Andrew Grech, managing director of Slater & Gordon discusses how the ABS structure allowed the firm to move into the UK legal marketplace.

Slater & Gordon was founded in Melbourne in 1935, to provide legal services to everyday people, trade unions and their members. From those humble beginnings we have evolved into Australia’s leading consumer law firm and one of Australia’s best known brands.

In 2007, we became the first law firm in the world to list on a stock exchange.

The capital from listing on the stock exchange enabled us to fund growth, diversify the range of services we offer and to make important business building investments in the tools available to our staff to serve our clients.

After closely following the debate in the UK following release of the Clementi Report, in 2012 we believe we were one of the first organisations to be granted an ABS licence by the SRA. We expanded to the UK by joining forces with the UK based law firm Russell Jones & Walker.

Slater & Gordon now has more than more than 460 staff across 12 locations in the UK, along with 1200 employees across 70 locations in Australia. All of our staff work towards the achievement of the same mission; to give everyday people easier access to world class legal services.

As a listed law firm, we would not have been able to operate in the UK without being granted an ABS Licence.

Russell, Jones & Walker was identified as the perfect partner for us in the UK for a number of reasons. The firm has been in operation since the 1920’s and it shared a similar history to Slater & Gordon. Another reason was that it had a large geographic base, with a presence across England, Wales and Scotland.

We also appreciated that its referral sources were not reliant on acquired referrals, and importantly RJW had a strong management team who were capable of rolling out our strategy. Finally and perhaps even more critically, the team at RJW shared our strategic vision for growth in the UK.

For us, the ABS licence has meant that we are now operating in a market four to five times the size of the comparable market in Australia. We are extremely pleased with how the move has worked.

In February this year, Russell Jones & Walker began trading as Slater & Gordon Lawyers and the staff and client transition has gone smoothly.

We are capitalising on our presence in the UK to use our business structure, expertise in the M&A area and access to capital to lead the consolidation of the consumer legal services market in the UK.

Our plan in the UK for the next year is all about continuing to invest in our local capability to enable us to lead consolidation of the consumer legal services market. We aim to become one of the leading consumer law firms in the UK.

The so-called Jackson Reforms are already re-shaping the market with hundreds of CMC’s closing and many small firms recognising that without scale and a direct relationship with clients, they will not be able to compete in the market.

We have experienced a great deal of change in each of our several jurisdictions here in Australia over the last 15-20 years and so we feel very at home in a changing landscape. In fact, one of the most attractive elements of the UK market for us is the fact that the impact of change is just gathering pace.

We believe we have positioned ourselves well to get in at the ground floor in what we consider to be a once in a generation shift in the legal services market in the UK.