Selling a legal services business case study: Everything Legal

Acuity Advisors act as the exclusive Corporate Finance advisor to Everything Legal in its sale to DAS Legal Expenses Insurance Company Limited

Here’s how…

The opportunity

Everything Legal is a Bristol-based online legal services provider, founded by successful lawyer Brad Askew and the shareholders of Fair Investment Company. With a business unit uniquely positioned to exploit changes to the Legal Services Act, this thriving company presented an interesting and attractive proposition to potential acquirers. Brad Askew searched for an independent corporate finance advisory and was recommended to Acuity Advisors.

The business

Everything Legal is the UK’s leading provider of online legal services. Founded in 2007 with a clear vision to assist UK consumers in securing legal advice and services, it has a holistic approach to monetise and deliver legal services online. The organisation comprises two inter-dependent business units:

• Law On The Web – authoritative, consumer focused, legal advice website with multiple routes to monetising leads

• Claims Financial – business assisting consumers pursue financial claims, including miss-sold PPI and unfair credit card charges

Following amendments made to the Legal Services Act in October 2011, banks and supermarkets became able to sell consumer legal services in England and Wales, making legal services more accessible, efficient and competitive. With Law on the Web already viewed as a leading authority in online legal services, these changes compounded Everything Legal’s enviable market position.

The challenge for a corporate finance advisory

After receiving an unsolicited approach to acquire the business, the shareholders of Everything Legal recognised the need to understand all their options so as to make an informed decision about whether to exit and on what terms.

Founder and main shareholder, Brad Askew: “We were not looking to sell the business actively, but knew that we would require assistance from a corporate finance advisor to help us explore all of our options to the fullest. We therefore looked to maintain the dialogue with the organisation that had approached us and, in parallel, evaluate other exit options.”

In order to explore such exit options, it was essential to identify a potential acquirer who valued both business units; Claims Financial which was delivering strong profit growth, and Law on the Web which required a strategic partner to accelerate growth.

The approach

The Everything Legal shareholders were clear that they wanted minimal management distraction and a corporate finance advisor with a good understanding of businesses with high growth potential, who and could reach out to many prospective acquirers. It was essential that the corporate finance advisors were able to quickly and efficiently approach new prospects, while keeping conversation with the original approach on track, to give Everything Legal shareholders optimal choice.

“It was apparent that we required a corporate finance advisory that could understand our complex needs. We needed them to coherently communicate to a diverse group of prospective acquirers the growth potential and value of our business.” Brad Askew.

Everything Legal commenced conversations with a number of corporate finance advisors and after a careful selection process felt that Acuity Advisors was the obvious choice.

Acuity provided a unique mix of skills that matched our needs perfectly. We knew of the team’s relevant track record, received excellent recommendations through our network and had direct experience of their previous work. We were confident that we’d made the right choice and this was affirmed as they hit the ground running and immediately added immense value to the process.” Brad Askew.

The implementation

As requested, Acuity carefully managed the conversation with the existing potential acquirer, while developing a comprehensive IM, portraying a complex value proposition in identifiable terms. It profiled and qualified prospective targets, then proactively approached them. Acuity’s involvement in all management meetings was key, providing management guidance on how best to present the business and value proposition.

“The Acuity team acted with great tenacity, combined with a rare level of empathy. Acuity smoothed the process where necessary, supported when required and helped to ensure a slick and successful process. Working with Acuity was a pleasure and I’d never underestimate the importance of the role it played in securing a successful outcome for all parties.” Tim Summers, Temple Bright LLP.

“At the outset of the process I met with several corporate advisory companies and felt Acuity was the right fit for my business. I was proven right; the service I received from Acuity was second to none. It constantly went above and beyond my expectations, from producing exceptional marketing materials, to attracting multiple offers and providing round the clock coaching and guidance through a difficult decision making process.” Brad Askew.

The result

“Acuity’s pragmatic yet tenacious approach and ability to understand my business to the fullest, led to a quality and quantity of conversations with multiple potential buyers that we could not have anticipated. Not only did Acuity radiate professionalism and dedication at every stage of the process, including navigating us through a demanding due diligence process, but it was also successful in adding considerable competitive tension to the deal, which generated options for the shareholders and surpassed our expectations.” Brad Askew.

After careful consideration of the offers, Everything Legal chose to accept an offer from DAS Legal Expenses. The competitive divestiture process yielded the very best outcome for both the company and its shareholders and Acuity was pivotal in putting in place a simple deal structure with Brad Askew remaining in the business post acquisition to deliver the future growth potential of the business.

“Throughout the process Acuity not only provided much needed hand holding, but also demonstrated a high degree of integrity, intelligence and energy. Richard Baker, Partner and project lead, had an impressive ability to understand the numbers better than the accountants and the legal issues as well as the lawyers. I have no hesitation in recommending Richard and Acuity to fellow entrepreneurs who are in need of an exit or fundraising.” Brad Askew.

A conversation is never wasted. We’re confident that we can give you all the help you need, but we’ll tell you if we think there’s a better option for you.

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