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Bristol named as UK’s biggest legal centre outside of London

12th Feb 2016

Research from commercial property firm CBRE has revealed that Bristol is now the most popular regional legal centre in the UK, with law firms taking up 874,321 sq ft of floorspace in the city.

Birmingham (781,893 sq ft) and Manchester (774,922 sq ft) follow closely behind, with a big gap between them and Leeds, which has 486,467 sq ft dedicated to law firms. Edinburgh, Liverpool, Glasgow, Cardiff, Nottingham and Newcastle make up the remainder of the top 10 cities.

The research, based on law firm interviews and a sector benchmarking study, found that law firms are becoming more sophisticated in their approach to real estate, resulting in a huge variety of space requirements in different UK cities.

James McLean, senior director of the CBRE UK tenant advisory group, stated that firms are undergoing a period of rapid evolution and transformation as a result of rising demand for legal services, increased pressure on fees, and intensifying competition from innovative competitors.

“We are seeing a dual focus on cost control and selective investment to drive future business expansion,” he said, which has “led to a wave of legal office moves or expansions in the UK regional cities, often drawn by opportunities to take high quality, cost effective office space – operating at a substantial discount to London.”

However, although Bristol devotes the most office space to law firms, Manchester has the widest representation of firms in the top 100, hosting 42 practices in total.

The three stand-out cities are developing into leaders for their wider region, whereas the legal market in the south east, outside of London, is scattered across several towns and cities.

Whereas typical commercial property rates are £68.50 per sq ft in the City of London, the report found that prices are less than half that in Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester. However, the average rent per fee earner per year is £6,947 in Cardiff, making it the cheapest major city in the UK by this measure.