Norton Rose wins role to advise Irwin Mitchell on ABS investment plans

Irwin Mitchell has taken its next steps towards becoming one of the first alternative business structures (ABS) with the appointment of Norton Rose as its legal adviser and Espirito Santo Investment Bank as its financial adviser.

Espirito Santo will advise Irwin Mitchell on its options to raise external capital over the coming months as the UK top 30 firm gears up to take advantage of the implementation of the Legal Services Act (LSA) later this year.

Meanwhile, Norton Rose will provide legal advice, fielding a team including corporate partners Martin Scott and Julian Stanier, tax partner Dominic Stuttaford and employment partners Monique Fry and Paul Griffin. Deloitte is providing accountancy advice.

As reported by Legal Week in February, Irwin Mitchell intends to become one of the first leading UK law firms to convert to an ABS when the LSA comes into effect in October this year.

The firm will restructure its operations as a two-tier structure, with the Irwin Mitchell limited liability partnership (LLP) remaining as the central operating business and a corporate vehicle created to act as its controlling member.

Irwin Mitchell managing partner John Pickering (pictured) said: “The LSA will create exciting growth opportunities for strong, well-financed legal services businesses to accelerate their growth plans. Irwin Mitchell intends to be at the forefront of these changes and we have therefore taken the decision to seek external investment to further our ambitious plans for the business.

“Conversion to an ABS will broaden our access to capital and enhance our funding flexibility as we execute our strategic growth plan, while ensuring that we can continue to provide the very highest standards of service to our clients.”

The firm has not ruled out the possibility of floating on the London Stock Exchange; however, the preferred method and timetable for seeking external funding has yet to be finalised.

The ABS model – often dubbed ‘Tesco law’ – will allow outside investment in law firms and for legal services to be provided outside of the traditional partnership model.