Legal Business Blogs

Knights talks up selective acquisition policy amid strong first-half financials

The chief executive of Knights says its listing last June  has instilled market confidence in its ability to deliver an ambitious acquisition pipeline. This comes as the law company announced a third law firm acquisition today (15 January) and reported a 37% increase in revenue to £23.9m for the six months to 31 October.

Knights, the largest law firm initial public offering (IPO) to date after raising £50m last year, has acquired Leicester-based employment specialist Cummins Solicitors, which has five fee-earners and £784,000 in revenue, in a £1.5m deal. It takes Knights’ total fee-earner numbers to 485 across eight offices.

The acquisition was announced alongside Knights’ first half-year results since its IPO, and follows an £8.5m deal for Leicester-based Spearing Waite last October. Alongside the increase in revenue – of which organic growth was said to be 10% – earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation grew 50% to £5.3m.

Knights chief executive David Beech (pictured) told Legal Business the performance confirmed what the firm had been doing for the past six years since he acquired the then £8m firm for a ‘low seven-figure’ sum alongside investor James Caan.

The firm moved from a partnership – with seven equity partners – to a plc in 2012 and Beech says that has firmly set a corporate culture within the business as the partners moved away from being owners to employees.

‘We want to reinvest most of the profits into growing the business through recruitment and acquisitions,’ he commented. ‘The listing has created profile and a confidence in the market when we go and talk to people, they don’t question our ability to deliver an acquisition.’

Beech said there was a strong pipeline of new recruits and acquisitions – the group wants to grow 50:50 between the two and added 35 recruits in the half-year – which meant the firm could afford to be pickier with targets with the capacity to complete four acquisitions a year. Cultural fit was the key, he said, with Cummins’ founder Michael Cummins seen as a future leader.

‘We are low ego, friendly, team orientated, and, it’s a bit crude, but we have a no-dickhead policy,’ Beech said. ‘You have to search, but they’re out there.’

Revenue per fee-earner also increased 25% to £66,000, which Beech said reflected a 10% improvement on recovery and training its fee earners to not underestimate costs when engaging clients. Former non-executive director Richard King has come on board as chief operating officer to help with that.

‘We’re getting quite ambitious,’ Beech said. ‘I wouldn’t have used ambition as a word six years ago but we’re gaining confidence.’

Knights’ strong performance follows that of Gateley, which was the first UK firm to list back in 2015, announcing last week its half-year revenue for the same period was up 20% to $46.4m. The firm expects its revenue to surpass £100m for the full financial year.