Catherine Hughes – manager of the Yorkshire & North East team – on her region...

2011 has been a year of radical change to the legal profession. Whilst we will need to wait until 2012 to see what the impact will be this year has definitely been good for the Yorkshire and the North East markets. An increase in recruitment by many leading firms across the regions - particularly within the commercial disciplines - is a sign that confidence is being restored. The formations of bigger and bolder firms through significant mergers and some excellent half yearly results, mean many have seen the last 12 months as their best year for some time.

The newly formed DAC Beachcroft now has a combined total of 230 partners, 2,000 staff and an expected turnover of £190m. The firm, with offices in Leeds and Newcastle, has reported a 10% increase in turnover for the first half of the financial year which is great news.

Cobbetts is also looking forward to recording a strong financial performance as it secures an £11.5m funding package with Lloyds Bank, after posting a 3% increase in fee income in the first half of its financial year. Key areas of growth for the firm were litigation and corporate. Rumours were rife about a merger with DWF after the internet domain name DWFCobbetts was registered, but we were all put out of our misery with the announcement that Crutes will be formally incorporated into DWF as of January 1st. This will create a £88m turnover practice and will strengthen DWF’s presence in the North East particularly with the Newcastle appointment of corporate partner John Flynn as executive partner.

Dickinson Dees announced its move into Leeds after four successful years in York. In the last 12 months, the firm has acted on corporate deals valued at a staggering £2.4bn and in the process it has quadrupled its operations in Yorkshire. We’re sure the Leeds office, due to open in January, will see a strong team consisting of many of the region’s leading lawyers, making it definitely one to watch.

Sheffield has also firmly established itself on the legal map this year with the merger of Manchester’s St John’s Buildings Chambers and Sheffield’s Paradise Chambers creating St John’s Buildings Sheffield. The Yorkshire set is now part of the largest barristers chambers in England and Wales, with more than 250 barristers and 70 support staff. Sheffield has also been named as one of 8 UK cities to become an “economic powerhouse”. Nick Clegg announced that the city will keep £180 million of the business rates it collects each year, instead of handing them to the Government. As Sheffield’s economy grows, it is hoped the rates collected will increase and the extra revenue retained for local investment.

Over in the North East, firms wanting to source national talent have made their packages more attractive to relocators. With Newcastle becoming more appealing not only to firms, but also to candidates, many are considering the city as a viable location. The 2012 edition of Chambers placed Watson Burton within the high level bands for five of its eight core service areas which is great recognition.

A key retirement to hit the headlines was that of former Law Society President, founder member and former president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and Irwin Mitchell senior partner, Michael Napier. Mr Napier has for three decades led the senior management team at Irwin Mitchell and has seen the firm grow from a small Sheffield practice to one of the biggest law firms in the country.

Finally, many people won’t be sorry to see the back of the Solicitors From Hell website which has, for many years, allowed the general public to name and shame solicitors who they believe hadn’t provided an adequate service.  The site was described as “a vehicle for pursuing personal grudges and vendettas against conscientious and reputable firms and legal professionals”. Heavy stuff but thankfully it’s now a thing of the past!

So, it’s been an interesting 12 months and here’s hoping 2012 will continue to be a good year for the Yorkshire & North East legal employment market and we hope to continue representing leading lawyers from across the regions. If change is afoot for you next year, then give us a call!