International Law

1st Birthday of 1st Publicly Owned Law Firm, Slater & Gordon

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Exactly one year after Australia’s Slater & Gordon became the world’s first publicly owned law practice, on May 21, 2007, the personal injury law firm is doing well, with significant growth and a share price 35 percent above its initial value.

But, perhaps most noteworthy, it is looking much like any other business, reports the London Times. The newspaper says it is surely only a matter of time until some law firms in the United Kingdom go public, too, and predicts some sea changes in the country’s legal market as a result. Among them:

• Smaller firms will find it difficult to compete with big, branded firms like Slater & Gordon that benefit from economies of scale when offering “commoditized” standard consumer legal services where price is paramount.

• There will also be a place for higher-priced “specialist” law firms that offer high-end services to businesses, but with investors already knocking on their doors significant change is likely there, too. (As discussed in an earlier post, Managing Partners Forum, for instance, began putting a price on the world’s 200 biggest law firms last year.)

Although it is not yet legal for non-attorney investors to operate law firms in the United States, this is permitted in Australia and will soon be allowed in the U.K. under the Legal Services Act. It is expected that some British law firms will be publicly owned by 2011 or 2012, at the latest.

Related coverage: “Going Public Pays: 56% Profit Increase Follows Law Firm’s IPO” “It’s Official: UK Law Firms Soon For Sale” “How Public Law Firms Would Benefit GCs”

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