AIM-listed In-Deed has today become the first business to announce its explicit intention to invest in law firms.
The company is looking for approaches from “successful and profitable provincial legal practices”. Founder Harry Hill said they have “big ambitions” to make In-Deed a leading consumer legal brand.
In-Deed is an online conveyancing platform that was launched in May  by Mr Hill, the founder of Rightmove, and secured £4.5m investment through its . This week it formally notified its interest in becoming an alternative business structure to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Mr Hill told Legal Futures that the focus was on provincial firms because In-Deed is unlikely to be able to afford City practices at this stage; however, he stressed that his budget could be “substantially more than £4.5m” as his investors are prepared to put up further cash for the right deals.
In-Deed is likely to seek a 51% stake in firms, rather than take total ownership, although it will not seek to run them. Mr Hill said the expertise it has in-house would help add value to practices, however.
Firms do not necessarily have to have conveyancing practices to approach In-Deed, and the investments will be separate from its existing panel firms (although they can also seek investment if they want). Mr Hill said he expected “to kiss an awful lot of frogs to find a prince”, as many firms will be of insufficient size or profitability.
Depending on the deals done with firms, they could adopt the In-Deed name or retain their existing names as part of an association with the company. However, he anticipated that these deals will take the In-Deed brand onto the high street.
“We’re making great progress in building a national conveyancing brand and the next logical step is to establish a strong presence on the high street. This will allow us to continue to build our customer-base nationwide and begin widening our legal service offering beyond conveyancing.”
The company has previously indicated its intention to work, and the firms it invests in are likely to be the way into new markets, rather than building up capacity in-house. There would also be opportunities for back-office economies of scale and cross-selling between the firms.
Mr Hill recently admitted that In-Deed was struggling to convert online quotes  into instructions and was introducing a requirement to register before receiving a quote which would allow sales staff to follow up with users. He said this has improved conversion rates and that he remained “very confident” that In-Deed – whose first half-year results are published today – would achieve its goal of dominating the online conveyancing market within three years.