Leeds Conference

Leeds Law Society, in conjunction with Leeds City Council held the first Leeds Conference on 14 June, attended by professionals (legal and otherwise) from across the city. The conference was the culmination of a specially commissioned report on Leeds legal services, which demonstrates the significant growth in the legal sector in Leeds since 2010. This includes a 12% growth in the working population and an increase by 20% of overall employment in the legal sector.

Tom Bridges, CFO at Leeds City Council, noted that on his travels the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ brand is more recognisable than one might think. However, it tends to be thought of as centred on the North West, and there is certainly opportunity to promote Leeds more within the overall brand. The North has traditionally been very tribal. Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle etc. have all remained very distinct, although in recent years there has been more cohesion. And why not, when the train from Leeds to Manchester is quicker than travelling the length of the Central line?

We were encouraged to “disrupt and innovate” in our way of working by Helen Fletcher, Senior Counsel at Uber, who also advocated inter-connectivity between advisers. Her analogy of the way Uber drivers have been challenging the precedence of London cabs to the relationship between Leeds and London law firms certainly struck a chord. Whilst for some clients there will always be a sense of prestige attached to a firm in the City, there is no reason why (particularly when aided by the latest technology) firms in Leeds cannot appeal to the consumer experience more than a traditionally higher priced City firm.

Leeds JLD chose to attend a breakout session on millennials. Whilst many junior lawyers will fall into the category and undoubtedly have a vested interest, it was gratifying to see a number of more senior professionals taking an active interest in the session. Where the term can sometimes seem pejorative (“snowflakes”), there was huge positivity in the discussions about how best to harness the vibrancy and the innovative way of processing information which millennials can bring to a business.

Are robots really the future and could they take all our jobs? Professor Netta Cohen from the University of Leeds and Andy Lilley of LexisNexis shared their thoughts on technological “evolution rather than revolution”. Junior lawyers are far more likely to view technology with this mind-set and therefore are more able to assist their more senior counterparts. There was also discussion on the advantages of artificial or augmented intelligence. Interestingly, it appears to be augmented intelligence (the combination of human and computer) which produces the best results. We’re safe for now!

Particularly for those of us brought up in the area, it is easy to forget that there is so much going on outside of work to attract and retain talent in Leeds and the surrounding area. Sir Gary Verity, CEO of Welcome to Yorkshire, asked what features would be included in a model city to be designed from scratch. Renowned arts companies, top flight sports teams, popular festivals and easy access to the countryside? Northern Ballet, Leeds Rhinos, Leeds Festival and the Yorkshire Dales on the doorstep? Not to mention the five law schools in the city, which present a (sometimes untapped) pool of future talent. The day closed with Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Ashton Golding (who, it was noted, no-one would ever dare to describe as a “snowflake” millennial) of Leeds Rhinos.

Thank you to all of the speakers, Leeds Law Society and Leeds City Council for reminding us about a great place to live and work, and demonstrating how we can ensure that Leeds is seen as a centre of excellence. Next stop, Leeds to win European Capital of Culture 2023!!