Business management

Forecasting economic activity levels in the legal activities sector

We publish forecasts of turnover, employment, and gross value added (GVA) for the UK legal activities sector (solicitors, barristers and other legal services providers). In addition, we quantify the scale of employment amongst legal professionals outside of the legal sector.

These forecasts are based on data from the Office for National Statistics and UK forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

Key findings

Our latest forecasts are for the period up to 2028 and demonstrate:

Economic activity is increasing steadily

The decade from 2009 to 2018 saw a steady increase in economic activity in the legal activities sector, with increases in:

  • the number of enterprises
  • the level of turnover that these enterprises generate
  • the level of GVA that they create

This is broadly in line with rates for the economy as a whole.

Over the same period, employment in the sector has stayed at approximately the same level.

Productivity increased while employment fell

Changes in the period 2009 to 2018 mean that the average number of people employed in each enterprise has fallen, and turnover and GVA per person employed in legal activities businesses have increased.

More is being produced with the same amount of staff.

Early signs of recovery from economic shock

As a result of Brexit and COVID-19, there has been a significant shock to levels of activity in the short term, with falls in the number of legal activities enterprises, the level of turnover and GVA of around 10% in 2020.

These are expected to begin to recover after 2020, but not expected to return to previous levels until the end of 2022.

By the end of this forecast period (2028), the forecasts expect these indicators to have increased on the 2019 (pre-shock) levels by 14%.

Projected increase in employment

The levels of employment in legal activities businesses follow a different trajectory.

In the short-term, employment levels are protected by the furlough scheme and then are expected to slowly increase – by 12,000 (3%) by 2028.

Increasing proportion of work outside the legal sector

We estimate that of all legal professionals working in the economy, some 44% work outside the legal activities sector.

This number (and proportion) has been slowly increasing over time and now accounts for a higher proportion of all legal professional employment.

Trends over time

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