Parabis sells out to Duke Street under 'Tesco law' liberalisation

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Partners in law firm Parabis have pocketed millions as the London-based group becomes one of the first to benefit from a sweeping liberalisation of the £25bn legal services market.

Duke Street is expected to confirm in the coming days that it has taken a stake of just over 50 per cent in Parabis, which provides legal services to the insurance and travel industries. The deal, which will value Parabis at between £150m and £160m, has already been struck but is going through the final stages of the regulatory approval process.

When completed, it is thought that Parabis will be the first law firm to be owned by private equity. In the last two weeks the liberalisation of legal firms' ownership structures has seen Aim-listed Quindell Group announce a £19.3m deal for Liverpool personal injury law firm Silverbeck Rymer and Australia's Slater & Gordon acquire Russell Jones & Walker. The deals will require alternative business structure licences, the first of which are expected to be granted to some of the 92 firms that have applied later this month. Non-lawyers will be allowed to own the companies, which will attract entrepreneurs with commercial acumen and give growth-focused law firms the option of raising capital from the stock market. This has been nicknamed the "Tesco law" – though the supermarket chain has not sought a licence – as critics have argued it will lead to a cheap, standardised legal advice. Supporters have argued that it will make advising on simpler products, such as will-writing, simpler and more readily available online.