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South West: ready for the next challenge

Fresh recruitment drives and further investment in technology are sure signs that South West firms are ready to come out of the downturn and tackle the Clementi reforms. Jean-Yves Gilg reports

15 September 2009

Farmers in the traditionally rural South now rub shoulders with a growing number of retirees and new ‘lifestyle’ residents. But, aside from Bristol to the north and cities such as Plymouth and Exeter on the south coast, there are no large conurbations to speak of. The economy is still largely based on agriculture and, protected by its relative remoteness, the region was not immediately hit by the downturn. Until last summer, when the local legal community eventually started feeling its full impact.

According to Rebecca Parkman, a partner at Wards and president of the Devon and Somerset Law Society, a lot of the smaller firms – particularly those that relied on conveyancing – have found it very difficult. “About six months ago we started hearing about redundancies and the closure of branch offices,” she says. “A lot of older solicitors say they wish they could retire now, but can’t find a way out.”

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