Law Society seeks to become ABS regulator

The Law Society is to seek approval to become a designated licensing authority for alternative business structures (ABS).

The society’s council today voted in favour of an application drawn up by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which will be put to the Legal Services Board for approval.

Under the terms of the proposal the SRA, which is the Law Society’s regulatory arm, will oversee ABS applications.

Law firms will be able to convert to ABS when the long-awaited Legal Services Act comes into force in October. The legislation will allow outside investment in and ownership of law firms. The act will also permit up to 25 per cent of a partnership to consist of non-lawyers.

Several firms have already indicated their interest in becoming ABSs, including Irwin Mitchell and offshore firm Maitland.

Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said in a statement: “The Law Society believes it’s right that we should seek to regulate ABS and we want to be certain that the regulatory framework guarantees the same levels of probity and consumer protection that has been the tradition of the solicitors profession.”

Hudson added that the Law Society will run roadshows offering support for the profession in the run-up to the act’s implementation. It will issue a practice note on ABS in May.