Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

ABS – the new buzz initials

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For lawyers, ABS doea not stand for advanced braking system, but for alternative business structure. The possibility of lawyers forming legal businesses with non lawyer investors has been on the horizon ever since the Legal Services Act 2007 was passed. Indeed the idea goes back to the Clementi Review of the legal profession – a review designed to encourage new forms of legal practice.

The press stories I read about this today have been a bit misleading – it is true that approval has been given to one of the regulatory bodies to license new forms of legal service provider. But first out of the blocks is not the Law Society, as you might have thought from the publicity, but the more focussed group – the Council of Licensed Conveyancers. The Law Society is awaiting final Parliamentary approval, which it hopes to secure in December 2011.

From today (6 Oct 2011), non-lawyer ownership of conveyancing firms will be allowed as a key part of opening up the market and increasing choice for consumers of legal services. These firms can access external capital and allow lawyers and non-lawyers jointly to own and run the business together.

The Legal Services Board announcement makes clear that they hope that the Solicitors Regulatory Authority will be in a position to issue such licenses by the end of 2011; this will have a much greater potential impact on legal service delivery taken as a whole.

What will be interesting is to monitor how these new opportunities are taken up by lawyers. For those working in the real estate world, and given the difficulties of the current property market, there may be considerable interest in seeing whether conveyancing services can be offered more cheaply and efficiently.

For more info see Legal Services Board press release at http://www.legalservicesboard.org.uk/news_publications/press_releases/2011/pdf/presser.pdf

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Written by lwtmp

October 6, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Chapter 9

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