More than 250 lawyers have sought a route away from traditional practice in the last year to apply for one of the country’s biggest proponents of agile working, a listed company said today. 

Keystone Law, whose model allows lawyers to remotely and keep 75% of their billings, said that 21 applicants a month tried to join the network in 2017/18, up from 17 a month the previous year.

The firm, which listed on the London Stock Exchange, included the information in its interim results for the six months ending 31 July. The results show pre-tax profits up by 40.3% to £2.3m on revenue 30% higher at almost £20m.

After vetting potential candidates, the firm took on 31 new lawyers in the first six months of this year (up from 20 in the same period of 2017), with the average age of new recruits coming down from 50 to 46. The age profile of new members suggests the agile working model is appealing to younger candidates rather than older solicitors looking to wind down their working arrangements.

In a presentation to investors, Keystone said traditional firms working in a ‘commoditised and overcrowded’ sector are now increasing billing targets while expecting partners to simultaneously develop the business and manage the practice. With equity partnership no longer seen as the ultimate goal, the company said, experienced lawyers are instead seeking less financial risk and a flexible working environment.

James Knight

James Knight

James Knight, chief executive of Keystone Law, said the legal market continues to move in the 16-year-old firm’s favour, while its business model is ‘increasingly accepted’ by the mainstream legal establishment.

Knight said: ‘Keystone has a clear first-mover advantage and our unique business model is underpinning our strategy to drive forward the delivery of UK centric organic growth. The recruitment activity in the period further demonstrates that our increasing reputation as a leading, quality-centric mid-market law firm makes Keystone an attractive proposition for good quality lawyers.’

The firm went public last November, raising £15m from a placing price of 160p per share. The share price rose 10% to 363p on today’s announcement. An interim dividend has been set at 2.5p per share, payable next month.

The firm operates in eight practices areas, with commercial work accounting for a quarter of its total billing. Litigation, corporate and property are the next biggest sectors in terms of proportion of total billing.