An Essex full-service law firm has become an alternative business structure (ABS) in order to further its ambitious expansion plans as a group of related businesses.
Birkett Long, a 28-partner legal disciplinary practice with offices in Chelmsford, Basildon and Colchester, is looking to transform itself to a group structure incorporating its long-established financial services business and a brand new intellectual property venture with the existing legal and HR practices.
Managing partner Martin Hopkins told Legal Futures: “Being able to structure ourselves as a group gives us the flexibility we need.”
He explained that the financial services arm had been in existence for 30 years. The HR service sat alongside the employment team and could become a separate limited liability partnership (LLP) within the group.
In future the group might add further businesses. “We don’t have any specific plans at this stage, but with the pace of change in the market and the need that we have to continue to innovate, then absolutely [there could be more].
“We feel that Birkett Long is a very strong brand and we can use that brand in different markets and not be restricted purely to the legal market which has been our base for so long.”
Mr Hopkins continued that promoting non-lawyers to the partnership was an important strategy. Three non-lawyer partners already represented the marketing, finance and HR teams.
In future, he said, there could be representatives from the intellectual property business as well as other support functions such as IT and compliance.
“It seems to me that being a non-lawyer should certainly not be a bar to being a member of our partnership.”
He said the partnership intended to discuss whether it should adopt more of a corporate structure to reflect those of commercial clients.
Mr Hopkins predicted that the legal services market would consolidate, which would bring with it “opportunities for growth “.
He added: “I also feel that firms diversifying and innovating [by] looking at different markets will happen more and more, in the way that we are starting to plan for the future.
“I think that will happen throughout the profession.”