The UK risks losing its status as a top international legal centre if more money is not invested in the courts and judiciary, a City lobby group has claimed.

The CityUK said the UK’s position as the world’s second largest legal market is under threat from ‘key rivals’ such as Singapore. ‘To preserve the UK’s status as an international legal centre, there needs to be more investment in the UK judiciary and courts system to ensure that the best commercial barristers and solicitors aspire to become UK judges,’ the group says in an international strategy published today. 

‘Members of the UK judiciary should also be encouraged to promote the effectiveness of UK commercial law overseas, and resourced to do so around the world especially in common law jurisdictions like India where the reputation of UK law remains strong.’

A 2021 survey by international firm White & Case found that Singapore now equals London as the world’s most popular seat for international arbitration, with Hong Kong coming a close second.

The CityUK also stressed the importance of recognising professional qualifications so that lawyers can practise abroad. ‘Ideally such agreements would automatically allow UK professionals to practise in the host country. If not, there should be a clear framework and timetable for discussions between the UK and host country governments (or professional bodies) with a view to agreeing on recognition of professional qualification arrangements.’

The government is currently engaged in a number of trade negotiations which open up new markets to UK lawyers. An enhanced trade partnership with India, announced in May, aims to remove barriers in the Indian legal services sector, which currently prevent UK lawyers from practising international and foreign law in the country.

Elsewhere in the world, the UK’s trade agreement with Australia promises to enable UK lawyers to practise in the country without requalifying, and could act as a stepping stone to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The 11-country bloc currently consists of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.