Picture lawyers idling away potentially billable hours tracking their firm’s stock price rather than poring over their firm’s profits-per-partner rankings or the results of the latest associate-satisfaction survey. Sound far-fetched? It may happen soon in England if a draft bill that would allow outside investment in law firms and even allow firms to go public makes it into law.

The bill, which was published by the U.K. government in May and is expected to pass in 2007, is part of a long-standing effort to reform the legal-services market in England and Wales. It would allow lawyers to set up practices as so-called alternative business structures, with external, nonlawyer investors; go into business with other professionals in multidisciplinary “one-stop shops”; and float their shares on the stock market, making the country’s legal market one of the most open in the world.

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