In the latest of our focus on IPOs, we speak to James Knight, CEO at the Keystone Law Group. The national law firm, which uses technology and modern working practices to drive productivity and deliver results, joined AIM in November 2017, raising £15 mn ($19.4 mn) in the process.
Elite Connect: Talk us through the timings – how long in advance did your start your IPO journey, and how long did it take to complete?
James Knight: I would say that the whole journey started around the beginning of 2017 and the IPO itself took place late November of that year. The initial period was really an internal exercise, deciding whether an IPO was the right way forwards for the business. Once that decision had been made, there was a period of a couple of months whilst we identified the right advisers to work with. The actual process of the IPO itself – from appointment of advisers to the placing – took about six months.
EC: What were the main challenges you experienced during the process, were there any particular pinch points? How did you overcome these?
JK: The process itself was exceedingly time consuming. Dealing with the demands from all those involved in the process, whilst ensuring that the day job still got done was really the key challenge. The process is pretty intense throughout with regular deadlines that need to be hit in order to deliver the IPO on time. However, sticking to the plan ensured that we didn’t have any particular pinch points, just constant pressure. The fact that we delivered to plan and that the business continued to trade well throughout the period is a great endorsement of the strength of the management team we have at Keystone.
EC: What would be your key words of advice for other companies considering the IPO process? Is there anything you would do differently with the benefit of hindsight?
JK: Invest in your people. A strong team is key to ensuring that not only is the IPO process a success, but also that the business doesn’t suffer during the process. All the advisers say the same thing – ‘don’t underestimate the time this will take’ – and they are right. It really is more of a marathon than a sprint, but you need to ensure that the business is sufficiently resourced to deal with it. Fortunately, we were well prepared, and things went very well so I wouldn’t really change anything about how we dealt with it.
EC: What is life like as a public company? What are the main advantages you’ve experienced? Has there been any impact on the culture of the business?
JK: So far, life as a public company has been pretty good. The main reason for the IPO was to further raise the profile of Keystone and to act as a differentiator, both in the eyes of lawyers and their clients, and we believe that it has been successful in this.
That said, the day to day culture of Keystone has remained unchanged by the IPO. Our lawyers continue to be free to focus on client development and delivery of high quality legal services to their clients with the flexibility provided by our model, whilst the central team focuses on providing all the services the lawyers need to achieve this. Our investors certainly don’t want the culture to change because our culture is an essential ingredient of our success. We remain a very dynamic and happy law firm.