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National and regional firms are continuing to make inroads into City legal work, according to recent research
The report, 'The Credibility of the National Law Firm' by Reena SenGupta of RSG Consulting, which is based on 130 interviews with lawyers and clients, found that clients are buying more legal services from regional firms, to the detriment of London firms. Two-thirds of the London lawyers interviewed said that they had seen work drift out to the regions over the past two years. The report also found that 88 per cent of all the clients interviewed already use regional law firms, while 65 per cent said they would reroute work currently given to their London law firms to their regional firms. Inevitably, one of the key determinants is cost. Two-thirds of the clients interviewed cited this as the most significant reason for change. Clients say that regional law firms can be up to 60 per cent cheaper than City practices. However, cost is not the only factor in picking external counsel. SenGupta said: "Clients in the sample stressed that, while cost was important, the ability to do the work to a high standard was also essential. They move litigation, property and commercial work to the regions because they feel the lawyers have the necessary competence to do that work well. "With City charge-out rates being so high, regional firms are increasingly getting the opportunity to gather experience on an improved diet of M&A transactions." The major drifts of work out to the regions continues to be property, litigation, employment, IT and intellectual property - the property and litigation departments of national firms tend to have a higher number of national clients than other departments in their firms. However, the report says that M&A work is increasingly being put outside the City. Three-quarters of the corporate lawyers interviewed in London admitted that they had lost work to regional firms. SenGupta said: "The regional and national firms are keen to show how much work they feel they're shaving off the workloads of City firms."