Legal investments get the go-ahead

But on 30 October, the UK passed a law which will make the legal services market accessible to private investors. When the new rules come into force (which will be in stages between now and 2011), private investors will (in principle) be able to buy into UK law firms (and sets of barristers) for the first time. Those firms will also be able to float on the stock exchange, and non-legal organisations will be able to compete with established providers. According to law firm SJ Berwin, some of the latter are already dipping a toe in the water – the AA’s legal advice website is one example – and private equity firms are already rumoured to be in discussions with some City firms.

These changes will fundamentally alter the competitive landscape in which they operate. For the first time, ownership and management of legal practices in Britain will not be restricted to lawyers. And this looks set to shake up the legal profession. Private equity investors will no doubt be studying ways to take advantage.