Ince stock plummets as firm seeks £16m from shareholders

Ince stock plummets as firm seeks £16m from shareholders

Shares in listed law firm Ince Group fell drastically today (15 January) after the company called for an additional £16m in finance to reload its balance sheet following Gordon Dadds’ acquisition of the firm in 2018.

The placing saw shares fall almost 50% to 45p from 89p, before rising slightly to 47p. Ince sought the accelerated book build to ‘continue with its programme of partner recruitment, especially in the overseas offices to bolster and enhance their existing practices.’ Continue reading “Ince stock plummets as firm seeks £16m from shareholders”

Axiom break-off rebrands after failing to find a buyer as LOD launches second German hub

Axiom break-off rebrands after failing to find a buyer as LOD launches second German hub

Axiom Managed Solutions (AMS) has abandoned efforts to sell to new investors following its split from Axiom, instead rebranding as Factor following further commitments from existing stakeholders.

The legal managed services business was put on the market in early 2019 when the wider Axiom group unveiled plans to pursue an initial public offering (IPO), although that was ultimately abandoned in favour of a sale to Permira. Continue reading “Axiom break-off rebrands after failing to find a buyer as LOD launches second German hub”

Pinsents launches flexi-lawyering brand Vario in Germany following New Law acquisitions

Pinsents launches flexi-lawyering brand Vario in Germany following New Law acquisitions

Pinsent Masons has finalised two alternative legal services acquisitions, enabling the firm to launch its flexible lawyering business Vario in the German market.

The main acquisition for Pinsents is temporary resource provider Xenion Legal, which was founded in 2012 and is based in Frankfurt. The firm has also acquired Xenia, a sister company that operates an associated managed legal services business in Germany. Continue reading “Pinsents launches flexi-lawyering brand Vario in Germany following New Law acquisitions”

‘Dynamic and excellent’: A&O chooses Johannesburg for second cost-saving hub as Steptoe launches in Hong Kong with CC pair

‘Dynamic and excellent’: A&O chooses Johannesburg for second cost-saving hub as Steptoe launches in Hong Kong with CC pair

Allen & Overy has built on the success of its Belfast cost-saving centre with the launch of another in Johannesburg as Steptoe and Johnson has forayed into Hong Kong with the hire of a Clifford Chance (CC) team.

Set to open its doors in the first half of 2020, A&O’s Johannesburg Legal Services Centre (LSC) is hoped to emulate the success of the firm’s Belfast offering, geared towards cost-effective resourcing of transactions by legal professionals, associate solicitors and science analysts. Continue reading “‘Dynamic and excellent’: A&O chooses Johannesburg for second cost-saving hub as Steptoe launches in Hong Kong with CC pair”

Ashurst joins flexible lawyering bandwagon as DWF completes BT Law acquisition

Ashurst joins flexible lawyering bandwagon as DWF completes BT Law acquisition

Ashurst has teamed up with US-based law company Elevate and Cognia Law to offer clients flexible lawyering through the firm’s New Law umbrella Ashurst Advance.

The initiative launched today (8 November) and gives Ashurst access to Elevate and Cognia’s flexible lawyering pool, with the offering initially available in both the UK and Australia before being rolled out globally. The arrangement will also allow Ashurst’s clients to access particular expertise for secondees. Continue reading “Ashurst joins flexible lawyering bandwagon as DWF completes BT Law acquisition”

‘Not a chance’: Reed Smith rules out a listing as it lands ABS licence approval

‘Not a chance’: Reed Smith rules out a listing as it lands ABS licence approval

Reed Smith has made good on its plans to secure an alternative business structure (ABS) licence from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), but has ruled out the move will be part of a process to pursue an initial public offering (IPO).

The change in regulatory status also allows the firm to be owned or managed by those without legal qualifications, with Reed Smith eyeing a widened provision of service beyond conventional law. The change in structure will not change the firm’s limited liability partnership status, which includes a single partnership and profit pool in the UK, France, Greece, UAE and China. Continue reading “‘Not a chance’: Reed Smith rules out a listing as it lands ABS licence approval”

Growth and investment define New Law as frontrunners make big gains

Growth and investment define New Law as frontrunners make big gains

Industry pioneers are attracting public and private interest in alternative models

While many lofty predictions of New Law’s rise remain unrealised, the market’s traditional champions have all made major contributions to its growth in recent weeks. Flexible lawyering business Axiom engaged in a surprise private equity (PE) sale; US alternative provider UnitedLex turned over $350m in an impressive year; while Elevate achieved revenues of £76m in another record result. Continue reading “Growth and investment define New Law as frontrunners make big gains”

New tricks – Can law firms beat New Law disruptors at their own game?

New tricks – Can law firms beat New Law disruptors at their own game?

Lee Ranson was restless. It was late 2018 and Eversheds Sutherland’s co-chief needed something different: a viable plan to double revenue over the next five years.

A few months earlier, he and US-based co-chief executive Mark Wasserman had joked about telling the firm’s partner conference in New York they were floating on the stock exchange. Now Ranson turned his mind to a public offering, or at least the options to attract external investment. But it was not about his law firm. This was about Eversheds’ alternative legal service offerings, covering consulting and flexible lawyering, then generating £29m annually. A tidy sum, and growing rapidly, but just 3% of the firm’s overall revenue. Continue reading “New tricks – Can law firms beat New Law disruptors at their own game?”

Government backs University of Oxford legal tech research as Magic Circle trio form data consortium

Government backs University of Oxford legal tech research as Magic Circle trio form data consortium

The University of Oxford has been awarded £213,000 to fund a study into the legal tech ecosystem as a trio of Magic Circle firms join Latham & Watkins in creating a financial data consortium.

