The head of the first UK law firm to be listed on the stock exchange in its own right has said he is surprised others have not taken the plunge.

Michael Ward, chief executive of Gateley Holdings, said the firm’s flotation on the Alternative Investment Market had helped with retention of staff and catapulted the business on to the world stage.

But approaching the second anniversary of the listing, which raised £30m and left seven partners sitting on shares worth £3.5m, no other full-service firm has taken the same route.

Michael Ward

Michael Ward

Chief executive, Gateley Holdings

Speaking to a conference of investors hosted by London broker N+1 Singer, Ward said the culture within some firms may be preventing them following suit.

‘We started the journey with a lot of press coverage about the firms going to do it,’ he said. ‘The media interest was 10 times more than we could have expected, including from the US. In all their legal journals it just exploded.

‘I am surprised to be the only one two years later. It is not an easy process – most LLPs will not allow you to sell without a 75% resolution from partners. Lawyers are generally reserved and pretty independent. We had a management team that was pretty stable, with the confidence of partners.’

Ward said the firm had looked at successes and failures in other professions and determined those that foundered had done so because they did not have a sound financial base.

He added: ‘We didn’t have a problem pre-listing and had cash in the bank, so we were not looking for money. As a business and partnership we saw it as a way forward – it was not intended to solve issues of the past. When we looked at some of the [listed professional firms] that had gone wrong they were all solving a problem.’