Knights’ investor James Caan sets out lofty ambitions to break into UK top 20

Midlands firm Knights has set out ambitions to break into The Lawyer UK Top 20 through making a string of acquisitions.

High-profile entrepreneur and former Dragons’ Den investor James Caan set out his long-term plan for the firm at an event, which celebrated the one-year anniversary of his investment into the firm (12 June 2012).

David Beech
Beech

Speaking at the London offices of his mid-market private equity house, Hamilton Bradshaw, Caan signalled a strong intention to grow Knights through acquisitions, saying his one regret in plunging into the legal sector was “that I didn’t buy a bigger share of the firm”.

He continued: “We are actively looking to acquire the right sort of firms.”

Managing partner David Beech acknowledged that Caan’s enthusiastic aim of cracking the upper echelon of the UK law firm league table would be “much longer term plan”. In the meantime, he said, “we are concentrating initially on getting into the top 100”.

Regulators granted Knights an alternative business structure licence six months ago, formalising Hamilton Bradshaw’s financial ownership of part of the firm (19 December 2012). Since then it has beefed up fee-earning staff numbers by a quarter, taking the total to around 170.

The firm, which is yet to post figures for the 2012/13 year, currently ranks at 180 in The Lawyer UK 200, with turnover of £9.4m for the 2011/12. For it to break into the top 20 it would need to increase revenues by 1,810 per cent to hit at least £180m.

The former equity partnership has effectively been dissolved at the firm. Beech remains the only lawyer full equity partner in the business, with seven former equity holders having been bought out of their investment as a result of the Hamilton Bradshaw deal.

Beech is quick to point out that all the former equity partners remain with the firm on a fixed share basis, saying, “they are all happy with the arrangements”.

The increase in fee-earning staff, said Beech, had come across the range of the firm’s practice areas, and that a significant number of the new fee-earning staff consisted of paralegals.

Beech acknowledged that Caan’s enthusiastic aim of cracking the upper echelon of the UK law firm league table would be “much longer term plan”. In the meantime, he said, “we are concentrating initially on getting into the top 100”.

When the firm struck the deal with Hamilton Bradshaw, Beech said it hoped to be in the top 100 within three years.