Law Firms as Public Corporations?

We’ve had a number of posts (for example, from Gavin and Jordan) lately on the future of the traditional law firm model.

This week’s issue of The Economist has a thought-provoking article on recent changes to U.K. law permitting law firms to become publicly traded corporations. Australia appears to have been the first jurisdiction to permit this; Slater & Gordon went public in May of last year.

What are people’s views on this? Is it good? Bad? Inevitable?


  1. A timely post, since Slater & Gordon just announced revenue growth of 27% to A$79.7M and a net profit increase of 42% since going public. YMMV, of course, but that’s a pretty good first year and a quarter. National‘s September 2008 cover story will look at the law firm IPO issue in depth.

  2. Interesting, I can see several potential outcomes from a move like this.

    Firms might engage in more pro bono and community development work, understanding that their image among potential shareholders is just as important as potential clients.

    Alternatively, they could reduce advocacy work in an effort to contain risk management.

    Greater public scrutiny, and accountability, could potentially transform the field of law.

    But public financial reports? I can’t imagine any firm wanting opposing counsel picking up one of those. The adversarial nature of the legal system makes law firms a different type of industry than other businesses.