The newly formed Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) has sold its entire stake in Lawyers on Demand (LoD), a flexible lawyering service, to private equity firm Bowmark Capital LLP.
The deal sees BCLP relinquish its 62.36 percent stake in the legacy spin-off of British firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, which earlier this year combined with Bryan Cave to form a 1,600-lawyer global legal giant. Bowmark will now become a majority shareholder in LoD, which was co-founded in 2007 by former BLP equity partner Simon Harper.
BLP spun-off LoD in 2012 and in subsequent years the business has grown rapidly, merging with Australian contract attorney outfit AdventBalance in 2016 and expanding to more than 600 lawyers and consultants. LoD’s board and BCLP turned to Macfarlanes private equity partner Jessica Adam to advise on the company’s sale to Bowmark, the terms of which are confidential.
Baker McKenzie private equity partner Alex Lewis advised management shareholders within LoD. Stephenson Harwood corporate partners Jonathan Pittal and Warren Allan counseled London-based Bowmark on the transaction.
“This started a year ago when the LoD board decided that we had the opportunity to grow a little faster than we were,” said CEO Tom Hartley. “It soon became clear that the level of expertise and investment were better suited from a new investor rather than a law firm. Bowmark has a track record of having taken businesses onto the next step, while the next stage of the growth is something that BCLP has not done before.”
Hartley stressed that while BCLP no longer has a stake in the business, the relationship between the two would continue, with LOD continuing to supply BCLP’s flexible lawyer needs.
Media representatives for Bryan Cave did not return requests for comment as to whether the combination between the firm and BLP, whose finalization was delayed in part due to tax issues, necessitated the divestiture of LoD. Neville Eisenberg, an LoD board member and member of the board at BCLP, did issue a statement addressing BCLP’s decision to relinquish its majority stake in the business.
“We believe that LoD is ideally placed for further growth and that this new investment by Bowmark will help facilitate LoD’s ambitious plans,” Eisenberg said. “BCLP has committed to remain close to LoD, partnering with the business for its flexible lawyer needs, and we look forward to seeing the results of this exciting new chapter in LOD’s development.”
LoD’s Harper said that the decision to seek outside investment was part of a growth plan focused on geographical and service line expansion.
“We are going to do what we do every day better through investing in the right technology to make our lawyers more efficient and supporting them better,” Harper said. “We are also looking at geographic expansion; we are interested in North America and it will be interesting to explore that. We also want to grow our service line—we are increasingly seeing teams of lawyers being supported by LoD, so we want to invest more in that area.”
Harper, currently a managing director with LoD in London, co-founded the business in 2007 with Jonathan Brenner, then head of recruitment at BLP. In February, LoD opened in Germany with the establishment of an outpost in Munich, its 10th office globally. That launch followed the opening of a LoD office in Dubai in July 2017, an event that marked the first flexible legal service offering in the Middle East.
LoD’s most recent financial results for 2016-17 show that its U.K. profits rose from £15,000 to £2 million ($19,930 to $2.7 million), owing to “exceptional costs” incurred in 2015-16, Harper said. The results came after LoD’s first full year since it absorbed AdventBalance. That merger marked LoD’s expansion into the Asia Pacific legal market and the first cross-continent combination in the contract lawyer space.
Additional reporting by Roy Strom.