SHEFFIELD-BASED Irwin Mitchell has become the first major British law firm to seek external investment under new rules that allow non-lawyers to own shares in legal practices.
The national practice has appointed Espirito Santo Investment Bank as its financial adviser to review the options for raising external capital.
A report in The Times suggested that Irwin Mitchell was heading for a stock exchange listing, but the firm has emphasised that all alternatives are under consideration and the preferred method and timetable for seeking external funding have yet to be finalised.
Another option for the firm would be to sell a stake to private equity investors.
At this stage the firm is not being specific about how it will use the money to further its growth strategy.
In preparation for becoming an Alternative Business Structure under the Legal Services Act, Irwin Mitchell announced that it will be restructuring its operations, with the adoption of a two tier structure which will see the creation of a new corporate vehicle.
Irwin Mitchell LLP will remain the main operating business, with the new holding company becoming admitted with a view to its becoming the controlling member of Irwin Mitchell LLP.
Managing partner John Pickering said: “The Legal Services Act will create exciting growth opportunities for strong, well-financed legal services businesses to accelerate their growth plans.
“Irwin Mitchell intends to be at the forefront of these changes and we have therefore taken the decision to seek external investment to further our ambitious plans for the business.
“Conversion to an ABS will broaden our access to capital and enhance our funding flexibility as we execute our strategic growth plan, while ensuring that we can continue to provide the very highest standards of service to our clients.”
Irwin Mitchell is ranked 25th among Britain’s law firms, according to Legal Week, with annual revenues of £157m, 151 partners and 2,200 employees.