A new venture that aims to “acquire, transform and aggregate” around 60 high street law firms over the next five years to create an alternative business structure (ABS) with a turnover of more than £80m will shortly buy its first practice in a bid to prove the concept.
The aim of Metamorph Law is to transform the way that consumer legal services are delivered in the high street. After buying firms, “technology and modern business processes will then be introduced to make them both more efficient and consumer-facing, focused on serving their local communities”, it said.
It is the brainchild of Simon Goldhill, a solicitor who left practice to co-found personal injury volume mediation business InterResolve and later as a consultant acted as special adviser on ABS to consumer group Which?.
He has worked with other senior consultants to develop his concept, including Bob Labadie, one of the founders of Co-operative Legal Services, and Mark Feeney, one-time chief executive of what was then Russell Jones & Walker.
Further, Mr Goldhill has unveiled a supply services agreement with legal business consultancy Assure Law, which came to the attention of the profession through its turnaround work at Manchester firm Linder Myers and by buying the Lawyers2you and HighStreetLawyer brands.
Assure Law will provide senior-level resource in areas including technology due diligence, change management, HR and recruitment, and acquisition deal structure. It has taken a minority stake in Metamorph Law and chairman Tony Stockdale has joined the board.
Mr Goldhill said it would take around six months to test the concept at an unnamed three-partner firm along the M4 corridor. “We are just about to start the technology and change management process pilot and the nature of input and resource that Assure Law has agreed to provide is precisely what we would otherwise have needed to buy in.”
The acquisition programme will start on the conclusion of the pilot, with the plan being to buy 20 firms by the end of the third year and 60 by the end of the fifth. The typical firm will have two to six partners operating in the traditional high street areas of conveyancing, wills, probate, family and SME advice, and have a turnover of £1-3m.
Initially the firms will retain their own identities, but in time a collective brand would be developed, Mr Goldhill said. He predicted that raising finance for future acquisitions “will not be difficult” if the pilot goes as planned.
The vision is in five years to have an ABS with a turnover exceeding £80m with profits of about 25% “and growing”. It is not yet an ABS.
Metamorph Law will provide the core central operations and development base for the group. It will invest in and manage the transformation of acquired firms in three key areas: service delivery, distribution channels and business models.
But Mr Goldhill emphasised that though this will include, among other things, developing technology to drive legal process, deal with administrative aspects, assemble legal documents and manage communications, as well as introducing a corporate structure and centralising back-office and other services, the goal will be for each firm to provide a service for their local community. Time recording will be ditched to allow staff to focus on clients.
Mr Stockdale added: “We are impressed by Metamorph’s offering for smaller legal firms, many of which can benefit significantly from improving their use of IT, CRM and local market presence. I strongly believe the skills we have in Assure Law will both help Metamorph deliver its strategy and provide its member firms with the means to compete successfully and grow profits in an ever more competitive marketplace.”