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Contribution of the UK legal services sector to the UK economy report

In 2018, legal services were worth nearly £60bn gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy, while in 2017 legal services exports hit £5bn.

The Contribution of the UK legal services sector to the UK economy report, which we commissioned from KPMG, shows just how vital it is that our trade negotiators put legal and other professional services at the heart of forthcoming talks on a new deal with Europe.

In 2016, we commissioned and published a report, called Economic value of the legal services sector, to quantitatively assess the economic contribution that the legal sector and its actors (for example solicitors) generated.

This report updates the 2016 findings, and provides new insights and analysis covering additional areas of economic and social impact.

For the first time the analysis of the value of legal services looks not only at the people employed directly in the sector but also in other jobs – such as in-house lawyers and general counsels employed in other business sectors.

It also shows the value of voluntary (pro bono) work done by legal professionals. In 2017 43,800 solicitors worked an astonishing 1,446,000 unbilled hours, worth an estimated £439m.

Key statistics

  • The report projects that a 1% growth in legal services in 2020 could boost UK gross domestic product by between £990m and £1,200m by 2050
  • In 2017, the UK exported approximately £5bn worth of legal services and imported approximately £0.80bn – a positive net contribution of £4.29bn to UK balance of trade
  • Legal services had the highest balance of trade among professional services sectors in the UK
  • Legal services support around 552,000 full time employees – 358,000 in the sector itself, and 225,000 in the legal activities sector
  • Legal services also support 150,000 employees indirectly in the legal services supply chain and 43,000 more from spend from sector wages
  • The UK legal sector’s GVA was worth £59.93bn in 2018
  • The sector accounts for 1.7% of the total UK labour force
  • Levels of employment in legal services have fallen by 0.7% in the years between 2013 and 2018
  • Over the same period productivity grew 17% – in legal services the average value of each employee’s contribution is £100,500, compared to £54,330 which is the average nationally