The full-service firm, which has more than 130 offices in the US, will join with London-based private equity and corporate law firm MJ Hudson and will apply for alternative business structure status in due course.
Jacoby & Meyers also said it has identified a number of UK and European law firm acquisition targets, although it has not revealed when the mergers are likely to be completed.
‘This is all about giving the public, especially lower and middle income clients, access to affordable, quality legal representation,’ said Len Jacoby, founding partner of Jacoby & Meyers.
‘Our ability to raise the capital necessary to serve the public is severely restricted in the US by an outdated rule of professional conduct. Now a significant part of our growth strategy will be based in London.’
The firm has led a high-profile - but as yet unsuccessful - campaign in the US to relax rules around non-lawyers ownership of law firms, as happened in the UK through the Legal Services Act.
Jacoby & Meyers filed lawsuits in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut challenging rules that prevent non-lawyer ownership but the case was dismissed by a New York federal judge. That decision was reversed on appeal to the Second Circuit of Appeals and the case was remanded back to district court for further proceedings and amendments.
MJ Hudson was established by its founding and senior partner Matthew Hudson, who previously co-founded the private equity group of city firm SJ Berwin.
The firm, which has outlined its intention to invite external investment, advises managers and investors in private equity, hedge, real estate, mezzanine and other assets.
Hudson said Jacoby & Meyers’ move to the UK is a ‘major disruption’ to the US legal profession’s status quo that will establish it as a global leader and allow the firm to compete with companies offering limited legal services but without ownership restrictions.
He added: ‘With the introduction of the UK new ownership regulations for law firms, the UK has stolen a competitive march from the other key global legal jurisdictions, including the US Jacoby & Meyers, which is lobbying for similar external ownership changes in the US: without those changes the practice of law in the US is in danger of falling behind the rest of the world.
‘With ABSs, traditional law firms will be able to compete for funding with US web-based, client lead-generating companies as well as legal forms companies. These types of companies offer limited legal services and products, but are allowed to have outside investors because they are not considered law firms.’
Jacoby & Meyers has recently expanded with the acquisition of Macey Bankruptcy Law, the largest consumer bankruptcy firm in the US, and the domain LegalForms.com, an online source for downloadable legal forms.
The firm now offers more than 86,000 state-specific legal forms to US consumers.