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At a glance:
2020 was a volatile year for corporate law, and while it was hectic and the challenges were aplenty, it ended with positive growth according to the recently released LexisNexis GLP Index, which used anonymised and aggregated data from the Bar Council.
This was despite the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) market experiencing a major decline in work volumes. M&A volumes in Q1 and Q2 2020 declined by -42% inward and -53% outward, however, the decline softened significantly in Q3 and Q4 2020, down to a reduction of -23% inward and -27% outward.
The main driver for corporate growth in 2020 was the enormous number of IPOs, bonds and financing work that came about as a result of the pandemic.
IPOs listed on the UK Main Market grew +157% and those listed on AIM grew +433%.
Companies have taken on plenty of debt in 2020 (+24%), particularly at the onset of the crisis as they
battened down the hatches.
While this receded in H2 (-2% vs H2 2019), overall borrowing by SMEs rose
+83% for the year.
Financial work proxies have been mixed, but derivatives have seen a lot of action and ending the year
+34% on 2019.
In the longer term, the outlook for corporate is positive. We expect to see M&A return to growth. There
may be a dampening in IPO activity, given the enormous growth in 2020 and some high-profile flops.
The growth in alternative listings, such as SPACs, is likely to continue well into 2021. Their popularity
soared in the US over the past year and proposed FCA changes would allow the UK to take advantage of
this trend (and perhaps tempt UK tech businesses to list in the UK rather than across the Atlantic).
If you are quick to grasp the legal intricacies of fast changing areas of the law, such as alternative listings,
you could open up new opportunities for your practice.
At the very least, building a deep understanding
could be a powerful conversation topic with clients and a business development tool for more prosaic
Clients are increasingly open to innovations that will transform legal services – are there
opportunities to grow your footprint with a client?
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