Has Bristol’s role as the leading legal hub outside London been maintained?

Over the last decade, Bristol has become home to a diverse range of firms, including private solicitors and commercial practices both large and small. From its easy connections to the capital to the cheaper cost of office space, it’s not hard to see how Bristol garnered the title of the largest legal hub outside London in 2016.

According to the research from commercial property firm CBRE, Bristol was the most popular regional legal centre in the UK in this year, with law firms taking up 874,321 sq ft of floor space in the city. The report further revealed the average legal office size occupied in Bristol was the second largest outside of London, while the average rent paid per sq ft was the lowest of the ‘Big 6’ regional cities.

“UK regional cities have a lot to offer law firms who can occupy space at a substantially discounted rate to London,” said Philip Morton, Head of Office Agency & Development at the Bristol office of CBRE. “In the case of Bristol, the city has a large pool of legal talent and great connectivity by rail, air and the M4 and M5 motorways.”

With regional heavyweights such as TLT, Burges Salmon and Osborne Clarke boasting an established presence in the city, it was no surprise to see a flock of firms following suit to capitalise on Bristol’s buoyant reputation. By setting up in the city or shifting from the capital, firms were able to deliver work on a lower cost base or to set up offshore service centres for bulk work.

In the two years that have passed since the findings were published, Bristol has managed to maintain its position in the top spot outside London, with Global firms starting to take notice of the opportunities that the South West presents in the legal sector.

Duncan Weir, managing partner of Bristol firm Bevan Brittan expressed his optimism about the growth of Bristol’s legal sector:

“It’s clear a number of firms see Bristol and the South West as an area with skilled legal professionals who can service clients across the UK and increasingly abroad. The ‘Great Western Cities’ agenda bringing together Bristol, Cardiff and Newport around the Government’s devolution agenda should only see that level of increased activity servicing both public and private sector clients.”

In November 2017, global law firm Clyde & Co announced their decision to open an office in Bristol, citing its reputation as a hotbed for professional services as its primary drive.

“I think the decision by Clyde to open an office here is testament to that,” said Becky Moyce, immediate past president of Bristol Law Society, referencing the title Bristol earned only two years ago. “We already have a strong base of homegrown firms but to have an international player recognising Bristol as a key market gives us power in numbers.”

With the South West continuing to prove itself as a global player in the field of emerging technology, Bristol will undoubtedly remain a desirable home for law firms seeking new ways to improve the client service.