The news this week that UK commercial law firm Gateley was planning a £130m IPO has put a spotlight on the concept of ‘firsts’. Could this firm, by getting its planned flotation off the ground, be securing its place amongst a pantheon of trailblazers?
The story was first mooted in the Sunday Times on 10th May running with the headline that Gateley was in fact racing to be ‘first on the stock market’. Then, following a two day lull in proceedings, the media picked up the story and over 50 outlets leapt on the IPO and provided the usual context of other countries with listed law firms (Australia – Slater & Gordon), references to ‘Tesco Law’ and the introduction of Alternative Business Structures which allow non-lawyers to own law firms.
Most industries have brands amongst them who are looked to with fondness as genuine trailblazers. Direct Line and First Direct changed the insurance industry and retail banking sectors from the late 1980s, while more recently aggregators brought price comparison to the mass market.
The question is whether the legal sector is heading towards its own Direct Line moment, and if so will a firm like Gateleys be the one which attracts that kind of accolade.
Gateley certainly won’t be the first law firm listed on a UK stock market; that title belongs to the ill fated legal arm of Quindell PLC, while Simpson Millar has been a part of Fairpoint PLC since June 2014. Nevertheless, its pursuit of equity investment through the IPO route will be a genuine first and if this strategy proves successful it could provide marketers with a powerful and indelible focus for the brand.
A business journalist by trade, Ralph Savage represents a series of B2B clients on media and marketing matters. He provides strategic PR advice, media training and consultancy. He also ghost writes regularly on behalf of FTSE 250 CEOs, leading counsel and senior professionals including solicitors, accountants and brokers.