Winckworth Sherwood converts to ABS

City firm Winckworth Sherwood has said it has no immediate plans to seek external investment despite being officially granted an alternative business structure (ABS) licence.

As the firm was previously trading as a legal disciplinary practice (LDP) to allow non-lawyers to become equity partners, it was required to convert when the Legal Service Act came into force.

There have only been a handful of ABS conversions approved so far, with the speed of the process being criticised by some firms but defended by the SRA and Legal Services Board chairman David Edmonds (21 June 2012).

The conversion, which was approved on 2 August, will enable non-lawyer partners to retain equity in the business. LDPs restrict such ownership.

Winckworth Sherwood partnership secretary and partner Tom Vesey said in a statement: “We were required to obtain ABS status because we were an LDP.

“While we have no immediate plans to seek wider investment in the capital base of the firm or extend the range of our business activities, these are options that now exist and will be given due consideration as our market evolves.”

The firm posted a turnover rise of just over 14 per cent in the last financial year, up from £20.9m in 2010-11 to £23.9m for 2011-12. In the past 12 months it has also opened a Manchester office to add to its bases in London and Oxford.

The year’s figures show a modified lockstep system with an average profit per equity partner of £414,000 – up from £404,000 the previous year.