18 December 2019

Legal sector credited for underpinning London's global city status

Report highlights law's role in making UK largest net exporter of financial services despite Brexit fears

The worldwide popularity of English law and the quality of the UK legal system is underpinning the UK’s status as the leading net exporter of financial services, according to a new report.

The study, published by The City UK today, reveals that the UK is the world’s leading net exporter of financial services  (£61.9bn), followed by the US (£47.3bn) and Switzerland (£17.5bn).

The study - Key Facts About the UK as an International Financial Centre 2019 – notes that English law is used in 27% of the world’s 320 jurisdictions while American common law is favoured by 20% and adds that more than 400 law firms from around 40 jurisdictions operate in the UK.

English law, it asserts, is ‘by some distance’ the most widely used foreign law in Asia with businesses encouraged to structure their global contracts so they can benefit from the UK’s strong reputation for dispute resolution.

The City UK’s chief economist and head of research Anjalika Bardalai maintained that the City benefited from a strong ecosystem of expertise and services.

‘This ranges from green finance to Islamic finance to maritime business services, and is supported by an extensive network of professional services related to financial services: legal, accounting and consulting,’ she writes in the report’s foreword.

The cheerleading for the sector, however, is accompanied by anxiety over the impact of Brexit and an awareness that other jurisdictions are actively promoting their services to international businesses in a bid to entice them away from London.

Figures published by The Law Society of Ireland on 28 November revealed that 2019 was a record year for admissions to the Irish Roll of Solicitors from UK-based lawyers in the scramble to protect EU access rights ahead of Brexit. 

And earlier this month Sir Geoffrey Vos, Chancellor of the High Court of England and Wales, warned of the threat posed by other jurisdictions:  “We are witnessing active promotion of their legal systems, their arbitration seats, and their laws in order to attract new commercial and financial markets. These efforts are often made with the support of governments and supra-national entities.”

He was speaking at the launch of the The City UK report Legal Excellence, Internationally Renowned, an in-depth analysis of the legal sector. 

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