Slater and Gordon could once do no wrong. Between 2007, when it became the first law firm in the world to go public, and March this year the share price grew seven-fold.
The last few weeks, however, have illustrated the difference between running a sizeable partnership with strictly limited disclosure requirements and running a listed business exposed to the forensic gaze of investors, analysts – and journalists.
Last Wednesday the Sydney Morning Herald reported that managing director Andrew Grech was ‘hitting the phones to quell investor panic’ amid the developments we report on p6.
What has attracted less comment is the likely impact of this extremely unwelcome publicity on clients – and prospective clients.
Amid euphoria about the pioneering flotation of Gateley in London, we noted the potential downside of day-to-day scrutiny on a scale unprecedented in the legal sector. Slater’s plight has brought that point home sooner than we expected. Even if the market’s jitters are unfounded, the reputational fallout could prove harder to brush off.
One wonders too whether this episode will act as a disincentive to firms which might be thinking of following Gateley’s lead.