London Stock Exchange-listed firm Gordon Dadds on Monday (29 October) confirmed the acquisition of Ince & Co in a £43m deal that will create the first top 50 legal firm on the public markets and facilitate investment in better technology and working practices. Combined revenues of the new entity will exceed £100m and it will be home to more than 100 partners, with offices in nine countries.
The new firm will be led by Gordon Dadds’ managing partner & CEO, Adrian Biles (pictured right), supported by Peter Rogan (to the left of the photo), chairman of the board of Ince. Speaking to Legal IT Insider about the merger, Rogan said: “One of the key advantages of being listed is access to new capital.” He added: “In our case, this will allow us to maintain our competitive edge in the rapidly evolving legal market.”
Ince over the past year saw its revenue drop by 6% to £83.4m and in the summer the London-headquartered firm also made around 30 redundancies.
The news of its acquisition comes as a growing number of legal firms are contemplating listing as a viable alternative to the traditional partnership model. Firms see IPOs as a way to gain access to finance that will help them chase scale through acquisition and market disruption.
Critically, many of those firms considering an IPO are looking to raise capital to fund the investment in technology required to take their service delivery to the next level.
“In 2016, we embarked on a project to modernise our IT and related infrastructure,” Rogan explained. “These new technologies include the use of Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablets and the latest generation Wi-Fi with increased capacity and security.
“This has enabled us to move to an agile way of working, which we believe improves the working lives of our people and the service that we offer clients. Similar upgrades have already been rolled out to our international offices and with access to new capital we will be better positioned to continue to adopt new technologies and working practices.”
IPOs gather momentum
It has been seven years since UK law firms could legally list but IPOs have, until recently, remained a rarity. Those that expected the 2011 Legal Services Act, or Tesco Law, to spur a spate of public markets activity as partners rushed to crystallise future profits and generations of goodwill, were left disappointed.
Birmingham-based Gateley was the first to float in 2015, breaking hundreds of years of legal tradition, followed by dispersed law firm Keystone. Gordon Dadds, meanwhile, listed in August last year, to get its hands on the firepower required to fund a spate of acquisitions.
Larger, more international firms, now appear to be getting in on the act, however. Rumours continue to surround Fieldfisher while DWF has confirmed that it is considering listing on the London Stock Exchange in a deal that could value the firm at up to £1bn, although that figure has been the subject of debate. DWF has stated that raising capital for investment in technology and connected services is one on the primary drivers behind the move.