Justice secretary Chris Grayling has announced a renewed drive to export the UK’s legal services as City firms fight to maintain healthy profit margins.

Grayling used a speech last week to stress that London was as much as a legal centre as a financial one and promised to do everything he could to help domestic law firms develop a foreign presence. His support will be welcomed by a City market that is showing signs of slowing down, while remaining profitable.

A report released today by lobby group TheCityUK predicts that growth in fee revenue will fall below 4% in 2012/13, compared with a 5% increase the previous year, as a result of the weak eurozone economy and slow global economic growth.

Once inflation is taken into account, the report concludes that many law firms will see only marginal real growth.

The report goes on to say that global economic uncertainty is ‘likely to constrain stronger growth during the 2013/14 financial year.’

Grayling said it was vital to remove barriers to law firms operating overseas and convince countries – in particular India – to liberalise their legal markets.

The Ministry of Justice has drawn up an action plan to promote City firms, working with UK Trade & Investment on a marketing strategy that will begin in September. Under the plan:

  • Senior officials from all government departments will meet twice before the end of the year with legal service sector stakeholders for the promotion of UK legal services.
  • The MoJ will publish and widely distribute a practical guide to law in the UK and dispute resolution for overseas lawyers and business.
  • According to TheCityUK, legal services contributed £20.9bn to UK gross domestic product in 2011 – 1.6% of the total and almost double the 2001 figure.