All Roads Lead to North for Law Firms

2 Feb 2017

The Concept of ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is actually one of the few things we can thank George Osborne for. 

In the words of Osborne: ““The cities of the north are individually strong, but collectively not strong enough. The whole is less than the sum of its parts. So the powerhouse of London dominates more and more. And that’s not healthy for our economy. It’s not good for our country. We need a Northern Powerhouse too”1.

As a result, transport in the North has been prioritised (see Figure 1, projects include the Northern Powerhouse Rail or HS3, smart motorways and the development of the Northern Hub5), increased investment has been put into science and technology projects (such as the National Graphene Institute and the Square Kilometre Array), as well as studies and support for creative businesses in many of the Northern cities4.

 

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 16.25.14Post-Brexit, people questioned whether the Northern Powerhouse would continue to be supported, however, it was recently announced in the Autumn Statement that £556m will be injected into the Northern Powerhouse project as part of a “new, more interventionist industrial strategy4.” 

 

The £556m will be split between several projects including:

 

  • Flood defences in flood-prone areas,
  • A £10m innovation fund for SMEs in Greater Manchester and Cheshire,
  • Further regeneration of Hull city centre 
  • A cash boost of £72m has been put forward to the Liverpool City Region to advance growth and job prospects in the area.
  • A hotel and conference centre in Blackpool Winter Gardens
  • An International Advanced Manufacturing Park in Sunderland and South Tyneside, expected to create more than 5000 jobs4.

The Northern Powerhouse also benefits businesses currently based in London City, including law firms1.

Legislation reforms and post-recession cost-cutting has meant that businesses are increasingly squeezing the margins they spend with their suppliers. Ultimately, clients want more for less from their law firms.Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 16.17.02

Many top law firms have since moved aspects of their business to other cheaper locations2, either in response to their clients doing the same thing or purely because it makes sense for their own business. Ultimately, the Northern Powerhouse provides a legitimate alternative to London, not just for SMEs, but also for big businesses such as Barclays, Deloitte, Drax and Vodafone, who are big supporters of the Northern Powerhouse1. In other words, North-Shoring is more viable than ever.

On top of this, because of recent investment, the North also offers great potential for law firms to generate new clients. In the North West for instance, there are now 32,774 more businesses in the region than in December 2015. A 10% increase due to a record level of start ups3.

In addition, law firms will have access to a larger and more diverse pool of talent, from graduate level up to senior level. As factors such as house prices, job opportunities and social/leisure activities are causing talented individuals to rethink London as the place to develop their careers and settle down.

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 16.23.29As the Northern Powerhouse develops, individuals will begin to realise that they can have a better quality of life outside of London. As a result, talent who previously moved to London for job opportunities may be tempted to return to their Northern routes and talent coming through Northern universities currently, are more likely to remain up North rather than move to London.

For women and families in particular, London is becoming more and more unaffordable and impractical. House prices are growing faster than pay rises which is therefore pushing up the average age when women have children in London. In fact, nowadays 63% of women residing in London wait until they are at least 30 until they have children, a significantly higher figure than in any other part of the country. This isn’t helped by the fact that salaries in the 22-29 age bracket have risen the least out of all the other age demographics. Moreover, because house prices have increased in London more rapidly than in any other part of the country over the past 20 years, families have to save a lot longer if they want to buy a house in the capital9.

In fact average house prices in London are more than 3 times the average house prices in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham (see Figure 4)9.

Business leaders in London are facing similarly dire times ahead when considerScreen Shot 2017-02-02 at 16.29.47ing the future of business rates. It was announced in 2016 that while shops and businesses in central London could experience an 87% increase in business rates, businesses in Northern towns such as Blackpool and Bolton would see a decrease of up to 56%. In fact, government estimates reveal that the region of London will experience an 11% increase in it’s tax bill whilst everywhere else will register a decrease. Tax bills for businesses across the North-West for example, are estimated to decrease by 11%8.

In summary, being based in the North is a win-win for businesses and their employees (See Figure 3) and several law firms have already taken advantage of the Northern Powerhouse. Figure 5 displays the spread of offices among the top 30 UK law firms (as classified by The Lawyer).

It certainly appears that the Northern Powerhouse is focusing on the North West with Manchester taking £130.1m and Liverpool taking £72m of the allocated £556m4. In 2016, the North West grew more than any other region, with a 118% increase in foreign investment projects6.

Business Leaders need to embrace the fact that London will no longer be the place to be, in fact according to surveys carried out by Ernst & Young, “over 90% of the UK’s total growth came from the regions outside London and the South East (see Figure 2)6. It does appear that the planned devolution has taken effect and is having positive results within the regions.

Increased investment in transport links in the North, as well as the focus on connecting these links to London via HS2 and smart motorways allows businesses traditionally based in London to still retain all of the strategic benefits that come along with being present in London, but with all the added benefits of also having roots in the North.

(For more details, please see http://www.empirical-research.co.uk/)

Figure 5 – Click to Enlarge Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 16.32.50

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 16.35.31
References
http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/what-northern-powerhouse-should-you-12384401#ICID=nsm
http://insights.jepsonholt.com/post/102dut2/all-roads-lead-to-manchester
http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/business/business-news/north-west-tops-starting-new-12394664
23/01/2017. “£556m Northern Powerhouse cash allocation welcomed” BBC News. Link – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-38721046
http://www.mcginley.co.uk/news/transport-for-the-northern-powerhouse-can-we-support-the-idea/bp177/
http://www.ey.com/uk/en/issues/business-environment/ey-attractiveness-survey-2016-uk
https://www.hometrack.com/uk/insight/uk-cities-house-price-index/#
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/sep/30/business-rates-overhaul-london-northern
http://uk.businessinsider.com/london-house-prices-these-charts-show-why-having-a-child-in-capital-is-so-unaffordable-2017-1