Kings Chambers has become the first barristers’ chambers to be named a Northern Powerhouse partner. Nigel Poole QC, Head of Chambers, explains what it means for Kings and the region.
The Northern Powerhouse is a term with which we are all familiar. Originating in policy circles before becoming a key part of the Conservative Government’s 2015 election manifesto – the term has come to be widely used, but not always so clearly defined.
I was initially skeptical about the project but I am happy to say I have come to the view that there is a great deal of merit in the Northern Powerhouse agenda – and that is why we have become the first barristers’ chambers to partner with the Northern Powerhouse.
It is important to say at the outset that the Northern Powerhouse is not about being anti-London or the South. Rather, it is about encouraging a greater confidence in the North. We should proudly promote the advantages of living and doing business in the North. In the legal sector, as well as in other fields of business, there is a tendency to look to London as a default position.
The Northern Powerhouse is looking to change the culture and re-balance the economy by creating a burgeoning economic hub across the Northern cities and counties. It seeks to achieve this by encouraging Northern communities to work more closely together to create a North where companies choose to invest and create jobs, and people choose to live because there is a high quality of life, rising living standards and everyone is supported to reach their full potential.
If we were to break that down one step further, we can say that the Northern Powerhouse is currently focusing on four key areas: connectivity and transport; skills, science and innovations; quality of life and culture; and devolution.
The Northern Powerhouse will help to build a network of businesses who all trust the economic potential of the North and support the need for a combined effort by government and business to realise that potential.
A key part of that agenda is promoting and celebrating major projects in the North, which help to demonstrate the tangible growth of the Northern economy.
Being a Powerhouse partner offers the opportunity to be part of a network of like-minded partners who are promoting the North, with the opportunity for collaboration.
To that end, it has a number of official partners. Partners are representative of the whole of the North and cover different institutions, businesses and sectors. The initiative is reaching out to numerous businesses across a variety of sectors. They include Siemens, Vodafone, Deloitte, Barclays Bank, various universities, airports and enterprise partnerships.
At Kings, we believe that by becoming a partner, we can take an important leadership role in collaboration with others in the legal sector, and the wider business community, to help build the Northern Powerhouse.
With 110 barristers specialising in all aspects of civil law, including business, property, planning, sports, licensing, regulations and health and safety, and bases in Manchester and Leeds, we believe we are ideally placed to make a real contribution to the project.
As befits the agenda, we are initially focusing on working with regional universities to increase opportunities available to the best and brightest students. This includes a tailored mini-pupillage programme for 25 students this summer – a three-day event that will comprise court visits, advocacy exercises, and talks from barristers, clerks and the judiciary.
The status quo is that the centre of gravity within the civil justice system is firmly in London. However, the balance is beginning to shift.
To counteract that, and create further opportunities within the North’s legal sector, we have already begun meetings with other stakeholders to promote devolution within the legal system, and to provide a balance that more truly reflects the needs of the population across the whole country.
It is obvious there is no shortage of outstanding legal talent in the North of England, and we want to see that pool of talent continuing to expand, providing real impetus to the northern economy.
There is a fantastic opportunity to attract more work to the legal sector in the region – and that is an endeavor we are dedicated to fulfilling. Our sports network and our international team are both busy at work enhancing the profile of the Northern legal sector. Our particular strength in areas of law that affect businesses and development means we are very well placed to help and work with many other partners within the project.
We are confident, also, that both Kings as a partner, and the Northern Powerhouse agenda itself, have strong support from the government and Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry. Combining our expertise with the efforts of government and other key stakeholders across a wide range of sectors in the region can help ensure that the legal sector can fully participate in making the Northern Powerhouse a true success.
The North of England has a tremendous amount to offer. It is a great place to live and do business – and the region need not be shy about making that argument.
Nigel Poole QC