The long wait for the onset of Alternative Business Structures is almost over. Just 12 months remain until the third and final stage of the Legal Services Act comes into force, permitting U.K. law firms to accept outside equity investment for the first time. Firms are already preparing themselves for a change that many experts believe will fundamentally reshape the profession.
“The legal market faces an interesting future,” says Matthew Hudson, who formerly led the London offices of both O’Melveny & Myers and Proskauer Rose. “I look at ABS as similar to the financial services big bang,” Hudson says. “In the 1980s, investment banks were partnerships and charged by the hour. Now, all investment banks are companies with external capital and they charge transactionally. The same structural issues are present in the law. To have associates all trying to be partners is antiquated, unfair, and drives firms to make the wrong decisions. Something has to give.”