Wednesday, March 10, 2010

U.K. Law Firms "Go Public"

Times Online reports:

City law firms are preparing to raise millions of pounds from external investors as the British legal market braces for its own version of Big Bang.

At least 20 firms are planning to raise outside funding under rules that will allow non-lawyers to own a stake in legal practices for the first time, accountants advising the firms told The Times.

Three of these firms are planning to raise a war chest for acquisitions of more than £20 million, either through an initial public offering or from private equity investors.

Under the Legal Services Act, firms will be able to adopt a range of business models in place of their traditional partnership structures. In addition to taking outside capital, they will be allowed to go into business with other professionals and to admit non-lawyers as partners.

Clearly, the line between professional practises and strictly profit-oriented businesses will be blurring with these changes.

Can the legal profession's culture or repute possibly benefit from this, in the long run?

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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