The starting gun for the sell-off of the Slater and Gordon UK business has been fired, with the emergence of a potential buyer. Top-20 firm BLM confirmed today that it has had preliminary discussions about joining with its business legal services department.

It is not clear how the integration of the team, which has 43 lawyers, would work, but it marks the first sign that Slater and Gordon leaders are prepared to split the business up.

A spokeswoman for BLM said: ‘Conversations with Slater & Gordon about working closely with its business legal services experts are in early stages. We’ll be sure to share details of any new projects or initiatives with our colleagues, customers and the wider industry at the appropriate time.’

Last week, it was confirmed Slater and Gordon’s directors had split the UK business away from its Australian base and transferred all UK operations and subsidiaries to a holding company.

The decision was taken, according to a stock exchange announcement, to ‘focus its management’s time and resources on the Australian business’.

The Gazette understands day-to-day business at the firm’s 20 UK offices has continued largely unaffected. The firm today published research on dating apps. 

While generally avoiding speaking about plans for its future, it has responded to reports that it had ‘downgraded’ up to 40 partners to employee status.

A spokesman said: ‘Slater and Gordon stopped adding new members to the LLP in 2015 as it was no longer viewed as the optimal structure to support the business strategy. The LLP continues to operate and whilst many members have chosen to transfer to employee terms not all capital has been returned.’