Look closer to home
I welcome the news that the Welsh government is launching a strategy to attract new legal jobs to the country and urging international London-based law firms to consider Wales as the ‘business location of choice’ for expansion and investment.
However, the Welsh government also needs to support existing Welsh legal firms and might usefully examine its own legal services procurement policies in this regard. In the last five years, Finance Wales plc, which then administered the Wales Creative IP Fund on behalf of the Welsh government, spent £452,954 on legal fees paid to London-based firms, but just £33,189 on firms based in Wales. This is ironic given that the fund’s investment criteria required projects to demonstrate a spend of £1 in Wales for every £1 invested by the fund.
This would not be an issue if the London-based firms were simply better and more competitive than their Welsh counterparts. However, Finance Wales could not have been in a position to judge since, out of the five firms invited to tender between 2007 and 2010 and the six firms invited to tender between 2010 and 2011, only one firm was based in Wales. There were then at least four Welsh legal practices noted in Chambers UK for their expertise in media and entertainment law.
The Creative IP Fund has been replaced by a new Welsh government fund, but the principle remains that Welsh government legal services procurement policies should be reviewed to ensure that Welsh firms, where they have the relevant expertise, are given a fair opportunity to tender for legal services on projects funded by Welsh public money.
The Welsh government can hardly expect international firms to place their confidence in Welsh legal services when it prefers to travel up the M4 for its own legal advice.
Pamela Forte, solicitor, Forte Law, Vale of Glamorgan