ABS-olutely manic

In what must surely be the last ABS story of the year, Knights Solicitors has been given the all clear by the SRA for its capital injection from Dragons’ Den star James Caan.

Managing partner David Beech, who will continue to take the firm’s management decision overseen be a board that includes Caan, said the approval was “an important step in achieving the firm’s significant ambitions”.

Despite the SRA’s thorough approval process leading to a backlog of applications, firms weren’t shy about applying for ABS licences in 2012. On 19 January, The Lawyer reported that the SRA had received 65 applications from firms looking to convert to an ABS in its first two weeks of taking submissions. By February that figure had shot up to 120.

Silverbeck Rymer was a first-mover, agreeing to sell its business to Aim-Listed Quindell for nearly £20m on 24 January. Less than a week later, Russell Jones & Walker announced that it would be acquired by Australia’s first listed law firm, Slater & Gordon.

“The task for independent law firms is to make sure we dominate the market and that means capital,” RJW chief Neil Kinsella told The Lawyer at the time.

In February, Manchester firm Keoghs also revealed that it was in talks with a private equity firm, Bowmark Capital, about taking external investment, though in the end it went with LDC. Irwin Mitchell – one of the first to show its hand when it came to external investment, unveiling plans in 2011 – had to wait until August before it received SRA approval for five separate licences.

Earlier this month, one of the UK’s biggest personal injury firms, Thompsons, also received two ABS licences from the SRA, effective 1 January 2013.

The Mayans may have been overegging it a bit with their prediction that the world will end tomorrow, but it’s not a stretch to say that parts of the legal market have changed forever.

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