Professional Services: Time to look again at legal

Armstrong supports investors across a range of professional services deals including consultancies, accountancy and legal services. 

In the legal services sector, we’ve worked on deals in high street legal, flexible law resource and tech-enabled law firm specialist areas like intellectual property (IP) services. 

IP Services 

Last year we published an article on an area where we are continuing to see attractive and scalable M&A opportunities to build tech-enabled IP services, please read our article here.

Large law firms have scale, experience and capacity. However, smaller IP specialists will continue to differentiate where their senior staff build close working relationships with clients. This is based on their technical and legal expertise and understanding of their clients’ businesses. For investors, it’s knowing the key commercial questions to ask.  

High street legal 

There are several acquisitive models for traditional / corporate legal services firms, from vertical integrators (e.g. O’Neill), to dispersed firms akin to barrister’s chambers (e.g. Keystone, Setfords), corporate consolidators (e.g. Metamorph) and traditional acquisition / licencing (e.g. Gateley, Knights Plc, Taylor Rose). Each model has its merits, but execution of the strategy sets the best performers out from the rest. 

The high street legal market remains highly fragmented, successful buy and build examples have adhered to clear criteria when assessing targets, while others have seen difficulties when pursuing size alone. Further consolidation is expected in the space due to positive market tailwinds and challenges for small firms (often <5 headcount) scaling without external support. There will be plenty of opportunities for investors to benefit from this, but selecting the right targets is key.

 Legal tech 

Technology adoption is changing the structure of the legal profession, and its market evolution is presenting attractive and scalable M&A opportunities across the value chain, from full-service tech-enabled law firms right through to pureplay software vendors. We published an article Technology Adoption in the Legal Sector with Clearwater on legal services with a useful framework, which illustrates the potential entry-points for mid-market private equity and trade buyers to access a market going through rapid change.  

Speak to a member of the team about opportunities in the legal sector.  

Simon Hemsley

[email protected]
+44 7957 340 534

Email Simon

Rupert Cookson

[email protected]
+44 7983 110 150

Email Rupert

Jack Hibbs

[email protected]
+44 7883 296 346

Email Jack