A new consolidator has vowed to acquire 60 high street law firms within five years, bringing ‘innovation to a moribund market’.
Metamorph Law has been created by strategy consultant and former commercial solicitor Simon Goldhill (pictured right). Other senior legal figures are presently involved on a consultancy basis, including Bob Labadie, co-founder and until last year a director of Co-operative Legal Services. Labadie is in talks about becoming a non-executive director.
Consultant Mark Feeney, whose CV includes spells as financial director of Shoosmiths and chief executive of Russell Jones & Walker, will carry out due diligence on acquisition targets.
Metamorph aims to ‘acquire, transform and aggregate’ existing high street law firms by adopting a corporate structure and creating economies of scale through centralisation of back office and other services.
Each Metamorph target will have developed ‘a good name locally’ and will already be providing ‘a standard mix of conveyancing, wills, probate, family and SME advice, delivered in a traditional way’, the company said.
A technology and change management process pilot will begin shortly, involving the proposed first firm to be acquired. Acquisitions are expected to follow conclusion of the pilot, with a target of 20 firms by the end of the third year.
Metamorph has secured backing from legal business consultancy Assure Law, which has taken a minority stake in the business. A year ago Assure rescued stricken Manchester firm Linder Myers and installed its chairman Tony Stockdale (pictured left) as Linder Myers’ chief executive.
Assure’s brands include Lawyers2you, SimplyRehab and High Street Lawyer.
Stockdale said: ‘We are impressed by Metamorph’s offering for smaller legal firms, many of which can benefit significantly from improving their use of IT, CRM and local market presence.
‘I strongly believe the skills we have in Assure Law will both help Metamorph deliver its strategy and provide its member firms with the means to compete successfully and grow profits in an ever more competitive marketplace.’
Goldhill worked in commercial practice before co-founding InterResolve, a volume motor accident mediation business. He has also advised consumer champion Which? on creating a legal business through an alternative business structure. He told the Gazette that Metamorph intends to establish as an ABS to conduct its business.
He added: 'We are just about to start the technology and change management process pilot and the nature of input and resource that Assure Law have agreed to provide is precisely what we would otherwise have needed to buy in. I think we would have struggled to find it at the level of quality that we will be receiving.’
Goldhill said Metamorph will heed the hard lessons of both Co-op Legal and QualitySolicitors, which have both admitted over recent months that they tried to grow too quickly.
'We don't want to move too fast. We will make sure we get the processes right before we go out and start the cycle of acquisitions,' he said.
'Once we get to the acquisition phase with a proven concept, I don't expect that raising the funding [for growth] will be difficult.'
Asked about an exit strategy and whether this could involve a stock market flotation, Goldhill said there is a strategy but that it is too early to disclose it.