Law Society calls on UK government to unleash economic power of legal services

New Law Society president Nick Emmerson says supporting regional legal hubs will benefit the entire economy

Law Society president Nick Emmerson Photo courtesy of the Law Society

The new president of the Law Society of England and Wales, Nick Emmerson, has called on the government to support regional growth through the economic power of legal services.

In his first statement since taking office, Emmerson said: “Legal services are an economic powerhouse, worth £60bn annually to the UK economy. A strong legal services sector underpins a strong economy across the board.”

He told the government ahead of its forthcoming Autumn Statement in November that growing regional legal hubs “from Bristol to Newcastle” would spread the benefits of the sector throughout the UK.

That theme of regionality is likely to be a key tenet of his presidency. On taking office last week at the Society’s annual general meeting in Chancery Lane, he said that regional firms “play a critical role in the local ecosystem of each region” and are “well acquainted with the key issues and concerns that each region faces”.

“As president, I am eager to hear their stories and ensure their voices are heard on the national stage,” he added at his inauguration. 

Emmerson, a capital markets partner at name firm Lewis Mathys Emmerson and a former Leeds Law Society president, has strong international credentials. Prior to founding his own firm in 2021, he was a partner at Gateley, where he developed its international law firm network and established the Leeds corporate team, including when it became the first UK law firm to float on the London Stock Exchange.

Emmerson’s career also included eight years at legacy Eversheds, which he joined in 2004 and made partner in 2007.

As well as working in its London and Leeds offices, he managed the firm’s Shanghai office and was a founding partner of its Hong Kong office. That built on his existing Asian practice, which included seven years working in Japan for Herbert Smith Freehills and what is now Dentons, where he trained and qualified. He is fluent in Japanese and has been admitted as a solicitor in Hong Kong and the Republic of Ireland, and as an attorney at law in California.

Emmerson said that the legal services sector is “central to the UK’s place on the international stage as an ideal place to do business”.

Ahead of the International Bar Association meeting in Paris, where the Society is holding a joint reception with the UK Ministry of Justice and the British Embassy, Emmerson said: “There is an international demand for English and Welsh solicitors and the value they bring to clients and communities in other jurisdictions.”

Promising to promote the Society’s members to international markets and support solicitors practising internationally, he said: “With my own international experience, I will be able to speak to the unique challenges and opportunities that face those who practise overseas.”

A Yorkshireman, Emmerson represents Leeds on the Society’s council, and succeeds Bradford’s Lubna Shuja, the first Muslim and first Asian woman to hold the role.

Shuja, on retiring from office, highlighted her own international achievements, including the decision by the Bar Council of India to open up its legal services market, which meant that for the first time English and Welsh solicitors can register to practise in India on a permanent basis.

“This decision will create huge opportunities for solicitors and Indian advocates in both countries, as well as for both our economies,” she said.

She also hailed agreements with Luxembourg and Switzerland, which will enable solicitors to register to practise English law in either country, in the latter case, making that right permanent in Swiss law. 

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