London "Legal Hub" Success Due To International Openness

London is a legal hub and English law is held in high esteem internationally, according to the president of the Law Society.

In an article* on why London is at the heart of the legal and business sectors globally, Robert Heslett referred to English lawyers as historically being the “pioneers” of launching legal markets in countries around the world. He stressed the importance of solicitors in England and Wales continuing to operate internationally, representing English law on the global stage.

While the “traditions” and “talents” of English Law and English solicitors have positioned London as a world leader in the provision of legal services, to keep this status it must remain relevant. Only through attracting lawyers and legal firms from overseas, and through English lawyers working abroad, will England retain its leadership.

The Law Society currently has 25,000 members who work overseas and an increasing number of law firms have offices in countries outside of England.

Regulation is also an area in which England can maintain its competitive edge. The Australian market has experienced similar growth to the English legal market in the last 40 years – and there are lessons England can learn as a result. For example, Australia synchronised its admission policy throughout the country two years ago, making the process inflexible for English solicitors who wanted to practise in New South Wales as they had to take exams in up to 9 subjects, no matter their experience.

England needs to be wary of this when the QLTS is introduced, as “regulation must make allowance for commercial enterprise and development,” Mr Heslett said. Through embracing the best lawyers from abroad, England will remain a legal leader globally and London a legal hub. Mr Heslett added: “It is this openness which has always been the secret of our success.”

The QLTS replaced the QLTT in 2012. The new scheme has been designed to ensure the public can have every confidence in the ability of practising English lawyers, regardless of their background. One of the main updates is the removal of experience as part of the selection criteria – replaced by practical exercises to test a potential English lawyer’s aptitude.