ASX-listed Slater & Gordon has not ruled out further acquisitions overseas following regulatory approval for the acquisition of UK firm Russell Jones & Walker (RJW).
Managing director Andrew Grech said that although it was unlikely for the firm to make more acquisitions in the next 12 months, because of the fast pace of changes occurring in the global legal market he could not rule it out. “The UK market is undergoing a once in a generation change. I think it’s important to study those changes and see what opportunities arise from that,” he said. “If you had asked me that about the United States 12 months ago I would have said definitely not, but if you look at what has transpired in the last few months and the challenges which have occurred in regards to The Bar rules on ownership and some concessions being made, you would never say never,” he told ALB.
As part of its UK acquisition the firm has relocated Australian staff to RJW. “What we have done over the last 12 months is agree with them through a very collaborative process, on a strategy for the business going forward,” said Grech. “This includes some restructuring of the management, refocusing of people’s roles, the consolidation of various groups and focusing particular sights on particular aspects of work.” The firm has also recruited a number of new staff at management levels.
As Slater & Gordon is one only two ASX-listed firms, Grech said he was pleased to see governments and regulators around the world recognising that a closed legal profession is not in the public’s interest. “The legal profession is quite a powerful lobby group, and it’s been quite effective at maintaining professional conduct rules to protect itself,” he said. “I believe it is in the public’s interest for the profession to be opened up.”
He added: “I believe strongly that regulators should focus on regulating practitioners and not the business models practitioners deploy. It does not make sense to restrict the style or form of ownership model that a practitioner or group employ, provided there are rules and mechanisms in place to supervise (as there are here and in the UK) the manner in which legal practitioners practice.”
In particular he cites the partnership model, and the mystique around firms as a result of this model, as factor in the high levels of disillusionment amongst young lawyers. “I think the advantage of our model is that it creates transparency – which is better for staff and clients. That transparency removes a lot of the mystique around the practice of law,” he said.