Niche practices eye expansion opportunities after gaining ABS licences

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By Legal Futures

22 March 2013


NHS trust work: niche firm looks to be consolidator

Two niche law firms have outlined their hopes for expansion after receiving their alternative business structure (ABS) licences from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Family law firm Betteridges is targeting strategic alliances, while health and social care practice Ridouts may become a consolidator.

Betteridges was founded by Mark Betteridge in 1994 and acquired the site divorcesolicitor.com in 2000.

Non-lawyer and co-owner Lindsey Betteridge said the rationale behind the ABS application – which was lodged a year ago – is to “develop the business’s online presence through divorcesolicitor.com and its many marketing and potential outside investment opportunities”.

Mr Betteridge said he was “excited” at the potential for linking up with businesses looking for a niche divorce or family law offering for their clients.

He said: “The business expects interest from various non-legal entities looking to develop their private client opportunities through a strategic alliance with a boutique divorce and family law business which has over the years continued to punch well above its weight.”

The firm has five fee-earners and a further three support staff and is based in Hertfordshire.

Ridouts Solicitors operates in a niche market representing clients such as large NHS trusts and care homes, according to founder Paul Ridout. He said the starting point of ABS was to enable his non-lawyer wife Valerie to become a member to reflect her financial interest in the London firm.

But with the business set to announce consecutive year-on-year growth of almost 20% – to a turnover of £1.3m – Mr Ridout said further acquisition was an option.

“In a difficult banking environment, banks are not particularly keen to put up working capital for expansion, which is in our mind. We are looking at growing organically, but it is a great comfort and advantage to know that with an ABS licence, we have the opportunity to seek external investment.

“As the market consolidates, it is good to be a consolidator and we may look to expand by taking on niche practices that complement us.”

Mr Ridout said that could be either legal services or related businesses in a sector he described as “particularly active”.

The firm, which he set up six years ago after leaving DLA Piper, will have four lawyer partners and one-non-lawyer partner on 1 April and a total of 10 staff.

It is budgeted for a further 24% growth in 2013-14 and Mr Ridout added that running a firm as a business is the way forward for the industry.

“There’s an awful lot of firms that still operate like a piggy bank for partners and hope for the best at the end of the year. That is not the way the industry is going to be in the 21st century.”

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