Bates Wells Braithwaite appoints accountant to partnership via ABS

Third sector specialists Bates Wells Braithwaite (BWB) has become the latest firm to be granted an ABS licence, paving the way for its first non-lawyer partner.

BWB was handed the licence by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority earlier this week. The firm has now made up former Baker Tilly partner Jim Clifford to the equity partnership after he joined the firm last month as head of the firm’s new advisory and impact division.

Clifford brought with him accountant Chris Theobald, social research specialist Carla Ross and assistant Helen Webb.

The main driver for the ABS licence was to enable Clifford to join the equity partnership, according to managing partner Martin Bunch. However Bunch said he would not rule out extending partnership to other non-lawyers at the firm. He said external investment was not in the firm’s plans.

Clifford has a longstanding relationship with BWB. He led the accounting side of a newly launched bond scheme in July 2013 to raise funds for adoption charities, while the legal work was undertaken by BWB.

Clifford said: “We have some great social enterprises in the UK and Europe, but they need better finance, more outcomes-focused strategies, and the benefit of acquisitions, wider networks and partnerships if they are to deliver what I know they can.”

BWB managing partner Martin Bunch said it was Clifford’s suggestion that he join BWB to expand the firm’s offerings in the social finance sector.

The move comes as the big-four accountants move in on the legal sector via ABS licences. PwC and EY have already been granted licences this year, with Deloitte and KPMG expected to follow.

Other law firm ABSs to have appointed non-lawyers as partners include Gateley (20 December 2013), Irwin Mitchell (17 April 2013) and Weightmans (22 May 2014).

For more on accountancy-based ABSs read The accountants are coming