A future where UK law firms go public or are acquired by companies….

The UK is on the verge of allowing law firms to be bought by non-lawyer entities or to go public. Unfettered by any knowledge beyond that, let me extrapolate into the future with some questions.

With newfound wealth, will some partners chuck in the practice, and thereby weaken the firms? With quarterly results coming to dominate attention, will short term decisions slowly strangle successful firms, or will heightened attention to effective management make firms lean and fit? With ample capital, will firms diversify and invest, such as in knowledge management systems or hiring the better and brighter?

Will hostile tender offers launch for law firms? Will the public disclosure of income and profits boomerang by letting clients squeeze them more? (See my post of July 25, 2005 about Allen & Overy disclosing its financials.) Will larger capital pools let firms build practice aids (See my post of Oct. 31, 2005 on JennerNet.) or take more risk, for more potential reward, with billing other than on a cost-plus basis (See my posts of Aug. 27, 2005 about timid law firms and Oct. 26, 2005 on the longevity of hourly billing).

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