National law firm Gateley has confirmed reports that work to become the first publicly listed law firm is underway after it appointed bankers to advise on a £130m float on AIM this summer.
The Sunday Times reported that Gateley – which has been an alternative business structure (ABS) since the start of 2014 – is working with the capital markets bank Cantor Fitzgerald on a listing on the junior market, valuing the firm at an estimated £130m to £140m.
Gateley was said to be gauging the appetite of fund managers and investors “before pressing the button on a listing”.
A spokeswoman for the firm told Legal Futures: “I can confirm that we are going through the process.”
Cash raised from the listing is likely to be used to help the firm expand into new territories and for recruitment. Progress is likely to be rapid if it happens, with the float in six to eight weeks.
Though other law firms are now part of listed groups, and Slater & Gordon is listed in Australia, this would be the first existing legal practice to go public in the UK on its own account.
Gateley was created in 2006 through the a merger of Gateley Wareing in Birmingham and Edinburgh firm Henderson Boyd Jackson, and expansion has followed. It merged with specialist London shipping and transport firms Shaw & Croft and Holmes Hardingham in 2007 and 2008 respectively, and in Scotland merged with Olivers.
It opened in Dubai in 2007, Manchester in 2010 and Leeds in 2012, and now has nine offices across the UK. There are more than 150 partners and 700 staff.
The Edinburgh-based sister firm HBJ Gateley is a separate legal entity and will not be listed on the stock exchange given the different regulatory regimes.
Gateley has reported strong results in recent years, with a profit of £20.4m for 2014, up from £17.1m. Turnover rose to £53.8m from £50.7m. The highest-paid member of the partnership received more than £570,000, according to accounts filed at Companies House.
When the firm became an ABS, senior partner for England Michael Ward was quoted as saying: “We don’t have any imminent need for outside investment but looking forward next five to ten years there may come a time when that seems appropriate.”