Exclusive: DLA Piper invests in prospective ABS targeted at legal advice for businesses

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By Legal Futures

28 October 2011

Knowles: strategic investment

Top City law firm DLA Piper has invested in a prospective alternative business structure (ABS) that promises to introduce a “market-disrupting” new approach to providing businesses with legal advice, Legal Futures can reveal.

Sir Nigel Knowles, DLA’s co-chief executive, has been appointed non-executive chairman of LawVest, a holding company that is developing a new “market-disrupting brand, pricing and service delivery model” for business clients. DLA has a minority stake.

However, the precise details of what LawVest plans to bring to market remain under wraps. It will become an ABS.

Sir Nigel said: “All law firms will have spent considerable time evaluating what impact the Legal Services Act will have on their strategic ambitions and its effects on the competitive landscape. This strategic investment is an innovative way of participating in and benefiting from the new environment, while protecting our clients’ interests in this sector of the market.”

Legal Futures understands that with DLA’s sights now set globally, the firm sees the LawVest model as giving it indirect involvement in a part of the domestic market that will not be a strategic priority in future but where it will still have clients that need advice. LawVest offers a way of servicing them through a different vehicle.

LawVest is owned by DLA, AdviserPlus – which provides outsourced HR, employment law and health and safety solutions to companies – and a number of private investors, including the management team. The shareholders have provided it with equity funding to take the company to full-scale launch. It says it will in due course raise further capital to support its “organic and acquisition-led plans”.

Karl Chapman, the founder of AdviserPlus, is the chief executive, while former barrister Adam Shutkever – a banker who was most recently managing director of Palatium Investment Management – is chief operating officer. Also on the board as a non-executive director is David Charters, a leading banker and a founder of Partner Capital.

Having secured DLA Piper as an investor, LawVest said it will now accelerate its growth plans “as there are clear advantages in moving at pace and in scale at this time”.

Mr Chapman told Legal Futures that LawVest will be taking to the market a brand providing a range of services that will be targeted at the business sector, with ancillary personal services that businesspeople will want. “We started with a blank piece of paper, built our models from the customer up, have a different cost base and can deliver demonstrable quality.”

He said LawVest’s acquisition plans could include law firms; he expects it to be “a very significant employer of legal talent”.

See blog: The mystery of LawVest

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