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Nabarro Nathanson is top of a new AIM lawyers' league table, compiled 18 months after the launch of the Alternative Investment Market. The table was produced by the AIM Guide Quarterly Update by adding up every firm mentioned in every company's prospectus or admission document, whether it advised the company or the sponsor. If a firm acted as both solicitor to the company and to the placing it was counted once only.
Nabarros leads the table by a long way, with 28 deals - more than twice the second-placed firm Eversheds with 13 deals. Third comes Lawrence Graham with 12.
Peter Gorty, Nabarros company and commercial head, said the firm had identified the AIM market as a target for business when it started. "We had a good level of experience and contacts from our USM [Unlisted Stock Market - the predecessor of AIM] and BES [Business Expansion Scheme] days," he said. "We priced very keenly as a marketing ploy, though we've never underquoted." The decision means that the firm has earned a reputation as a specialist in AIM.
Although the table shows that 131 law firms have acted on AIM transactions, many of the big City firms are conspicuous by their absence from the table. AIM Guide editor Mark Fisher explained: "One reason for this is that the major City law firms tend to work with major finance houses who are not involved in the market. Another reason may be that they simply don't think it worth getting involved in the smaller end of the market."
Many lawyers say the amount of due diligence involved in AIM is just the same as for the official list, so to charge less to smaller companies is not worth their while.
But Fisher countered: "Most lawyers realise that some of today's AIM companies will be major companies in the 21st century, and a valuable source of income while they are making it there."