London firms ‘boosted’ by foreign competition
A leading representative of City lawyers has said competition from foreign firms has provided a welcome boost to the London market - and he urged government to do everything possible to encourage more.
Alasdair Douglas, chairman of the City of London Law Society, told the Gazette there are now more than 200 foreign firms with a base in London. This has been ‘terrific’ for the domestic market and helped to improve infrastructure, standards and training, he added.
‘We welcome [foreign firms] here. That’s in stark contrast to Delhi or São Paulo where they don’t want us. It’s fantastic to welcome them to London because it underpins the important of this city for international lawyers. I am not worried by competition - if they were setting up in Paris or Frankfurt I would be worried.’
But he warned that attempts by the EU to introduce a single contract law - as well as limited airport capacity - could harm the English ‘brand’ if they are seen to make London less attractive to investors.
‘We have very high levels of consumer protection in England and it’s not good for businesses to introduce this level of uncertainty. At the moment, we’re able to sell "English law", so it would be very bad for the UK economy if clients were not able to use it.’
Douglas, a former partner at City firm Travers Smith, admitted he was surprised at the range and number of people taking an interest in providing or regulating legal services in the era of alternative business structures.
But he stressed: ‘The successful firms will stick with the partnership model. City law firms don’t need capital and the only reason for any outside investor is capital. That’s the big difference with the banks in the 1980s - they desperately needed capital and the partners couldn’t put the money in.’