyancing, wills and probate. But the question you have to ask is over the level of expertise and the quality of service they will receive.
Leeds Legal strives to promote Leeds as a legal services hub outside of the UK. The company has made significant business links with international law societies, developing ongoing international delegation programmes, with Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland and China to date. The crisis in the euro zone means that it is now, more than ever, crucial for Leeds Legal to continue forging business links abroad as with tougher economic conditions commerce becomes more difficult and less business means a decreased need for certain types of lawyers.
What is your biggest achievement over the past 12 months?
There are a number of achievements for Leeds Legal over the last year, both from a business and community perspective.
From a business perspective our ongoing cooperation and growing closeness with Barcelona has not only seen us participate in the Leeds in Barcelona festival of commerce and culture and take a delegation of lawyers from Leeds to Barcelona for the Trade Fair of the Legal Profession in Europe and the Mediterranean Arch, but, to also host a delegation of 13 lawyers in our city in November 2011. Ultimately, it has led to a successful joint application for EU funding of a unique exchange programme aimed at lawyers under the age of 35.
From a community viewpoint, we facilitated one of the largest ever volunteer projects in Leeds with Education and Enterprise week 2011. Over 170 volunteers were joined by MP Fabian Hamilton to give up their time to support 600 children across 11 schools in underprivileged areas across the city.
The initiatives main aim is to support primary schools in deprived parts of the city to raise children’s aspirations and develop future career ambitions. The range of volunteers from lawyers to marketing managers, got involved in sessions that embrace the ‘World of Work’ with focused workshops that challenge children to consider how they can work to achieve their dream, whilst gaining first-hand accounts of working in a variety of roles within a law firm.
What is your biggest focus for the coming year?
Leeds Legal’s main focus for 2012 is pushing the case to bring The European Patent Court to Yorkshire with the help of Baroness Wilcox and Timothy Kirkhope MEP. Admittedly this is a significant challenge but the benefits for Yorkshire would be huge. Not only would its presence enhance the region’s position on the global legal map but its status would help all Yorkshire lawyers promoting themselves overseas and UK business who would have easy access to the courts.
If you had to choose one top piece of advice for someone just starting out in business, or currently operating within your industry sector, what would it be?
Don’t run before you can walk and have full compliance with regulatory framework as it becomes ever more difficult at all times!
Can you share with us your view of the current landscape of business, in this region or generally and where your organisation sits within it?
The current landscape is difficult but improving - the Yorkshire legal market is still vibrant. In a corporate sense, the number of law practice head offices in Yorkshire has increased despite current economic times. This is partly due to big law firms closing or dividing into smaller niche firms and top employees or lawyers setting up firms of their own. However it remains true that despite the recession Yorkshire continues to possess an entrepreneurial spirit that attracts the very top firms and highest caliber lawyers who can compete with London and provide a top quality service and legal expertise but at regional rates.
Leeds Legal provides a different approach to legal advice – a unique partnership involving some of the city’s top firms which contributes to the surprisingly collaborative attitude despite them operating in a fiercely competitive legal market.