Few could have foreseen that a multi-office high street firm that derives 25% of its income from legal aid would be next in line to receive external investment.
McMillan Williams' move and ambitions are both impressive, and most eye-catching are the plans to increase its criminal legal aid work. Can economies of scale and investment in IT etc really make legal aid work a viable foundation for growth?
Though ABSs weren't introduced specifically with legal aid in mind, the Ministry of Justice has long wanted to see one help the other. Nearly three years since the first ABS was licensed by the SRA, it has finally happened.
More broadly the hope to be on every high street south of Bristol reinforces what most solicitors still believe to be the USP that the big brands can never match - a local service.
Perhaps we should be less surprised by the investment when we recall that it was back in 2011 that QualitySolicitors received private equity backing. For all its national branding, QS is at heart a collection of local law firms innovating quite gently. They've just chosen a different way to go about generating their work.
So hard-nosed money men believe in the viability of high street legal services - that should cheer up solicitors on a Friday the 13th. Now they just need to work out how to compete with the practices the money men are funding.
McMillan Williams (MW), which has 20 offices in London and the south of England, has become the first high street law firm to take external investment after securing a £5m private equity deal. The firm, which obtains a quarter of its revenue from legal aid, has said its long-term goal is an office on every high street south of Bristol and a listing on AIM. It also plans to increase revenue from publicly funded criminal work from £1m to 5m over the next few years.