Listed compliance company targets law firms with acquisition

Donovan: Natural next step

Listed company Marlowe has made Compliance Office – a business that advises law firms on compliance with Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) rules – the latest addition to its fast-growing legal arm.

Set up by former SRA legal policy manager Andrew Donovan in 2014, Compliance Office currently works with more than 100 law firms.

Marlowe describes itself as the UK leader in business-critical services and software which assure safety and regulatory compliance, whilst managing risk for businesses.

Compliance Office will operate in partnership with VinciWorks, a compliance technology company bought by Marlowe last year for £54m, “to develop creative new compliance offerings that pair deep SRA expertise with technological solutions”.

In a statement, it said the addition of a consultancy arm would allow it to provide “an end-to-end anti-money laundering package that includes a client due diligence onboarding tool, AML training and compliance consulting in a single solution”.

VinciWorks chief executive Josh Goodhardt said: “With both VinciWorks and Compliance Office already serving a great section of the UK legal sector, this partnership will allow both companies to complement each other perfectly.”

Mr Donovan, who also sits as a part-time judge, added: “Joining forces with VinciWorks was a natural next step. The ability to collaborate on new technology solutions that pair our legal expertise with VinciWorks’ technology will create tremendous value for law firms.”

Compliance Officer is the second legal compliance business owned by a listed business – back in 2015, ULS Technology PLC – recently renamed Smoove, to reflect its focus on property and conveyancing – bought Legal Eye.

Marlowe, which was only created in 2015, is an acquisition machine – at the start of 2022, VinciWorks bought Skill Boosters, a video-based e-learning provider.

Marlowe has also expanded rapidly into employment advice, building what it called a “powerhouse of employment law, HR and health & safety support services” with 40,000 clients under the brand WorkNest.

In December 2019, Marlowe spent £6.3m – rising to a possible £10.3m over three years – to acquire Law At Work, a Glasgow-based national employment law business that originally spun out of what was then Scottish law firm Maclay Murray & Spens.

In 2020, it acquired Ellis Whittam, a large unregulated employment law, HR and health & safety business set up by a solicitor, for £61m before last year spending £3.2m to buy specialist alternative business structure ESPHR and another £2.25m Oxfordshire-based employment law firm Cater Leydon Millard.

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