SRA reveal new ABS details as first approvals approach

The SRA began accepting applications from organisations seeking to become alternative business structures (ABSs) yesterday (Jan 3), with new details emerging about the application process as a result.

As reported in Legal Week, applicant organisations must submit an online expression of interest form to the SRA, which the regulator must then assess before providing a bespoke application pack, tailored to the size and nature of each interested company. Application costs comprise a standard £2,000 fee, as well as a further £150 per person wishing to practise law for the prospective ABS. The whole process, from application to approval, is expected to take around six months.

The SRA has revealed that it is in advanced talks with approximately 15 interested parties, including established, new-investment-seeking law firm Irwin Mitchell and, as reported on this site, new big names entering the legal sector such as the Co-operative. The SRA expects the total of early applications to rise to around 20, with the first approvals expected in late February.

Ann Morgan, team manager of the regulator's ABS team, reinforced the need for bespoke flexibility and thoroughness in the application process: "One size doesn't fit all, so we'll have to assess each application on its merits. While the preparation work has been very comprehensive, we will need to remain flexible in our approach to deal with these new firms. What we do know is that we have to be rigorous and robust - as robust as we are with traditional law firms. For example, we'll be asking for the employment history of everyone going back five years - we need to have detailed information relating to those who want to be regulated by us."

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