Top investment banker woos firms considering floating

The race to become the first publicly listed law firm in the UK entered a new phase last month when one of the City’s leading investment bankers began roadshowing a structure for a float.

The approaches made by former Panmure Gordon banker Julian Hirst are among an increasing number of overtures made by advisers towards a market they see as ripe for investment.

The Lawyer can exclusively reveal that last October Hirst wrote to every managing partner in the UK’s top 100 law firms to gauge their appetite for a potential IPO or an other form of external capital.

By the end of January almost all had responded and 20 had expressed an interest in a meeting with Hirst. The banker has already made face-to-face presentations to all 20 firms including seven from the top 20.

Hirst said “a few” firms had told him they were “seriously interested” in floating once the regulations allow. The necessary legislation could be in place as early as December this year.

The responses illustrate the rapidly growing appetite among the UK’s leading law firms to embrace the potential for attracting external funding. Once Sir David Clementi’s proposals concerning the reform of the legal market are implemented, there will be nothing to stop a UK law firm going public. The signs are that a queue is already developing.

A number of firms have been lobbying the Government in relation to its white paper on the reforms during a consultation period which ended on 20 January.

“The firms that seemed genuinely interested in raising external capital are making sure ministers and civil servants know their intentions are serious and are encouraging them to get legislation passed this year without bureaucratic delays,” said Hirst.

He added: “The next six months will see this market move into preparatory mode. There are two to three firms right at the vanguard of this.”