In the week in which Dixons' Freeserve became the first big new media
flotation in the UK, having a stake in an IT company appeared to offer the
promise of huge profits to come.
Whether those who are surfing the stockmarket as well as the web will see
those profits in the short term, of course remains to be seen. Freeserve,
after all, has yet to show a profit.
The news that Field Fisher Waterhouse is taking shares in IT companies as
payment for its services may seem a clever move. It enables the firm to
work for start-up IT operations which cannot normally afford top legal
advice, and to be in at the heart of the latest developments in IT and
The IT lawyer who tells The Lawyer that he prefers to be paid by his
clients in good old-fashioned cash has a point, but small IT start-ups
often lack the cash necessary to buy advice in the traditional way.
Of course, Ffw is hoping that the IT companies it has worked for will
become the runaway successes of Silicon Valley legend. If they do, they may
find the profits from their advice far outstrip anything they may have
received by cheque.
But, of course, the gamble is just that.
As the adverts warn, shares can decrease in value. Not every IT company
has been a success. Not every new media idea has made its inventor a
But not every firm is in the position of being offered or able to take
shares as payment, and the relationship that FFW is establishing with its
IT clients mirrors the new flexible economy and relationships that the
electronic economy is setting in motion.
FFW has spotted that firms can have a closer and longer relationship with
clients than just the lead up to the signing of contracts.
They have opened up the possibility for firms to think creatively about
how they are rewarded, who they choose to get involved with and,
ultimately, how they conduct their business.