White & Case advises as CVC buys UnitedLex in biggest-ever legal market deal

CVC Capital Partners has acquired a majority stake in alternative legal services provider UnitedLex in what is believed to be the largest investment in the legal market ever at $500m.

UnitedLex CEO Dan Reed led negotiations in-house. The Lawyer can reveal that CVC was advised by a White & Case team led by New York-based partner Brian Smarsh and a team from Indian law firm AZB led by Kashish Bhathia, while teams from Indian law firm Cyrilshroff and US firm Morrison Cohen advised previous owner Helion and investment bank JPMorgan. Another previous investor in the company, Madison Capital, was advised in the negotiations by Indian firm Khaitan.

White & Case declined to comment.

The investment comes after an 18-month-long stretch in which UnitedLex closed deals reaching $1.5 billion in total contract value.

“As Europe’s largest private equity firm with current and past portfolio companies such as Breitling, AlixPartners, and Formula 1, CVC has the geographic reach, sector expertise, scale, and significant capital that will undoubtedly help us expand our technology development and provide clients with unique financial structuring as part of our industry-changing solution,” UnitedLex CEO Daniel Reed said.

Since its foundation in 2006, UnitedLex’s platform has attracted clients that account for over 25 per cent of the Global Fortune 500, providing consulting and resources on technology, contracts and commercial transactions, IP and litigation. Previous owners included venture capital firms Canaan Partners (since 2008), Helion Venture Capital (since 2007) and Madison Capital, the latest to acquire a controlling stake in 2017. In July, rumours of the owners exiting UnitedLex started circulating.

According to this year’s UK 200: the Top 100 report, in the UK UnitedLex grossed £54m in revenue, with a headcount that includes 125 fee-earners and 125 qualified lawyers.

CVC Capital Partners, now the main investor in the legal process outsourcing firm, is a private equity firm founded in 1981 which totalled $110 billion investment commitments and currently has $50 billion worth of assets.

Background to the deal

The move highlights the increasing relevance of the alternative legal services providers’ business model worldwide, which have shifted from niche to mainstream driven by large investment in technology.

The so-called NewLaw businesses are aggressively entering the market of traditional law firms, seeking validation and clients.

Recently, EY acquired law firm Riverview Law to scale its legal managed services offering and help clients increase efficiency and reduce costs of routine legal activities.

In addition, start-ups Kira Systems and Atrium both scooped huge rounds of fundrasing, obtaining respectively $50m and $65m.

In November 2017, Keystone went public via its AIM listing and, last May, Lawyers on Demand, the alternative resourcing company owned by legacy Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), was sold to private equity house Bowmark Capital.

This year Deloitte finally announced its ambition of launching a UK legal services business.

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