February 04, 2020
Spotlight on The Tyne
Having been a law student at Newcastle University in the early 80’s, I still feel huge nostalagia everytime I visit Newcastle upon Tyne. The Brandling Pub in Jesmond across from Windsor Terrace, was the local “Posh”, nights out were at Ricks Bar in the Bigg Market (cocktail hour was from 6pm), and parties at Tuxedo Junction and Tuxedo Princess and the Stage Door. Weekends might consist of a trip out to Whitley Bay sailing or ice skating, or trips further afield but within an hour to Alnwick or Holy Island.
Nearly 40 years on despite extensive urban regeneration which has cosmopolitanised the city, Fenwicks, The Eldon Centre, and the “Stotty” shop on Percy Street still exist!
The University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and Northumbria University are both highly ranked nationally and internationally and are both destinations of choice by many young people embarking upon their future.
The North East has historically been home to the headquarters of many well known multi-million pound businesses with interests throughout the UK and beyond. Sectors including learning and education, digital technology, retail, tourism and cultural centres contribute £13 billion towards the UK’s GVA. Household names include Sage, Greggs, Arriva, Vertu, Bellway and Nissan, not to mention of course a premier league football team!
With 30 years of recruiting in the city, the legal community in Newcastle has changed fundamentally in this period with the demise of some well known names from my past.
The city can boast a National / Transatlantic law firm in the form of Womble Bond Dickinson (still known affectionately in the city as Dickie Dees).
DWF (origins in Liverpool) and DAC Beachcroft through merger have existing offices in the city.
It is encouraging that Top 45 UK law firm Weightmans moved into the city after the merger with Watson Burton.
Ward Hadaway, (having recently celebrated 30 years) is a Top 100 UK firm, still very committed to the North East region that has in the last decade opened up in Leeds and Manchester. For over 20 years, the firm has championed the fastest 50 growing businesses in the North East at an annual awards ceremony, which they have replicated in both Leeds and Manchester.
Worth a mention is Sintons Law, a full service law firm and possibly the fastest growing law firm in the North East. Hugely modest about their client base and the quality of work they attract, they are actively and successfully pursuing an ambitious growth strategy. Truly committed to the North East, they are a credible challenge to their larger neighbours.
Other excellent firms worthy of note in the city whether they are Full Service, Commercial or Boutique are Muckles, All Square One, Hay & Kilner, Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP, Short Richardson and Forth LLP.
However the challenge that all these firms have is to attract new legal talent to the market.
There are 2 ½ x more solicitors holding a practicing certificate based in Yorkshire and Humberside, and 5x more based in Manchester and the North West.
Now is the time to consider where the opportunities might lie in the future for the next wave of associates, senior associates and partners who are ambitious and self motivated to succeed, given that the Manchester in particular and Leeds are over-lawyered and potential prospects limited. I believe that Newcastle Upon Tyne and The North East might just be that Gateway.