It is fair to say that it is an exciting time to be a trainee at what is now Gateley Plc. On Monday, 8 June, we became the first UK commercial law firm to float on the stock exchange, with shares in the firm being admitted to trading on AIM (‘Alternative Investment Market’).
The implications of floating have already been considered on our Talking Business blog, and you may have read about it in the graduate legal press. But what are the implications of floating from a trainee’s perspective?
The traditional law firm model involves partners investing money into the business in return for sharing in its profits, with other staff being purely salaried. The advent of ‘Alternative Business Structures’ shifted the goal posts a little in this regard, with some firms opting to bring senior non-lawyer staff into their partnership structure. Converting to a Plc and listing on the stock exchange turns this model on its head entirely.
All staff at the firm now own shares in the company, and thus own part of the firm and share in its profits and its capital growth – even trainees! On admission to AIM we were given shares and had the opportunity to buy more. On an ongoing basis we are of course able to buy more shares on the market and there will be share schemes introduced for staff.
For trainees, this is particularly relevant. A trainee who embarks on a long term career with the firm can hope to build up their shareholding over time as a reward, in addition to their salary, for their hard work and loyalty. Under the traditional partnership model, only equity partners share in the firm’s profitability. The Plc model opens up this possibility earlier, and more widely.
The Gateley name has been featured prominently in the national press, and further afield, in recent weeks. As a trainee, you are inevitably judged alongside the reputation of your firm, and there is no doubt that the Gateley brand has been enhanced in the market place. Though other firms are likely to follow, the firm will be remembered as the first one to take the plunge and go public. Being associated with a forward thinking firm that is unafraid to be a trailblazer within the legal market is a very positive thing.
One of the main advantages to trading shares on the stock exchange is the opportunity to raise capital from public sources. Capital is the key to growth, allowing the firm to invest and acquire. The firm has a reputation for making smart investment decisions, boasting impressive growth over the past ten years despite the economic downturn. No doubt this will continue, and our investors are clearly confident in the firm’s future success.
One crucial aspect is the firm’s ambition not only to provide legal services, but to expand into other complementary business services. As the legal market continues to undergo rapid change, the firm seeks to be become a legal services business offering complementary services to clients alongside our traditional legal offering. A question that is constantly posed in the crowded legal market place is how can a firm differentiate itself and ‘add value’ for clients? This is one answer to this question.
As a trainee due to qualify into Gateley’s corporate team in September, it is reassuring and exciting to know that I am part of a firm whose future is bright.
But it’s also business as usual.
Despite the excitement surrounding the float, it is fair to say that day-to-day life at the firm remains largely unchanged. Our employer has changed to Gateley Plc (having gone through a ‘TUPE’ transfer, providing a real life example of the much talked about topic on the LPC Employment elective!), and our email signatures have a different name at the bottom. However, the heart of what we do remains the same – we continue to concentrate on providing an excellent service to our clients.
Similarly, the firm’s ethos remains the same, including in respect of trainee recruitment and development. This week I had my last mid-seat appraisal. There is no doubt that my confidence, skills and ability have improved dramatically since commencing my training contract almost two years ago. I have no doubt that the Gateley Plc trainees of the future will enjoy the same support, and have the same experience.