First three ABSs confirmed by SRA

Published: 17/04/2012

Last month saw the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) finally award the first alternative business structure licences to three applicants.

Co-operative Legal Services, John Welch and Stammers and Lawbridge Solicitors Ltd received their ABS licences on Wednesday 28th March, six months after the originally proposed launch date.

Co-operative Legal Services have made no secret of their ABS intentions and now possess a licence which allows them to provide three reserved legal activities: Litigation, Conveyancing and Probate. It is now recruiting around 150 new employees and has announced plans to move into family law by the end of the year.

The other two licensed alternative business structures are unsurprisingly two traditional law firms; unsurprising largely due to the simpler licensing process.

John Welch and Stammers of Witney, Oxfordshire and Lawbridge Solicitors Ltd from Sidcup in Kent have both been granted licences which allow them to undertake all reserved activities except notarial work.

Antony Townsend is the Chief Executive at the SRA:

“This represents a milestone we have been working towards for nearly two years. The arrival of ABS should foster a more flexible and innovative market for legal services. By stimulating competition and encouraging innovation, we should see consumers’ experiences enjoy a major boost.

“Some people may be surprised that there are two high street practices with a handful of staff among the first wave of ABS organisations that we’ve authorised. But we’ve always said that ABS offers options for all firms, not just large organisations.”

Speaking of the notable delay to ABS licensing, Townsend said:

“We’ve had to create a system of authorisation flexible enough to deal with a range of companies with hugely varying corporate structures, but that’s also robust enough to apply the same stringent suitability criteria by which traditional firms are judged.

“We make no apology for ensuring that the systems we have in place are thorough and in some cases, time consuming.”¹

¹Legal Futures (March 2012)

Content correct at time of publication

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