Top-50 firm Gateley is preparing to become the first existing UK practice to float on the stock market.

The firm has appointed bankers to advise on a £130m float on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange, this year.

The firm was reported to be working with capital markets bank Cantor Fitzgerald on its initial public offering. A spokesperson for the firm said the move is designed to 'provide a platform' to expand both through acquisitions and lateral hires.

It will also seek to acquire businesses offering complementary professional and other business services and will use an employee share participation scheme to appeal to new recruits.

Michael Ward (pictured), chief executive officer of Gateley, said: 'We believe the catalysts for value creation are now to acquire, incentivise, differentiate and where sensible diversify.

'These opportunities for growth will undoubtedly be most accessible as a PLC and we want to be the first to be able to take advantage of them.'

The option to float on the London Stock Exchange has been available since the Legal Services Act 2007, but as yet no existing firm has chosen to do so.

National firm Irwin Mitchell has considered a floatation in the past and is believed to be keeping its options open at present.

Other firms, notably national practice Simpson Millar and Cardiff-based NewLaw, have been bought by listed companies. Australian firm Slater and Gordon is listed in its home country and has used that financing to embark on a rapid expansion through acquisitions in the UK.

Gateley was formed through the merger of Henderson Boyd Jackson and Gateley Wareing in 2006. Further mergers with Shaw & Croft and Holmes Hardingham followed in the next two years.

The commercial firm now has offices in nine UK locations and a base in Dubai.

According to accounts filed with Companies House in February, the firm increased profit before tax in 2013/14 from £17.1m to £20.4m, compared with 2012/13. Turnover also rose by around £3m in the course of the year. The average profit per member was £222,017, compared with £194,425 the year before.

The average number of people employed by the LLP during the year rose from 570 to 589, of which 281 were legal staff.