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Beech focuses on immediate goals after Caan sets sights on Knights reaching top 20


Beech: solicitors perceive private equity as a threat

The managing partner of private equity-backed Knights Solicitors has reinforced his short-term plans after investor James Caan revealed ambitions to gatecrash the UK’s top 20 law firms.

Speaking at a one-year anniversary event to mark his private equity house Hamilton Bradhsaw investing in Knights, Mr Cann outlined long-term acquisition goals to send the £10m turnover Staffordshire firm soaring.

To break into the top 20, Knights would need to post income of around £180m.

Managing partner David Beech acknowledged the high-profile entrepreneur’s “ambitious aims”, but said the firm’s “key focus” is first to become a top 100 UK law firm and to double turnover in the next three years.

He said: “In the last year following investment, we have taken major steps towards realising those ambitions.

“It’s been an exhilarating year with much to celebrate. The next 12 months is about consolidating and building on our growth and we are very excited about the plans we have in place to realise our ambitions.”

Mr Caan is reported to have said that he regrets not buying a bigger share of the firm when he ventured into the legal sector and that the company is actively looking to snap up the right sort of firms.

Hamilton Bradshaw added virtual law firm Excello Law to its portfolio [2] in February as part of its plan to become the leading supplier of legal services to the SME sector.

The SRA granted Knights an alternative business structure licence six months ago, formalising Hamilton Bradshaw’s financial ownership of part of the firm.

It has since recruited 30 new lawyers across key practice areas – more than the firm has hired in a decade –and has a fee-earner count of around 170.

It also acquired its first ‘non-law’ services with a team of six town planners [3] and Mr Beech said IT investment and the launch of a new energy team are additional signposts towards the top 100 benchmark.

He added: “There is a still a significant fear factor when you use the words ‘private equity investment’ amongst the legal profession, both for being an unknown quantity and as a  perceived threat towards the established ways of doing law.

“We’ve shown over the last 12 months that there is nothing to fear from the right kind of private equity investment, which we found in James Caan and Hamilton Bradshaw.

“Our people have been energised by a business model that gives them clear leadership from one decision maker and rewards them for the results they achieve.

“There are a number of partners out there who are excellent at doing law but are dissatisfied by the bureaucracy of the traditional partnership model and by having to carry a firm that isn’t profitable.

“These are the kinds of lawyers we want to attract to Knights where they can stick to what they do best – lawyering – while we provide leadership and direction.”