Legal heavy hitters in a class of their own
Leeds and the greater city region are nationally recognised for a buoyant legal sector. Our Business Editor spoke to a ‘next generation partner’ at Schofield Sweeney about the firm, sector...

Leeds and the greater city region are nationally recognised for a buoyant legal sector. Our Business Editor spoke to a ‘next generation partner’ at Schofield Sweeney about the firm, sector and economy.

It’s widely recognised that Leeds has a large, dynamic financial, business and legal services sector. The economy in Leeds is among the most diverse of any city in the UK.

The city continues to deliver strong economic performance levels according to the UK Powerhouse report. Growth and employment prospects continue to stand out, which bodes well for the future of the city and the West Yorkshire region.

Helping drive the growth in the Leeds city region and beyond is the booming legal sector and prominent commercial law firms like Schofield Sweeney and its talented team.

Manjit Virdee – ‘Next Generation Partner’

A self-confessed ‘workaholic’ Manjit is modest about his own talents and being identified as a ‘next generation partner’ in the Legal 500.

He likes to give credit to his own team, fellow partners and the ethos and culture running through the firm. “It’s really all about the amazing teams we have built across our offices. We have strong values and a great culture,” he is quick to say.

He places much value on teamwork and the culture of mentoring and developing home grown solicitors. “We want our staff to be the best they want to be. The partners recognise the importance of staff, training and motivating them, and potentially moulding them into partners of the future,” he adds.

Manjit, who joined Schofield Sweeney in 2006, is today a partner who leads on secured property finance and banking matters in the firm. He acts for key banks, subprime lenders and other corporate and individual lenders. He also acts for borrowers in a wide range of situations, including negotiations with banks in acquisitions and disposals.

While some of this appears dry and complex, he is quick to stress: “We want to do deals. We want things to happen and to do it quickly, but we always want to do it right. We’re pragmatic and always looking after the client’s interest.

“By listening to our clients and finding out their pain points, we can provide bespoke technology which gives them access to management information and creates efficiencies.”

His personal style and values inevitably influence the way he works: “I want to do the best I can. I try to keep things simple and give everything my absolute best effort.” He recognises his love for the daily job means he struggles to find much downtime or take enough holidays. He admits to being a workaholic and believes his wife “knows I have a problem!”

While he consciously tries to find time to destress with his wife and two sons, his wife also has a busy, full-time job at Leeds City Council. When he’s trying to relax and not do deals, he follows Formula I and football.

Born, bred and educated in Leeds, the team he traditionally follows outside of work is Leeds United. But worryingly for fans of the Whites, he has taken to watching Man City for whom he claims to be gaining a soft spot. The relief for Leeds fans is that he hasn’t taken a shine to the red side of Manchester.

Schofield Sweeney

Manjit says, that through its offices in Bradford, Huddersfield and Leeds, Schofield Sweeney, is seeing the benefits of a generally buoyant regional economy.

The firm was very recently recognised as one of the most active legal advisers in the Experian IQ report, which examines the activity of legal and financial advisers in Yorkshire and the Humber’s M&A sector. The corporate team has completed over 24 transactions in the first half of 2023, worth more than £58m. The firm advised on several notable deals, including the acquisition of ImexPart by South African group Invicta and a management buy-in at WK West Ltd.

Earlier this summer, the private wealth and succession team at Schofield Sweeney was recognised in the Chambers and Partners High Net Worth Guide in Band Two. Chambers and Partners is the world’s leading provider of legal research and analysis. The High Net Worth legal guide differentiates the best professional advisers for international private wealth by identifying and ranking law firms, lawyers and a range of other professional advisers globally. The team enables individuals to grow and protect their wealth, with specific expertise in tax and cross border law.

Established in 1998, the firm has a grasp of strategic business challenges, and offers innovative solutions and is renowned for its client care. Specialist lawyers provide clients with protection, confidence and reassurance.

Manjit adds: “We make deals work. We are commercial and very pragmatic when it comes to such things. We want to make something work. We don’t want to be deal prevention officers.”

Schofield Sweeney is a full-service firm offering commercial property, construction and engineering, corporate and commercial, dispute resolution, education, employment law, environmental, energy and renewables, and private client work.

More than 170 solicitors and staff work across the offices. The firm attracts and recruits high-calibre lawyers and invests and develops its own people through ongoing training and development, creating a positive environment in which to develop a career. Schofield Sweeney also offers a wide range of social, wellbeing and ESG initiatives and was a recent winner of Employer of the Year, and Equity and Diversity awards.

Legal sector

Leeds is home to Britain’s fastest growing legal sector, with major legal services firms including DLA Piper, Squire Patton Boggs, Addleshaw Goddard, Eversheds, Pinsent Mason and Walker Morris with substantial presences in the city.

As well as a strength in middle and back-office operations and support services, Leeds law firms offer the same range of services as London-based firms, at lower fees, conducting legal work for UK and global clients.

Cost-effectiveness is a big advantage for Leeds and West Yorkshire when it comes to competing with London. Office space, for instance, is significantly lower than in London.

However, more importantly, the talent, experience and where-with all are all present across law firms in the region. As Schofield Sweeney is proving, there is a strong and competitive mid-tier legal sector.

Leeds and Yorkshire economy

Despite a challenging economic outlook for the wider region, the Leeds economy is expected to grow by 2.1% per year on average over the course of 2024 to 2026, when measured by Gross Value Added (GVA).

According to EY’s last Regional Economic Forecast, Wakefield and Bradford are also forecast to see 1% annual employment growth on average from 2024 to 2026, and both are expected to see their economic growth over the same period fall slightly short of the regional average, with 1.6% per year forecast in Wakefield, and 1.5% per year in Bradford.

Employment growth in Leeds has been driven by the construction sector and is reflective of the number of infrastructure projects underway in the city and region. This includes the development of new student accommodation and office space in Leeds city centre.

With over 30 national and international banks based in Leeds or in the wider region, Leeds city region has firmly established itself as the UK’s leading centre for financial and professional services outside of London.

With such vibrant economic activity being predicted, the future and pipeline of work looks optimistic for legal firms like Schofield Sweeney.

Posted 27th September 2023

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