The University of Oxford project – funded by the UK Government’s Economic and Social Research Council – will analyse the career trajectories and typical skillsets of start-up founders and law firm innovation leaders. The study will also assess the role of funders and buyers in the market, with such information crucial to start-ups chasing scale. Continue reading “Government backs University of Oxford legal tech research as Magic Circle trio form data consortium”

Conference Sketch – Thousands flock to law tech showcase but echo chamber concerns creep in

Conference Sketch – Thousands flock to law tech showcase but echo chamber concerns creep in

Walking trees. High-fives. A cinema. Virtual reality headsets. Arcade games. Disco balls. General counsel (GCs) dressed as Willy Wonka. Filing cabinet piñatas. T-shirts reading ‘no bullshit’ and nobody in a suit and tie.

Since its debut in 2016, legal tech community Legal Geek’s annual conference has grown dramatically from a respectable 500 attendees to more than 2,000 packing out a former brewery near London’s Brick Lane.

The event is the brainchild of Legal Geek founder and legal tech start-up community lynchpin Jimmy Vestbirk. He kicked proceedings off Wednesday (16 October) from the main stage, where it was standing-room only, by setting the tone for a different type of law conference: ‘Anyone who’s been here before knows we like to start by high-fiving the people around you.’

The eruption of high fives was followed by an invoking of the conference’s start-up roots, with Vestbirk adding: ‘Today is not about hierarchy. The legal profession is very hierarchical, but the student is as likely to change the profession as the managing partner.’

No managing partners were present to hear, however. The senior end of in-house was better represented, with figures such as Chris Fowler, technology GC for telecoms giant BT, and Panasonic’s associate GC for legal innovation Bea Miyamoto among the speakers. Thomson Reuters’ newly-recruited chief strategy officer Richard Punt also spoke, while New Law was represented by Daniel Reed, chief executive of US-based alternative legal services provider, UnitedLex.

A key point at this year’s conference was the need for in-house legal functions and private practice to get a grip on their data. ‘Most legal functions face increased demand and pressure to reduce cost,’ said EY Riverview Law chief executive Karl Chapman (pictured). ‘Legal cannot avoid the need to use the right data. A staggering amount of work legal teams are doing should not be in the legal function and not be done by lawyers.’

Anna Power, GC at American retailer Crabtree & Evelyn, reiterated the point: ‘Data can help demonstrate value and the need for something, but some of the metrics to get hold of that data are hard to find and it’s not clear how to do it.’

There was wide agreement among the speakers that compared to other professional services, legal is slow to make data and digital a pervasive force throughout the industry. Reed in particular took opportunity to stress the need for a digital revolution throughout Big Law, noting: ‘Digital fluency is a pre-requisite to a legal society moving forward. Law needs to get a grip on its data.’

Meanwhile, in a space awash with technology tools tailored to niche concerns, companies and firms were being encouraged to move towards broader platforms to address their needs. ‘We have too many pieces of tech that do not talk to one another,’ Fowler confessed. ‘This means manual processes are in play between them which increases points of failure. We need to move towards a platform environment.’

Likewise, others stressed that while finance had SAP and sales had Salesforce, legal is overdue an equivalent platform which permeates the work of a legal function. But technology providers are seemingly taking heed. When in January Thomson Reuters snapped up legal software provider HighQ, it was done so with a view towards integrating existing tools into the HighQ platform. This will include Thomson Reuters’ flagship contract tool Contract Express, which is now in the process of being integrated into HighQ alongside other products at the technology giant.

Punt, among others, warned that consolidation was inevitable in such a fragmented industry; an ominous message for the many nascent data extraction and contract tools with stands on the strip coined ‘Start-up Alley.’ Standing out among the new names were some of the longer-standing players, with Legatics, Orbital Witness and Avokka all returning to the circuit. Outside the alley, well-known names Luminance and Lexoo were also exhibited.

Echoing a theme of many speakers, Punt noted: ‘There will be consolidation because legal technology is an extraordinary fragmented industry, and that’s true of every part of the wider industry.’ Reed at UnitedLex noted the challenge for smaller players of achieving the scale to build credible business models: ‘Start-ups need to achieve scale quickly, otherwise they’ll remain a ripple forever and never be a current.’

The start-ups themselves had been decamped from the prime real estate next to the conference’s entrance they enjoyed last year, with the main sponsors Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, iManage, Barclays and Thomson Reuters dominating the conference space.

Some vendors felt Legal Geek’s burgeoning size – though a great sign for interest in the market – removed some of the event’s original intimacy and networking benefits. One company’s head of sales complained the turnout was fuelled by juniors being sent on intelligence missions, and the event lacked the juice – and buying power – brought by more senior figures.

Not all were worried. In his opening address Vestbirk lauded the fact attendees’ name tags did not reveal a person’s role within their company or firm, in the hope it would create a more egalitarian environment.

But undoubtedly the conspicuous absence was senior leadership figures from private practice. One sponsor told Legal Business they feared the event had become ‘the converted speaking to the converted’ while one company complained that the conference had become the same faces broadly saying the same things.

Nevertheless, Legal Geek has succeeded in creating one of the most diverse legal conferences in the area. A glance over the packed audience to the main stage revealed a diverse and energetic community from which legal’s monoculture could learn a great deal. But, despite its remarkable size, there remains swathes of the legal profession Legal Geek is unable to proselytize.

However, such challenges are arguably a product of Legal Geek’s success: with packed crowds and plenty of energy, attention in the event shows no signs of waning.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk

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