I recently attended a lunch for the heads of office of Birmingham’s larger law firms, organised by Birmingham Law Society.
The sentiment was extremely positive – for commercial firms in particular there has been a marked upturn in work since the start of the year and, as a consequence, many of us are on the hunt for new hires.
What was also evident is that the quality of work being undertaken in the region is first class.
The blue chip names being dropped at the lunch would not be out of place on the client rosters of any of the Magic Circle firms.
We are undoubtedly attracting work that once would have gone, by default, to London.
It’s therefore no surprise that local recruitment consultants are reporting a surge in demand for corporate, financial and real estate lawyers.
Nor is demand for these lawyers confined to solicitors’ practices.
Deutsche Bank has recently appointed a new head of legal for its expanding Birmingham office.
The legal team, currently around 40 lawyers, handles advice on derivatives, securities and finance, structured products and global prime finance.
The department’s new head, Jonathan Marshall, is charged with growing his team.
Over the past few years the spotlight on our sector has been on the challenges faced by our high street practices.
For firms reliant upon legal aid, and those offering services that can be commoditised by incomers to the market, the future remains bleak.
Whilst we must continue to support these firms, at the same time we should not be shy about celebrating those practices continuing to provide employment for thousands of people in the city.
In the last decade, Birmingham has vied with Leeds and Manchester for the title of the UK’s top regional legal centre. With the Legal Ombudsman and Solicitors Regulation Authority now based in the city that claim is no longer disputed.
It is often noted that Birmingham has a reputation for underplaying its assets.
The legal sector is the jewel in the crown of our professional services industry.
Let’s make sure everyone knows it.
* Steve Allen is head of the Birmingham office at national law firm Mills & Reeve