The widely predicted shake-up of the UK's legal services market gathered pace today after it was revealed that Australia's Slater & Gordon – the world's first stock exchange listed law firm – is to buy Russell Jones & Walker for £53.8m.
The move, revealed in an announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange, is subject to the grant of an alternative business structure licence by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.
Under the deal, which is expected to complete in April, Slater & Gordon will pay £36.4m in cash and issue £17.4m in shares. Of the cash element £3.8m will be deferred for up to two years subject to performance milestones and £10.3m will be used on completion to repay bank debt of the RJW partnership. The issue of shares is subject to restraints on sale for a minimum period of four years post completion.
RJW has around 425 staff based across 10 locations in the UK. The firm sees around 60% of its revenues come from personal injury litigation, while it also owns the Claims Direct brand.
Slater & Gordon managing director Andrew Grech said: “We have researched the UK market for the past three years and studied more than 30 law firms in the UK.
“We will be among the first to take advantage of a number of significant changes which are occurring in the legal profession in the UK.”
Grech also claimed that Slater & Gordon’s five years’ experience as a listed company gave it a “huge advantage”. He added: “We can bring that experience to the UK through a kindred firm in RJW, which has the business structure and the people to exploit that advantage.”
Neil Kinsella, RJW’s Chief Executive Officer, said the deal would give the firm the resources and backing to develop and grow.
“We want to become the largest and most trusted provider of personal legal services in the UK,” he said. “Our commitment to making justice and legal services accessible and affordable to all remains, but our ability to do this increases as a result; this development will bring real benefits to our clients and affiliated organisations.”
Last week it was announced that Quindell Portfolio, described as a brand extension company, had agreed to buy Silverbeck Rymer, another leading personal injury law firm, for £19.3m.